Monday, May 12, 2014

Teaching Disability Awareness



Last week I spend three days at a special education conference in San Francisco and came away with so many ideas for new worksheets and techniques to try with my kids.  One of the speakers talked about teaching the kids about disability awareness.  So, this weekend I put together a worksheet I thought would be good to do with my kids. When I showed it to a fellow co-worker today (who's opinion I trust) she stated that she would never do this worksheet with her kids, and that if she did she thinks some of her parents would be upset. So, my question is.... Would you do this worksheet with your kids? Shouldn't the kids know about their disabilities? I am totally confused now and am even questioning if I should do it.  I would love your opinions.  Let me know if you want it too and I can send it over.  empoweredbythem@aol.com

4 comments:

  1. Hi Karen, yes, this is a tricky subject. I know some parents with kids on the autism spectrum who are pretty adamant that their child not be labeled as having a disability. They don't want their child to feel different or to feel that they have an "excuse". It definitely depends on the student, and how much they're able to process all the implications.

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  2. Last year I was teaching in a program for students who had very low all around academic skills, and social and behavioral issues. But in many respects they were just like their regular ed peers, at least socially. I said something about being a special education teacher and they were in a special education class. The students were shocked and couldn't believe it. I talked to them as a group and talked to some individually. We went through all the different disabilities using videos, worksheets etc. In my opinion, it is our job to teach students about their disabilities so they can advocate for themselves. If they don't know about their own disability, how can they possibly do that? My daughter has a learning disability and she went to community college part time because she recognized it would be difficult to do more. She asked for extra time, she asked for extra tutoring. She explained her disability fully. She asked for what she needed, and they gave it to her. If she hadn't done that, they would never have known. This is what I want all of our students with disabilities to be able to do, even the ones with Autism.

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  3. This is such a pet peeve of mine! It always stuns me when I get a 14 year old student who has been in self contained classes for years, but has no idea why or what his disability is. It is such an important thing for the students to know. Legally, the students have the right to know about their disability, and a responsibility to learn how to best advocate for themselves and find accommodations or modifications that help them succeed. I teach functional academics to students ages 14-21, and we have a month long unit before we do student led IEP meetings, where we learn about disabilities in general, their particular disability, and how our disabilities affect our lives. We go through our IEPs, learn about each section, and learn about the different parts and why they are important. Most students "testify" about their disability to the group, and talk about what is hard for them. It helps them to understand each others actions at times, and become less frustrated with each other. Some students even share information about their disability with their peers. We also talk about the responsibilities that we have, and that we can't use our disability as an excuse. I do send a note home to parents/guardians letting them know that we will be doing this. I have never had a parent ask me not to share this information with their child, but have had several thank us for approaching a subject that they weren't sure how to handle. I work with a local community college disability services coordinator, and she tells me that many of the students that come to her for assistance have no idea what their disability is, how it affects them, or what type of accommodations they need. Some don't realize that they were in Special Education classes or received adapted curriculum in high school, and are amazed that they struggle in college because they received all As and Bs in high school. I love these worksheets, and wish more teachers would cover these subjects with their students.

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  4. Thank you so much for your responses. I attended an autism conference last year in Los Angeles. One break out session I went to was a whole panel of kids on the spectrum from about 16 - 25 years old. They were very briefed in autism, how it helped them, where they needed to work harder, and how to advocate for themselves. We don't need to teach them that there is something "wrong" with them, just something different so they understand.

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