This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.
Let’s Teach These First
Most classroom teachers have a curriculum that needs to be taught during the year. I do think, however, that teachers need to focus on teaching three things first, especially if they are teaching children with disabilities.
Students at all age levels need to know how to stay out of danger. This means fundamentally that they need to be able to read warning signs. Of course, at first you think of the poison warning signs that appear on chemicals in the home, and those are certainly important. But shouldn’t a student in a wheelchair also know the unwritten warning signs that could keep them safe. If they are crossing a street in a wheelchair, they cannot be seen in the same way that a walking adult can. They need to learn what extra precautions they need to take when crossing streets to be as safe as possible.
Be sure that the students with disabilities for whom you are responsible are aware of the normal danger signs, but also teach them the special dangers that are particularly related to their disabilities. It may save their lives.
The second thing I believe we need to teach students with disabilities (as well as all other students) is how to get along well with other students and adults. Most of these students don’t want sympathy. They want to be treated like every other student. What most do want from others is as much empathy as possible. If they can get other non-disabled people to put themselves in their place, to recognize the disability but not to build the relationship based on it, they will go much further in social circles.
I do realize that socialization is a major problem for students with certain disabilities. In fact, it can be one of the main issues with which some special education students have to deal. Nevertheless, if these students can learn to carry on reasonable conversations and get the information from others that they need to be safe and function in mainstream ways, their lives will be much safer, fuller, and richer. Can you imagine how lonely and frustrating it is for students who recognize they have problems socializing with others and have no idea how to remedy the situation. Help them to learn these skill as well as you can.
The third major thing we need to teach all disabled students is how to read just as well as possible. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, reading still opens whole new worlds to us, and many times the worlds of the disabled are smaller than they are for the rest of us. The more severely disabled the student, the more his or world revolves around that disability. If those students know how to read as well as they can potentially read, at least it opens various topics up to them that they can enjoy. It doesn’t matter in this case what they read. Reading becomes an avenue for pleasure and for broadening their experiences.
Sure they can watch television and YouTube, but you have to read to some degree to even use them properly if you’re trying to find the topics you want. Of course, as I’ve discussed in detail on this blog, reading is absolutely fundamental to any kind of success in other classes at school. We may be a video nation, but there is still a ton of learning done and a lot of pleasure taken in being able to read well.
Teach your students, disabled and otherwise, to be safe in a dangerous world, to learn how to get along and converse with their peers and adults, and how to read just as well as possible. If you do teach these 3 things, you are well on your way to shaping your students’ lives in a positive fashion.
Grant Name: DonorsChoose.org Grants
Funded By: DonorsChoose.org
Description: DonorsChoose.org is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers register, and then submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals choose projects to fund.
Program Areas: Disabilities, Special Education, All Other
Recipients: Public School
Proposal Deadline: No Deadline
Average Amount: No set amount.
Availability: All States