Classrooms have changed a lot over the past four decades. When I was a child, I do not recall having any diverse learners in my classes. There were some children in my neighborhood who had learning disabilities, but they attended school somewhere else and I had little exposure to children that were different from myself. Today, my own children attend school in a very different environment than I did. Both of my daughters have boys in their classes who have Asperger’s Syndrome. They also interact with students who struggle with other disabilities such as Autism and Down’s Syndrome.
In looking at how the classroom has changed, these changes have been for the good. I remember as a child being afraid of children who were different from me. The student body population was not diverse at all. In fact I remember there being only one African-American boy in my school and no one with disabilities that I know about. Discussion about difference were not something I was involved in until I was in high school and we talked about historical events that had happened in our country to help it change for the better.
Today’s classroom has a wide variety of nationalities and students with many different learning abilities. The children in the classroom are not afraid of children who are different from them because they have interacted with these children who learn differently from them. In fact, my own children have learned to be very caring and compassionate to children with different needs. We have two good friends who have children with Autism. These boys have become a big part of our family and we love having them around.
The experiences that we have had with these boys have really helped my children to be more open and accepting of other children in their school classes who have similar disabilities. I believe that having these children mainstreamed into the classroom is a wonderful way to help the teacher and students learn to be more tolerant of others. It also helps students learn to kind and care to people who may be different than them. This fall I saw several third grade boys on the playground playing football. This is not unusual; however, upon looking closer, I saw a great kindness taking place.
These third grade boys were playing football with a boy in our school with Down’s Syndrome. These boys spent their whole recess time teaching this boy how to throw the football the right way. These boys didn’t care if they had a turn, they just kept throwing the ball back to the little boy they were helping and cheered him on to throw the ball again and again. This kind of interaction could not have taken place if this young man with Down’s Syndrome had not been mainstreamed into a regular classroom. I find it amazing how much students learn from one another when they have to work through difficult situations.
Working with an exceptional child will not always be easy; however, when these children start to learn and grow the whole classroom will grow with this student. Each person who interacts with the exceptional child will notice when they make progress and find become excited with this child who has made progress. I believe that having these children in the general classroom will not only benefit the exceptional child but everyone who gets the opportunity to interact with the student. These special children touch all those they come in contact with and help us realize the importance and worth of a child.