Monday, May 12, 2014

Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

"Success in life requires an ability to form relationships with others who make up the web of community" (73).

This quote instantly sparked a learning experience I had in high school with the special needs students that went to my school. I was always confused as to why the special education department in all of the schools I attended were in a separate part of the school, isolated from the rest of the community. When I was a senior in high school, I had a History teacher who did all he could to include a few special education students into our classroom. One of the students wasn't able to fit his wheelchair in our school elevator, so he had to have every class downstairs. Our History class was in the upstairs portion of the building. This is where the trouble started. In order for this student to be a part of the class, we moved our class down to the cafeteria for two days a week. At the beginning of the year, all of the special education students were behind and couldn't keep up with the discussions and classwork the rest of the class was doing. The students had their aids help them keep up with the work and they pushed them to challenge themselves and never to give up on something that was difficult. I strongly believe that these students used their sense of community to push themselves to focus more and challenge their minds in ways they cannot when they are isolated from the student body.  

At the end of the year, we completed a project where we redesigned a whole room into a museum to teach people about the Vikings and how they impacted history. Each student in the class had a full understanding of the history and the exhibit we created. During our last class, the special education students were not there, so our teacher used that time to talk about why he needed to include them into our classroom. He explained that by building a sense of community around them, it makes them more comfortable around people since they are so isolated on a day to day basis. Social skills are a huge motivator and significantly help students with social and learning disabilities. They helped us become comfortable and taught us how to help and work with children that have special needs and we helped them by welcoming them into a classroom that they are not necessarily familiar with.

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