“One of the greatest sources of unhappiness, in my experience, is the difficulty we have in accepting things as they are…As you catch yourself judging, and wishing for different — and we all do it — try a different approach: accept, and understand. It might lead to some interesting results.”
This has been the hardest thing for my special education students. Many of them want to deny that they have a disability and insist that they are in my class because they are lazy or got in trouble. Many parents have a hard time accepting that their child has a disability too and blame it on the school, teachers, peers, ex-spouses, laziness, bad friends, etc. All of these attitudes are detrimental to helping the student.
I think there comes a time to just accept that the child has a disability and forget about how or why it has come to this. Now, we need to come together to figure out how to move forward instead of looking in the past. We need to have a plan of action that will help the student be successful in the future. By looking at the student’s needs, we can see what the student, the teacher, and the parent needs to do at this point in time.
I do not focus on the student’s disability and rather focus on weaknesses and strengths. A disability does not define the student. Students with the same disability can be so very different and have such very different needs. But in order to focus on these weaknesses and strengths, the student and the parent needs to accept that the student is having problems. They cannot continue to believe that just hard work and different friends will suddenly “cure” the problem.
They also have to accept that even though we try different things, not all things will work and that we can’t give up. We need to accept that small steps of progress are great things and not to overlook the positives. Sometimes things will look worse before they get better but that is not always a terrible thing either.
Students also need to accept their disability in front of their peers. For many years I told my students that if they acted like they had something to be ashamed of, then others will treat them that way. They needed to accept it and if their peers were curious about it, they needed to educate them about their disability, not hide from it. Of course, this meant that the student needed to educate themselves about their disability and learn to be a self advocate. I know this was very hard to do but it can be done.
I think when the students can accept their disability and educate others, it also helps the parents. Many parents feel guilty that their child is struggling and blame themselves. This guilt can lead to either a very overindulgent parent or a very strict parent and both extremes are not good for the child. When a child can be a self advocate, it can also help the parent get over the guilt and look to a more productive relationship with their child.
I truly believe that acceptance is a first step to a successful life.
Original image: 'Couple' http://www.flickr.com/photos/62223880@N00/420642281 by: Ville Miettinen