Thoughts on Disability

Schools & Ecosystems

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As we discuss the challenges of creating school environments that fully integrate students with learning disabilities, it seems worth exploring the idea of disability itself. One of the most interesting things about teaching special education is seeing what a huge variety of students  are lumped into the category of “students with disabilities.” Under the umbrella of special education, I have taught students diagnosed with: dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy, autism, emotional disturbance, and Asperger’s Syndrome– not to mention dozens of students classified simply with the catch-all diagnosis, “learning disability,” a category which can cover students with mild dyslexia as well as students whose testing reveals borderline mental retardation.

Students with these diagnoses present their teachers with wildly varied needs and challenges, but they are bound together by this one word: “disability.”  So what does it mean? For practical purposes, a learning disability is any condition that interferes with…

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