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Things to remember

November 24, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

I have a passion for the rights of children. I believe that every child has the right to be treated with love and respect. We want each child, whatever their capabilities, to reach their potential.

Every person can be a contributing member to society. We want each of our children to grow up with this knowledge and be supported in reaching their capabilities.

I have worked in the area of special education for many years and have a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on special education.

This past spring, I taught an evening class at a technical college in the early childhood department. I spoke about early childhood, special needs and special education.

I have been an advocate for children with special needs. I ended my class session with these points to remember that I think are valuable for anyone working with children or for all of us in general.

Things to remember . . .

For a child to receive special education services in a school setting, they must be assessed and if certain criteria are met in a specific disability area, a disability label is then given so appropriate services can be provided. Students can also be served in more than one disability area. But we must remember this: the child is before the label. The label is not the child.

There are concerns about “labeling” a child. A diagnosis doesn’t have to be a “label” – an appropriate diagnosis may describe a child’s challenges, but should never define a child.

If a child is experiencing developmental delays, the specific diagnosis enables that child to have access to the most appropriate educational programs and therapies, such as occupational, speech and physical therapy.

All children should be treated with dignity and genuine respect. Giving children meaningful choices imparts dignity and respect.

It is essential that each child experience a growing sense of confidence and respect by having valued roles and contributing in meaningful and motivating ways.

Children learn best when they are engaged in meaningful, relevant and enjoyable activities.

Given the proper chance, persons with disabilities can achieve their full potential and become contributors to society, rather than dependent on it.

“Fair” does not mean that every child gets the same treatment, but that every child gets what he or she needs. – F.A.T. City Learning Disability Workshop

This one has really stuck with me, as a teacher and a parent. We always think that to be fair every child must get the same. Same does not always equate to fair.

Every child is different and has differing needs at different times in their lives – such as when we may give a child more attention because they are sick. That is fair and appropriate for that situation.

We can explain that to our children. “When you are sick, I take your temperature, and get you special things to eat and drink too, etc.” to help them understand the idea of fairness.

Give students plenty of time between questions and answers to weigh evidence, explore possible solutions and compare findings.

The Rowe study showed that by increasing wait time from one to three seconds, it:

1.) increases student confidence;

2.) increases student speculative thinking,

3.) increases student questions and responses,

4.) promts contributions byt students who learn more slowly,

5.) decreases disciplinary action by the teacher,

6.) improves total class participation,

I believe that each of these points is valuable for each one of us as we care for our own children, someone else’s or whether we are a neighbor to a child.