Special Needs: Some Food for Thought

How much do you know about special needs?  How significant is it in your life?  Have you even heard of it?  And… what does it matter, really?

If you had asked me two years ago, you would have gotten a blank stare for every single one of those questions.  Ask me today, and my answers would be very different.  I don’t know nearly as much as I want to know… I’m still learning!  But it matters to me.  Alot.  For reasons beyond my control, I am not in the field of special needs education today.  But still, it holds a very special place in my heart.

{enter:  special needs education}

My first brush with special needs came in a rather unexpected way.  While I was earning my driver’s license two years ago, I met a former special needs teacher who shared with me a great deal about autism and teaching children with autism.  He told me about the unique position of special needs teachers and the special requirements of becoming one.  His experiences with special needs children touched my heart.  I was deeply impressed.  By the time our conversation ended, it had won me over.

{learning more}

I began reading more into special needs, particularly dyslexia and autism.  When I found out that two of my close friends had dyslexia, much of what I read became more practical.  I could understand the problems in real life.  I realised that people with special needs are not, as is often imagined, less intelligent.  Instead, they are simply different from neurotypical people.  They often see the world and process information differently.  I learned too, that they often face discrimination because of their differences; and that with help and understanding, they can learn to function normally in our world.

{what won my heart}

I learned all that, yes.  But the thing that won my heart was this:  THERE IS HOPE. Nowhere else, in no other career I have analysed, have I seen a field so filled with hope.  No matter how severely a child has special needs, there is hope for the child.  And that hope is real, not just a despairing hope that someday, things will get better.  It is real hope, that can be realised through understanding those special needs and finding ways to address those needs.  That hope shines through in every small step of progress the child takes, and it shines through when there is a breakthrough in our understanding of why the child behaves the way he does.  And yes, it takes patience and love, but you will reap the rewards if you persevere!

{find out more}

Recently at school, I met a lecturer, Brenda Tan, who spent energy and time putting together resources for parents and teachers of autistic children.  She wrote a book, Come into My World, that does a beautiful job of raising awareness of special needs.  If these special people matter to you, I hope you’ll read her book.  It will open the door to your understanding of children with autism.  Do visit her website if you’re interested.

If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, take heart! There is a growing community of parents and teachers who can offer support for you.  And to all the rest of us, my intention in writing this little piece was to open the door to an area that perhaps you have not been aware of until now.  I hope with all my heart that it will give you a greater understanding of these special people in our world.

Coming up soon:  Autism and Dyslexia in BriefIf you’re a parent or teacher of a child with special needs and would like to contribute, please do so.  I would love to learn more.

Do share your thoughts and comments below…

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