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Ask about that child with disabilities and special needs

By Allen Senstad, Alexandria, MN

Now that school has started, I’m reminded of my own school days. Back then, kids who were “special” had their own classroom.

hen they were allowed out of it, I avoided them. After all, they were different. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them; I was indifferent.

My son is one of those special needs kids. Matt is friendly and has excellent verbal skills. However, he doesn’t pick up on social clues, such as when someone is tired of talking about a topic, or tired of talking, period. Most children with disabilities have a difficult time with social skills, and some have difficulty even speaking.

Because they’re different, kids today do what I did. They avoid them. Most aren’t mean; they’re just indifferent. As a parent watching my son struggle, that hurts more than anything else.

There are exceptions. There’s a young lady in Matt’s grade named Addison. She’s bright, pretty, and able to talk to anyone. She’s popular and liked by her classmates. Despite the fact that she can hang out with anyone she wants, she makes a point of stopping by the “special” kids’ lunch table. She visits with Matt and his friends, and insists they tell her about their day. After lunch, she plays games with them, and won’t just let them sit by themselves. She’s a godsend.

However, for every one like Addison, there are still a hundred kids like me. Whether it’s fear of not being with the “right” people, or just indifference to those who are different, most kids avoid the children with special needs.

I’m writing today to ask for the help of every one of you who is a parent or grandparent.

If you’re like me, you probably think that your kids never listen to you anyway, so what’s the point? However, our kids do listen to us. They just don’t listen to our words. Instead, they watch our actions. So, I’m asking you to act.

If you know someone with a disability, go out of your way to say, “Hi,” and ask what they’re doing, just as you would with a friend. Who knows? You may even be pleasantly surprised by the answer. Ask your children if they know any kids with disabilities, and what they know about them. Ask about that child with disabilities often enough, and your child will realize it’s important to you. It might even become important to them.

In one study done at three high schools that included special needs children in the classroom, an interesting phenomenon was discovered. The special needs kids did not improve in grades or classroom behavior after inclusion was implemented. However, the so-called “normal” kids did.

Obviously, change will not occur overnight. Nor is change likely to be dramatic. However, if each of us tries a bit harder to not only accept those with differences but to admire them, and teaches our children how important it is to involve these people in our lives, we will make our world a better place. As a parent, isn’t that what you want?