My child is a student too, not a learning experience for others

10 Feb

In the debate about whether or not to mainstream your child with special needs, one of the arguments that inevitably comes up is that other children need to be exposed to your special kiddo so that they can learn how to deal with those who are different.  It’s never worded “Our children need to learn what it’s like to be around neurotypical people”, it’s always the reverse – “The neurotypical kids should be exposed to those who are differently-abled!  It’ll make them more compassionate!”

My problem with this particular stance boils down to the fact that it sort of takes away from the legitimacy of the special student’s learning needs.  The fact that they’re to be some sort of social experiment for their typical peers is seen as a legitimate reason for mainstreaming.

I have three other kids, and when placing them in schools, I have never thought “What would be good for the other students?”  It has always been “What would be best for my child?”

So why should it be different for Maura?

Let me be blunt –

My job is not to expose your child to different people.  My job is not to ensure your child grows up to be a more compassionate human being.  The school environment should not be the only way to expose your child to people with special needs.  But still, I am told that she should be mainstreamed, so other children can be exposed to her disabilities. It’s as if her disability exposure only happens in the schools.  Trust me, we’re out there, in the real world, being all sorts of disabled in stores and coffee shops and movie theaters.  We don’t hide Maura at home, we’re right out there, in every conceivable scenario, showing our girl the great big world and teaching her how to live in it. Her life lessons don’t stop at the end of the school day, and neither should your child’s.

Just like any other parent, my job is to help my child reach her full potential.  My job is to figure out the best way to do it.  Whether or not she’s exposed to her neurotypical peers during school hours shouldn’t matter more than her learning those valuable life skills your child has already mastered.  Accepting her differences means accepting that she needs to be taught differently, that she learns differently.  My child can’t learn like her typical peers do – her brain doesn’t work that way. So why should she be put in a typical school environment?  So she can be a good learning tool for others?  Forget that!

Really, the best way for your child to learn how to be a compassionate and accepting human being is for you, the parent, to model the behaviors.  That is your job, not my child’s.

as seen at the local coffee shop...we don't hide our light under a bushel ever!

as seen at the local coffee shop…we don’t hide our light under a bushel ever!




18 Responses to “My child is a student too, not a learning experience for others”

  1. Donna February 10, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Well said!! And, what an eye-opener! My child knows she is treated differently in school, and she doesn’t like it. It upsets her. She goes to “special classes”, sees a “special teacher” and she knows she’s “special”. But, it doesn’t feel good, to her. We are thinking of sending her to a different school next year, not mainstream. But, we worry…are we making the correct choice. She knows she’s far behind the other students, and it bothers her. She works so hard but just isn’t capable. At a special needs school, she might have an opportunity to shine, which would bring her self-confidence up. But, then would she learn as much as mainstream, as a lot of special needs schools teach living skills, which our daughter has already learned much of. It’s social and behavioral issues that need the most attention with our daughter. We are stuck with this dilemma…just don’t know what to do.

    • franhunne4u February 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

      You will need to analyse your daughter’s abilities and lack of those thouroughly, with the honest input of her current teachers and, if you can get it, the input of teachers from a special needs-school, too. In the end you will have to decide. But you should try for some realistic evaluation how your child behaves at school – and what she can gain from mainstream – and what she can gain from a special needs-school. It is always like that – you can only go one of two ways in the end.

      • Donna February 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

        Thank you for your reply, franhunne4u. I had to laugh tho…we live in Ireland, in a small, rural community…there is no such thing as an honest opinion from the teachers where we live…LOL! They all want students so they can get more teachers and resources. A student with disabilities is even better. So, mainstream school will say whatever they want to keep her in their school…unfortunately.

      • franhunne4u February 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

        I feared that – that is why I added honest …

  2. mommabear0208 February 10, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Amen to that!

  3. Chris February 10, 2015 at 1:56 pm #


    Sent from my iPad


  4. Dean B February 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Definitely agree with you!

    • thegentlemancaller100 February 10, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

      Could not agree more, if a special school works better than send your child there! The kids I’ve seen who do are self-possessed and full of confidence.

  5. themightywillow February 10, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    Awesome post! Amen.

  6. Christine February 10, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    1. Your child’s significant needs trump some other child’s need to “be exposed to children with special needs.” 2. Children don’t learn compassion just by being around people who deserve their compassion. Children are taught compassion by seeing compassion and experiencing compassion.

  7. Kacie February 11, 2015 at 12:47 am #

    Reblogged this on Failure to Thrive and commented:
    A very thought provoking post. I agree there are benefits of mainstreaming; however, exposing neurotypicals to children with special needs should not top that list.

  8. Madeline graham February 11, 2015 at 2:59 am #

    Your words have moved me this morning as I struggle to get my son with special needs dressed for school …., thank you

  9. Holly February 11, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    You are exactly right, although we have not encountered that attitude in our educational experience. The argument has always been for the betterment of our son in getting the opportunity to interact with age peers versus being constantly around adults, ie, therapists, paras, teachers, caregivers. If this is the argument you’re hearing, the focus should be redirected to the best possible learning environment for your child.

  10. Meg C. DeBoe February 12, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    I just rewrote a part of a grant application for a special needs program for that exact reason. Special needs kids aren’t novelties for mainstream kids.

  11. Jean February 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Acting as an advocate for our kids is a huge part of our role. I like to hope that this intention to expose “normal” kids to our kids comes from a good place,but it exposes society’s painfully slow attitude change. It stands to reason that ALL kids education needs to be child centred ..sadly reason doesn’t always come into it XXX

  12. monaghanmammy February 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Acting as an advocate for our kids is a huge part of our role. I like to hope that this intention to expose “normal” kids to our kids comes from a good place,but it exposes society’s painfully slow attitude change. It stands to reason that ALL kids education needs to be child centred ..sadly reason doesn’t always come into it XXX

  13. jamilouise February 16, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    Good for you! 🙂

  14. bluerosegirl08 February 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    I was one of those mainstreamed kids too and I always hated when anybody said that in my hearing, like my primary function was an object lesson. I did have a fourth grade g teacher who would often assign kids who were disruptive in class to me as ‘peer aides” who would write for me help me in the lunch room etc. but she asked both my mom and I how we felt about the idea first she never assumed anything. She’s still one of my favorite teachers because of that.

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