Many times during our life, if we are truly challenging our own personal growth - we will come face-to-face with our own prejudices. I have had several in my 39 years – one of the first was when I moved to the south when I was 17. I had some fairly strong stereotypes about Southerners – and very quickly at the university I attended, those stereotypes were laid to rest.
In my more recent history, I was struck by my prejudices about children with special needs. When first researching classroom environments for Ben, I definitely had the notion that he would only benefit from being in an inclusion class. There are many reasons parents want their child in inclusion – it is more “normal”, curriculum is rigorous and if your child is going to learn from their peers, you want those peers to be typical.
When it was all said and done, Ben’s best placement was in a self-contained classroom, a class with a teacher trained in special education with two assistants and 9 children, all with differing special needs.
Looking back now, I ask myself, “How could I have been so narrow-minded?” By discounting what children with special needs could teach my son, I am at the same time taking away Ben’s gifts. I know our Ben can offer friendship, love, courage, strength, determination, warmth, kindness, laughter and patience to his classmates.
It is a family’s decision to place their child in the best school setting – different ones work for all types of individuals. My only question for anyone facing this type of decision is, “What negative thoughts, fears or stereotypes do you have that could be getting in the way of making the best decision possible for your child?” If you have, at the very least, examined yourself, you are headed in the right direction.