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Monday, October 8, 2012

special ed doesn't sound right

the other day my kids were playing school and one of the kids was playing "the naughty kid".  and this naughty kid was doing and saying all kinds of very hilarious and bordering on hysterically silly things and i was really enjoying watching my kids play together so well (it is rare, lemme' tell ya') and then suddenly this naughty kid said "i'm in special ed."

well, i was not prepared for what happened next, which was that i started bawling and had to leave the room to calm down.  and both of my kind children followed me trying to make me feel better, the empathetic one hugging me and saying she was sorry i was so sad and the other one defensively  explaining that it was the naughty kid character who said that, but really, what was revealed in this slip from my kid's mouth was not that he dislikes anyone in particular, but that subconsciously "special ed" means something very negative to him.

this might be ok except everyone at my son's school, and at many schools, continues to refer kids in special day classes as "the special ed kids".  i really do not see this phenomenon as much when kids are all in inclusion.  we had a long talk and my daughter had a good point--she doesn't know what to call "those kids" because she doesn't know their names.  boo hoo, i cried a little more.  then i emailed my son's fabulous teacher with a list of a bunch of ideas.  and she let me know that she gives the kids the same redirect if she hears (not usually used negatively) the term "special ed kids", and tells the kids the student's name.

as long as the special day classes exist in their present form here are my random ideas for my son's school, which i know has a lot of challenges in getting kids from different classes to spend time together:
*use name tags , especially for kids who are nonverbal, when kids who are unfamiliar are playing or working together
*let kids take turns picking favorite music and have a dancing corner of the yard with music and a fun and encouraging adult
*put the trampoline or big ball out on the yard and have kids from all classes take turns jumping or rolling with an adult supervising
*give some kids from the special day classes those little three wand bubble holders so they can share
*get out some water for the water paint wall and make sure there are enough brushes for any kids in the sdc classes who want to paint and more to share
*get a wagon for the younger kids to sit in and pull each other
*have some open ended chase games going on with adult facilitation
*do some reverse mainstreaming for kids to go into the special day class classrooms for free play

ok, you can probably see that these are all stolen from preschool, but if kids have trouble with social interaction, difficulty understanding the rules of games, motor planning issues, then they will like activities with  props and facilitated turn-taking at recess.  it is not rocket science.  in fact, many kids like dancing to music, blowing bubbles, open-ended art and sensory motor activities like jumping and rolling.  and yes, you can probably see that all these ideas involve adult facilitation, but if all the kids in the special day class have IEPs, then they all have goals,and if the goals involve social interaction, then what better time to work on this is while having fun on the yard, with their typically-developing peers?  having fun and developing friendships??  why isn't this happening more?

anyway, this is getting long, sorry.

the day after my meltdown my son came home and shared that he had sat with the students in one of the special day classes at lunch.  i found out later his teacher is encouraging kids to mix it up by sending tables with the most kids from different classes out to recess first.  whatever works.  and one of these kids, my son reported, is super fast, and they played chase at recess.  this made us both feel good. and now he knows this student has a name, and he can use it.  thank you to the teacher who encouraged this connection.

keep moving forward, and make it fun.

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