What teachers need to know about disabilities

For many students with disabilities inclusion is the norm. I wasn't included until the fifth grade because back in the early eighties, inclusion was unheard of. Everyone would say that I'm a trail blazer. I didn't understand what that really meant then but now I do. 

When I was first included, teachers wanted nothing to do with me. I sat in the very back of the class by myself. I didn't feel like I was part of the class but obviously there to prove something. 

I would like teachers to realize that children with disabilities are still children. Look beyond the wheelchair, equipment, speech problems, spasms and whatever else be the disability. Find the child eager to learn, have fun, and belong.

Let go of preconceived notions about the child. Let the child teach you who they are. Include them in your class, accept them and challenge them.  

Some of my best teachers found the real Jessica and challenged me to do the best I could.  Children with disabilities need to be ready because adulthood with a disability is completely different.   Finding a job, managing your care, and being independent is harder with a disability. 

The bottom line is if you are teaching children with disabilities treat them as you would any student. Don't be afraid to challenge them so they are prepared for the rest of their lives. 

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