When my daughter was in kindergarten, she had a classmate named Jack. Jack was (and is) developmentally delayed. Jack has an adult personal assistant with him all of the time when he is in school. Jack doesn't talk.
My daughter's welcomed Jack to class in kindergarten in the same way that she welcomed all of her students. Jack participated in all activities--as much as he could--just like everyone else. My daughter and her classmates viewed Jack in the same way they viewed everyone else. "He is a student just like me." "We have the same teacher." "We all do the same things."
My daughter is in eighth grade now, and Jack has been in her grade all along the way. My daughter and her peers view Jack in the same way they did in kindergarten. "He is a student just like me." "We have the same teachers." "We all do the same things." Of course, as my daughter grew, she also grew to understand that Jack has learning difficulties that other students do not. But since she knew him since kindergarten, she didn't view his "differences" as a negative thing.
Public education exposes our children to different people and it shows our children that differences are OK. Students see how the school and the school system helps students with varying abilities. I think that this helps our children to grow with a good understanding of the world that they will enter.
We all have disabilities of some sort. Our students' experiences with peers that are learning disabled helps them to see the differences and to see how these differences can be addressed by caring adults.
Jack is part of our public education family and we are all so lucky to know him.
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