Unfortunately, even in 2011, there is a stigma about being in special education and having special needs. There are many people who believe that special ed is a cop out for lazy, unmotivated kids. Some people think that only kids with low IQs, physical disabilities, or autism should be in special education and that learning disabilities are made up. There is also the stigma that kids in special ed are dumb. All of these stigmas lead to embarrassment, humiliation, and even bullying.
There are even stigmas among teachers. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one disability that attracts a lot of negativity. These kids are thought of as disruptive, annoying, irritating, talking too much, or in need of discipline and consequences. Another category in special education that sets negativity and gossip at an all time high is emotionally disturbed. Automatically, many educators and administrators begin thinking of how to restrain or what kind of behavior plan to have in place. Worst case scenarios are often thought to be regular, every day occurrences.
The fact is, that just as with racism and other prejudices, a stigma about special education and children with special needs is not something we are born with. Biases and stigmas are learned, which is why with education they can be unlearned and kiddos with special needs can go to school without feeling different or being bullied.
It should be the goal of each school to educate all teachers, administrators, counselors, and students about special needs. If the ground rules of the school are based on each student receiving what he/she needs, then everything becomes equal and fair, because everyone is given what they need. No, everyone won’t be given the same things, because they don’t all NEED the same the things, but it IS fair because everyone’s needs are being met.
If more educators are required to receive professional development in areas dealing with special needs, then even stigmas among teachers would end. Kids with ADHD, emotional disturbances, and other needs could be seen for the people they are rather than their diagnosis. If educators and parents begin to make this difference in their thinking, kids will start making that difference as well.
The stigma against special education must be ended. We just have to educate each other and learn how to look beyond someone’s differences to see who he/she is on the inside.
For more information on Jaylen’s Challenge Bullying No Way go to http://www.jaylenschallenge.org