Special Education - are our students ashamed?

Why do you want to be part of the crowd when it’s obvious that you were meant to be yourself. Standout. Be proud. Be YOU!
— Unknown

By Victoria Robinson

Many of our students, who are classified as special education often feel as if they aren't " normal", that no one understands who they are and the stigma that can come with being a special education student. Many of the disabilities that students in special education classes are diagnosed with, a treatable and still offer students the opportunities available to their peers who may be in general education classes. One must be aware that special education classification covers a large spectrum from visual impairments, dyslexia, autism, ADHD, Aspergers and more.


As we learn more about special education via web sites, advocates, IDEA and foundations, we also learn that special education is more mainstream than ever. Its not a classification that labels the student who isn't understood, poor, "slow" or "special". Its a classification that lives amongst us all and makes us no different.



One afternoon, my students expressed embarrassment for being in a "slow" class as they call it and to remind them of how they only learn differently, we googled famous people who have also been diagnosed under the umbrella of special education. They were shocked to see who was on the list, and even more surprised to see what they accomplished even with what society has defined as a blemish.


It's important share with our children and students that they are "typical kids", that being in a class with a small ratio, learning at a different pace, does not make them any different than their peers. We need to share with them that outside of the classroom and the school, they too are functional adults who will contribute to society and can benefit from all that the world has to offer.

Bruce Willis, star of the Die Hard series and The Sixth Sense, enrolled in a high school drama class as a way to overcome a debilitating stutter. To his surprise, he found the speech impediment disappeared when he performed. Needless to say, he used that coping tool to his advantage and now rakes in up to $25 million for his roles in action films.

Robin Williams, this Hollywood Star was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a child. He never refuses a role related to medicine - "Awakenings" and "Patch Adams" are two examples.

Cher- Disability: Dyslexia . Performed as part of the Sonny & Cher musical duo. Recorded chart-topping hits from the 1960s ("Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves") to late 1990's ("Believe").

Tom Cruise- Disability: Dyslexia (Rumors have it that he is still unable to read today.) Starred in many films, including "Top Gun", "Born on the 4th of July", "Rain Man", "Mission Impossible", and "Vanilla Sky". Both "Born on the 4th of July" and "Rain Man" dealt with disability issues in a positive way.