Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

An Open Letter to My Child’s Educational Team

09/21/2015 | Published by: A Mom

It is that time of year when the back-to-school buzz is everywhere. There is excitement about the possibilities that lie ahead: new friends, classes, and activities. For our family it also represents hard-won success. It is a time of anxiety and second thoughts. 

Professionals have often said that our daughter will not succeed in the general education setting because of her physical, cognitive, and medical labels. But research shows that students with disability labels (and their peers) do better academically and socially when included.

Since decisions made today impact her future, we chose the road less traveled: inclusive education! As a family, we’ve focused on abilities and have created a vision for our daughter’s life in the community – now and in the future.

As members of the educational team, we ask you to set aside any ideas you may have about why inclusion won’t work. Instead, please focus your energy on strengths, creativity, and possibilities. If you are an administrator, we ask that you support those working directly with our daughter. We believe everyone can succeed with the right supports.

We ask that the following values be embraced. These values will enhance the school experience for all students, with or without a disability label. 

  • Use creative methods to ensure social and academic success. Both are of equal importance. To find the best method, ask the question, “How can a student learn or participate?” not “Can they learn or participate?” Remember that some of life’s most important lessons will not be found in the classroom or in a book.
  • Provide students with just the right amount of support, not too much or too little. The appropriate level of support will lead to independence and academic success and will allow friendships to develop.
  • Focus on strengths. Recognize each student as a contributing member of the class, group, or team. A strong team is built on each person’s strengths.
  • Recognize that all behavior is communication and seek to understand what is being communicated. Remember that some students have limited speech or struggle with communication. We must focus on “hearing”what they are “saying.” It is only then that we can start to see change.
  • Consider Assistive Technology (AT) as an investment into the future instead of an expense. Unintended benefits include increased self-esteem, self-confidence and independence.
  • Talk with and treat students who receive special education services as you would talk with and treat his/her same age peers. This approach models respect and presumes competence.

A student’s educational experience should not be separated by “special” or “general.”  The day we honor and act upon this truth is the day that all students will feel welcomed and their educational experience will be more meaningful.