Before I completed my degree in Psychology, I was contemplating on whether I should go for Child Psychology or become a lawyer. Most of people I knew said Child Psychology was a very infertile ground in the Philippines and is an impractical choice. Naturally, many persuaded me into pursuing a degree in Law. But after a year in law school, my love to work with children had not wane off. That summer, after first year of law school, I took a plunge into teaching children. The small school catered children with special education needs too. It was an inclusive preschool. I was immersed in teaching special education needs children. I entered the beautiful and still mysterious special profession.
Needless to say, I fell in love with it. Maybe, I never fell in love with it because, I have always loved children anyway. Teaching special education needs children apt up my love on a different level. Here are a few things I learned in the special profession:
1. Every Child Needs Our Love
Teaching children across ages has taught me that they need our love. They need to feel loved. They don’t always need the toys and gadgets we give them. They don’t always need all the clothes. Children need to feel they are loved and cared for. I have learned that every child will not have the same language of love. We will need to speak to them in a language they understand. Teaching special Education needs children told me that they are no different. They also need our love. They need our patience more too.
Books about the Language of Love:
2. Every Child Reads Us
Children can read our behavior. They can tell whether we are happy or not. They can easily tune in to our excitement as much as they can tune in to our sadness. Children either mimic our emotions or respond to it accordingly. Often times, younger children will tend to mimic it. Other older children who are not fully emotionally aware of their emotions are also likely to mimic it. I have observed this phenomena in my own classrooms and with colleagues’ too. The children are more noisy when I am upset; even if I don’t tell them so. Likewise, children can also be very noisy when another teacher is so excited and is in emotional high. You can imagine how intense a classroom is for a SpEd teacher teaching special education needs children can be if he/she will not regulate and fine tune her emotions on a day. The children, however, are calm when the teacher is calm and detached of their extreme emotions. The same is true in the home. Children are happy when parents set a happy mood and tensed when there are overtones of worries and problems.
3. Every Child Wants To Be Special, Not “Special”
It is quite a special feeling when we know we are loved and that we are important. Children also love this feeling. All children want to feel special. They all want to feel and know that they matter. Special education needs children also crave to feel special. They want to be important and valued. In my years of teaching special education needs children I have seen that they prefer feeling valued over the feeling of being special because they have a particular condition. In fact, most of them avoid that “special” word as reference to them. They want to matter and to be valued not to be pitied and be saddened about. And yes, most often, they can tell the difference between our genuine affection and that of pity. They have special needs. They matter. We must also value them. We should refrain from referring to them as “special” in a derogatory way.
This reminds me of this great book my daughter and I have shared lovingly. This gives very helpful insight to disabilities. “A First Look At…Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas”
4. Every Child Is Teachable
We grew up with labels of comparisons between the “bright and brilliant” child and the “dull” child. There is a child in class who is aptly given a “dunce cap”. But everyone can actually learn. Yes, everyone can learn. We, however, learn differently. We learn at different pace too.
If everyone can learn; then everyone is teachable. Children with special education needs are no exemption. These children can be taught. They will learn what they are taught. They may need a different way of teaching to learn. They may need to know little or more than the others. They may take longer than the others. But they will, like all others, learn what they will need to learn if we will take the time to teach them. Every child is teachable.
5. Every Child Wants What We Want Too
The bottom line is that every child is just another you and another me. They want, crave, hunger for the same things we want, crave and hunger for. Every single one of them. They may be gifted, average or needing further assistance. They all want what we want. So, let’s be a more open and let’s remember, we were all once children too.