I vividly remember how angry I became during my son’s last annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting back in March of 2012. What aroused my anger was listening to my son’s 5th grade teacher argue with my wife on how it was pointless spending time doing homework because he wasn’t “getting it”. He then proceeded to wave random homework assignments in my wife’s face while saying: “look at this Mrs. Hovey, just look at this”.
This verbal exchange pissed me off so much; I had to quickly excuse myself from the meeting. Had I stayed, within seconds, I would have punched his lights out.
Parents with special need children also talk about “getting it” but in a different way. Granted, sometimes our special needs children don’t always “get” academic subjects or concepts as rapidly as typical children. Sometimes they may not understand them at all. At the same time, however, educators and others don’t always “get” our children either.
In my opinion, “getting” special needs children involves both the mind and the heart working together. In our present society, there is tremendous focus on the intellect and mind but not enough focus on heart and passion. It is obvious that educating one’s self about foreign subjects must begin with the mind. However, once you educate yourself about an emotional subject such as a disability and what children or adults can accomplish beyond the disability, the heart becomes aroused and engaged with the mind.
From an engaged heart, attitudes begin to change to the point where an individual relates to and appreciates a child or adult in a completely different manner. In the case of my son’s 5th grade teacher, I know he is an intelligent man capable of educating himself about Down syndrome. Had he done his due diligence prior to beginning the school year he might have acquired the necessary heart for teaching my son. Then again, he might not have. While there are many teachers who welcome and appreciate the challenge of educating children with disabilities, some simply do not “get it”.
In my opinion, you cannot successfully assist or educate children with disabilities without having some sort of heart for it. Simply understanding raw data or possessing advanced degrees will not cut it. It requires a deep understanding that does not stop at the mind but continues straight to the heart.