As soon as I entered the first grade it became very clear to me, and everyone else, that I did not learn the same way all the other children did, or at the same rate. By second grade it was determined that I had an educational disability in reading and math. Over time I came to accept my status of being a “special ed. student”. Though it was a long process, I grew to appreciate my weaknesses and became empowered by them. For me, knowing my weaknesses academically enabled me to develop and cherish my strengths.
As a special education director for a school district I have a keen sense of satisfaction knowing that I have the unique opportunity to help children develop their strengths. I don’t for one minute pretend to know what it is like to have a physical disability that prohibits one from speaking, walking or talking, nor do I understand the complexities of raising a child with such disabilities; but there is one thing that I do know, that disabilities give each person the opportunity to see the humanity and vulnerability in one-another.
I believe that disabilities have the power to change our perspectives on life. They reveal the grace, mercy, love and joy that lie within each person. Everyday I witness students, teaching assistants, teachers, administrators and parents relate with children who have severe disabilities, from autism to traumatic brain injury, with such magnificent decency and respect.
It is those individuals who are vulnerable and preserved as being weak that teach the rest of us about determination, positive thinking and thankfulness. Power and strength are shaped and created through imperfection. I personally have learned more about being a loving, graceful and merciful person from the children in my schools. We could each learn a valuable lesson by participating in the lives of those whom we label “disabled”.
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