Is special ed really special?

The injustice done to children with disabilities by undertrained and ignorant (of their disorders) staff is just that: injustice. Teachers of special education are not just thrown into the classroom and expected to figure out what works for each and every child alone, like those teaching mainstreamed classrooms. These children require IEPs, Individual Education Plans, that must be agreed upon by parents, teachers and administrators. IEPs take into account a disabled child’s educational and social goals for the term and provide “firsthand” solutions by teachers and parents to handle discipline in the classroom for each child. Furthermore, these IEPs are expected to be followed to ensure the safety, education and fair treatment of each child with a disability.

In recent years, there have been news stories all over the globe where special education children were not properly cared for because their IEPs were written and not properly adhered to. I believe that this is due to a lack of understanding for disabled children. Disabled, not just autistic, children need the same things neurotypical children need from their educators: love, understanding and patience. Children with disabilities just need a little extra of all three to receive a proper education. They must feel that their educators care about more than just their paycheck; they must care for the children’s education, safety and feelings.

Most disabled children have a really hard time understanding emotions that we see every day: fear, joy, sadness and anger. To have a teacher that “loves” them and expresses that love is one who takes time to “understand” that special child’s needs, emotions and expressions. On top of that, they must have educators and administrators who have patience with them. Never restrain a child with special needs who is having a “meltdown.” Try to understand why they are having a meltdown and try to help them resolve it. When having a meltdown, they may cry, hit things/people or scream, especially if they are nonverbal, due to something small or big that has upset them. It is their way of expressing their distress, much like a neurotypical child.

I agree that their meltdowns can cause them to hurt themselves or others, but if you express those three important qualities of a special educator, then you can help solve the meltdown, not worsen it. Not only do those three things significantly improve a child’s attitude and can calm them from a meltdown, but there are more specific measures laid out by their IEPs. These procedures have been approved by parent and teacher to use if certain situations arise. IEPs are important in building the relationship and trust between parent, child and educator.

If educators feel that they cannot adhere to policies that they previously agreed upon for the education and/or safety of the child, they should request another meeting with the parent, so those concerns may be addressed and resolved. Not only are the IEPs and other documents important to promote safety and equality, but these children also need to feel that they matter and their parents need to feel comfortable leaving their child alone with their teachers without worrying about them ending up a victim of child abuse, like in some recent news articles.  At the end of the day, they’re not mental patients, burdens or aggravations. They’re children.