Do You Wonder How That Special Needs Kid Affects Yours In the Classroom? (2 minute read)

This was a conversation that I had with one of my fellow mom friends about a classmate in her daughter's class.  There are so many lessons children can teach us, if we only take the time to listen and to understand.  The beauty and pureness in their souls are amazing, and my hope for the world is  that light to never become dimmed. 


My daughter has a child in her kindergarten class that hardly speaks, struggles to understand the rules of kindergarten, really struggles to follow them, cannot use scissors properly, often runs out of the classroom, or can be found sitting in the middle of the classroom or hall putting on his shoes for 15 minutes as he struggles to tie them perfectly symmetrically. Someone has to be with him almost every minute of the day.  How will this child impact my daughter’s education?  Will she struggle to learn to read this year?  How can she learn to add or subtract? 

I volunteer when I have time in the library helping her class with the library lesson of the day and picking out books.  What I see is that child running around as a parent helper or the librarian runs to catch him before he escapes into the hall.  How can the other children learn in this environment?  Later at lunch, he sits putting all the green pieces together in a puzzle while the other children eat their lunch and socialize with each other.  Suddenly my daughter is very still as a small hand reaches up and touches her hair ever so softly.  The teacher’s aid quickly comes over, says “no” to the boy and gently guides him back to his puzzle explaining to me that he likes hair.

I ask my daughter that night about this boy.  “Is your teacher with him all the time?”

“No, she replies, “but someone is.”

“What do you think of him?” I ask.    

“I think he is a really good drawerer (translation: He is very good at drawing.) He can write his name in bubble letters and block letters! Now I can too because I copy what he does, but I'm not as good at it as he is, yet.  He can sort colors of things really fast, and he really likes green. He is really nice because he never says anything mean to anyone.” 

“Are there kids that are mean?”

“Yes.  Cody* always makes fun of you when you lose.  That boy loves to win! Kelly* yells at you if you don’t put everything away perfectly.  If you miss a sight word or answer a question wrong Sarah* laughs at you, and that makes me not want to try to answer a question.”  I am surprised to hear how this affects her because those kids seem so, I don’t know…. normal?  I am surprised that their "normal" behavior has such a much more negative impact on her day.

I thought back on what I did see at the library that day.  I did see a kid making a break for it, but I also saw a group of kids that didn’t really notice.  They kept right on reading their book.  I also saw a classmate get up and get a new puzzle for this boy because he knew that one was his favorite. I saw child patiently wait for him to tie his shoes without being asked to, so he wouldn't walk without a buddy.

I saw a group of kids accept a child who wasn’t like them.  Did their eyes about pop out of their head the first time he ran from the room?  You bet they did.  Did all those kids begin running from the room, too?  No, they accepted his differences as his differences, and they accept his talents as his talents.  I have a child that sees what this boy can do, not what he can’t, won’t or doesn’t do.  She sees his intrinsic value, not what he may or may not take from her in terms of time and book learning. 

She will have plenty of time to learn to read.  She will learn to add and subtract.  I can do some flash cards with her and read a book with her (as I should be doing anyway). 

But this boy, this beautiful boy has taught her lessons in acceptance, valuing other’s talents, seeing what they can do versus what they cannot do or do differently, having compassion for his struggles that I can only pray she will also apply to herself as well as others as she grows up and navigates her way through life.  Lessons I know, but have all too often forgotten somehow in the hustle and bustle of my own life.

I hope that she doesn’t become what we adults view as the “normal” kids.  Focused on winning, not slowing down when someone else can’t keep up, making fun of those who get things “wrong” because we lack self-esteem ourselves, and making fun of, or judging or excluding others because they are not like us or in order to make ourselves look better to our peers (notice I didn’t say "feel better" because it never does, does it?). 


I must pay attention and guard against being the one that subtly tells her through my own actions, inactions or acceptance of "normal" that normal is what you should strive to be.  No, I want her to be abnormal in her compassion, acceptance and inclusion of others who are differently abled, and I want her to be brave enough to embrace her own not normal and not be ashamed of it.

I am so grateful for the opportunity she had this year with this child, and I am ever so grateful for the reminder from both of them to choose to see in others their gifts versus their “flaws”.

*Names, of course, have been changed.

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