New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense
As a special ed teacher for more than twenty years, Linda has always seen herself as a diligent, effective advocate for the students she taught and their parents. Her experiences have run the gamut, from teaching in horribly labeled self-contained classrooms (SLIC-Severely Limited Intellectual Capacity) years ago, to supporting students and teachers in inclusive general ed environments.
During IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings, she felt she was on the “side” of the child and his parents, much to the chagrin of some of her coworkers and supervisors. She did what she could to move students into inclusive general ed classrooms, contrary to the wishes of other educators who continued to support segregated settings. Her bold and brave actions often led others to see her as a “rebel” or “not a team player.” Still, she persevered, believing she was a positive force and a strong advocate for children with disabilities and their parents.
Then her third child was born with Down syndrome. When the nurses in the hospital brought her new baby to her, she recalls, there was great sadness and pity in their demeanor. Her friends at the time (most were special and general ed teachers) dutifully expressed, “I’m so sorry,” and other pitiful responses. Linda was astounded, sad, and angry that no one joined in celebrating the birth of her precious Ryan.
Then one day, a team of professionals arrived for Ryan’s first IFSP (Individualized Family Support Plan) meeting. As she listened to the multitude of negative pronouncements about her baby son, Linda was reduced to tears. (Many more “I” meetings would follow, none of which were much better, in Linda’s opinion.) Click here to continue.
When the Table is Turned
In the best-case scenario, however, valuable lessons in empathy can be learned when we experience situations first-hand. And it’s important to embrace these lessons and then determine how we can apply them in situations with others whose lives we touch.