Growing up as a child who went to school in the 90s, there was definitely a stigma around special education. Autism diagnoses were much rarer back then, and you maybe saw one or two kids with ADD or ADHD in an entire grade. Most people had never even heard of Sensory Processing Disorder. At least, that is what it seemed like to me, living in my world as a developmentally typical student. The few kids who did need extra help existed in another world to me. I didn’t really understand what challenges they and their families faced.
What I did understand, however, were labels. And the label of being a kid who needed “special education” was full of stigmas. The stigma of not being smart. The stigma of not being normal. The stigma of not being able to cut it in the regular world.
I would like to think that I was a kind person in my younger days, but I am sure I had my moments of looking down on those students who couldn’t cut it in a regular classroom. Maybe I thought, if only they worked harder. Or they are just making excuses. Or why do they get extra help?
As someone who had a relatively easy time in school, I often failed to comprehend why others might struggle. I didn’t know that many students learn differently and that didn’t make them any less intelligent or curious or eager to achieve than me.
I gained a whole new perspective on how kids learn, after having two kids of my own. Continue reading