Every year we have parents who want to know if their child has been placed in a class with special needs students. Often parents want their children moved to a class with no special education students due to their fears that their children will not get enough of the teacher’s attention in such a class. What these parents fail to realize is that they are keeping their students from valuable learning in doing so.
First, the obvious...
Children today are often sheltered from harsh realities of life. I am as guilty of this as other parents are, trying to teach my girls about those that are less fortunate or who have physical challenges without scaring them or painting too dark of a picture of the big, bad world out there. Unfortunately when children have not been exposed to differently-abled persons, they often stare and make judgements when presented with a special education child.
Having your child in a classroom with children of many different abilities, from the most gifted and talented to those with significant learning difficulties or even physical handicaps, can teach your child valuable life lessons: to be helpful, to treat others with respect and kindness, to look for the strengths of each individual, etc. I have seen the pride in many a parent’s eyes at conferences when I share how his/her child aided another child in some way in the classroom. The awesome thing is that this has been true for both the “typical” children in my classroom as well as the special education children.
Is diversity really all that important?
A homogeneous group of students have little to offer each other in terms of learning. Valuable learning experiences come from differences in background and experiences. Students learn from their dissimilar peers to think critically, to support a position, and to investigate all possible answers before arriving at a conclusion. Your child will learn to value the opinions of others by being exposed to individuals that are unlike him/herself.
What we remember over time
Much research has been conducted about different learning and study strategies. What has emerged is a graduated list of activities that will ensure a greater level of understanding and memory of information. For those parents that worried about their children getting enough attention or learning as much as they would have with no special education students in the class, they need only be shown the value in the rehearsal their children receive in this class. Those that see, hear, or write the information remember somewhere less than 30% of what they are taught. Saying the information aloud or processing it as they explain it to someone else will move students up to the 70-90% retention rate.
The bottom line with special education students
Your child will achieve a deeper, more meaningful education in a diverse classroom with students of all levels. Special education students are required to be fully included in the regular classroom to the full extent they are able according to federal law. Children of all ability levels bring a wealth of experiences and talents to the classroom that enrich the lives of those they come in contact with.