Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Keeping Educators Up to Date on Rights of 'Differently Abled'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Keeping Educators Up to Date on Rights of 'Differently Abled'

Article excerpt

While sorting through my belongings before a recent move, I came across a box of pictures from my elementary school days. As my mother and I reminisced about my teachers, I began to think about the impact some of them had made on my life - and what impact I'll have on the education process in return.

My parents always informed my teachers about the visual and perceptual impairments with which I had come into this world. Some teachers were incredibly resourceful, anticipating problems I might have, such as making sense of pictures in books and movies. One compassionate teacher held a brief class discussion after every movie, in which the other students talked about what they had seen. Listening carefully, I learned what I needed to know without fearing the teacher might call upon me.

Sometimes, however, information about my limitations fell upon deaf ears. In those teachers' classes, I often felt ill at ease, fearful that I might be called upon to identify something I had been unable to understand or see clearly, and that the other children would laugh at me. Their snickers when I missed a step or was unable to locate an object made me wish I were as invisible to them as the object I could not find was to me. Quite often I felt all alone and very different.

By the time I entered high school, I had decided to pursue a career in which I could help people, particularly educators at all levels, to learn about the inclusion process.

An English professor of mine, for instance, initially had a difficult time accepting me as a student. She often made me feel as if my visual and perceptual limitations would keep me from ever becoming a successful writer. On a regular basis, she would announce my limitations to the class, failing to realize that she was violating federal laws.

By the end of the semester, though, this professor had developed a better appreciation for both my writing and me. Indeed, I demonstrated to her that I will not allow my impairments to get in the way of sharing my gifts and talents with others. …

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