Wake up!

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today is, of course, a brand new day. An opportunity to “be all I can be” and to “seize the day.” I’m sure if I gave it more thought I cold come up with a whole string of clichés that have been used over the years to tell people to live in the present.

This week has been crazy busy so far. I’ve been helping families who have children in the public school system. These families are fighting for their children’s right to attend school unharrassed. To be engaged and included in activities. To have the same opportunities as their peers. Wow! It sounds like I just stepped back 50 years in time.

And it feels like it some days too. These children are affected by disabilities. Federal law mandates they be provided with a free and appropriate public education. The sticking point seems to be “appropriate.” Some schools deem that just allowing kids with disabilities to attend “their” school is sufficient. Other schools go above and beyond to meet the student’s needs. It’s a broad a spectrum as any disability.

My daughter told me last night that in one of her classes, students with significant needs are brought to class. The teacher makes a point of telling the group “Good Morning Special Friends” and then proceeds to have every student walk over and greet each of the “Special Friends.” My daughter is in high school. I know she would be mortified if someone called attention to her in this fashion. Why does this teacher insist on singling out the students with disabilities?

It’s most likely not mean spirited. It’s probably lack of awareness and assumptions. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong. It’s legally wrong because the student’s right to education privacy, in this case being openly “outed” as having disabilities, is being violated. It’s also morally wrong. The founding fathers of the United States proclaimed that, at least in America, all men are created equal. We’ve fought wars of this ideal. We’ve been forced to open our minds and let go of long-held beliefs about various things. Now, we need to let go of segregating and labeling people with disabilities.

Yes, all of us. Stop seeing the wheelchair and start seeing the person. Stop whining about people parking in handicapped spots who seem to be “okay.” Stop assuming that a person who talks slower or not at all isn’t capable of communication. Stop believing that someone who is different from you is less than you.

It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs. It’s been about 40 years since mainstreaming became law in the schools, yet “teams” still insist on separate classrooms for students with disabilities. It’s shouldn’t be about money, pride or personal beliefs. It’s about human beings. It’s about seeing beyond how something affects you and realizing that the effect on someone else is far greater than imagined.

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