March 21, 2011

Facebook and "Special Education Week"

If you're on Facebook, chances are you've seen variations of this over the last year or two:

"People need to understand that children with special needs don't have an illness, they are not looking for a cure, only acceptance. 93% of you probably won't copy and paste this! Will you be in the 7% that will and leave it up as your status for one hour? It's Special Education Week!"

This has bugged me since the first day I read it, but I'm finally getting around to blogging about it. Here's a newsflash, folks: there is no "Special Education Week." You probably already figured that out, since this status appears from time to time throughout the year. Not a big deal, I agree.
But this line gets me every time: "they are not looking for a cure, only acceptance." Guess what, folks: they want that, too! They want a cure! Really, really, they do!

Sure, acceptance is great: most kids forget that Hadley has hearing aids on her head. (Until the teacher has them write nice things about their peers. Then Hadley receives 20+ comments about how well she listens.) Classmates jump at the chance to use the microphone with the soundfield system or turn the speaker off; they all love reminding the teacher that the lapel mic is still on. Every once in a while, someone may tease, but that's been pretty isolated so far.

Acceptance is fine... but Hadley still feels different. Yes, she does really well: her speech is great; she reads incredibly well; she advocates for herself; she's a good student. But feeling accepted by her peers doesn't change the fact that her life is different than a typical 9 year old girl. It might make things easier sometimes, but it doesn't change facts.

Adults have a different version of acceptance: pretending the difference doesn't exist or minimizing the challenges that Hadley faces every day. I've had school team meetings where I've spent more time explaining the real obstacles Hadley encounters than determining appropriate services and accommodations. In their haste to show their acceptance, sometimes adults rush a conversation with their assurances of understanding, declaring that they know exactly what I mean and thereby missing the message entirely. And, yes, sometimes adults tease (it's not funny to say to me, "What is she, deaf?") or are completely inappropriate (like the parent who, at the integrated preschool open house, leaned over and whispered to me, "I hear there's a deaf girl in the class. That's not good.")

Yes: acceptance is all fine and dandy. Knowing that nearly all the people Hadley meets will try, in some form or another, to learn a little about her and understand her is fantastic. All kids need that kind of safety net in their lives. No, we don't live under an umbrella of naivete that there will be a cure for Connexin 26 related hearing loss...but that doesn't mean we don't want one.

So, next time you're tempted to be one of the 1, 3, 7, or whatever incalculable % of Facebook users to update about Whatever Week for acceptance, think for a moment and, if you really must paste and post, take a moment to edit your copy to include the word "cure." Quite honestly, we want both: for everyone around our children to be welcoming, friendly, and understanding of all their needs, special or not. Just because these particular kids wound up with an unexpected twist of genes doesn't mean we limit ourselves (or them) to mere acceptance. It's okay to hope for a cure, whether its within the realm of possibility or not. We do.


  1. YES! Your blogs always speak to me! Thank you.

  2. My thoughts exactly.

  3. I'm mean, i look up whatever "week" it happens to be claimed and them refute it. Which led me to you and my sharing of this. Thank you for your thoughts and feelings on this. It may help SOMEONE realize there isn't a "week" for everything.

    If you feel like reading my rants: Pardon the language.