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Uncategorized   |   Jan 17, 2011

Dear Facebook: special needs kids want more than acceptance.

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Dear Facebook: special needs kids want more than acceptance.

By Angela Watson

People need to understand that children with special needs are not sick. They are not searching for a cure, just acceptance. Ninety three percent of people will not copy and paste this. Will you be part of the seven percent that will and leave it on your wall for at least an hour?

Kids with special needs only want what everyone wants- to be accepted. Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to post this and leave it on your status for at least 1 hour? It is Special Education week, and this is in honor of all children made in a unique way. You never understand a situation until you are faced with it!

Did any of you see a variation of this status update on your friend’s Facebook wall? Or maybe you posted it yourself. It started circulating harmlessly enough last April during “National Special Education Week”. Then during special education week in July. And again in October. And now apparently in January.

If you’re wondering how special education week could occur every other month, well, it doesn’t. This is yet another Facebook hoax and Special Education Week doesn’t exist at all. It turns out to be a case of good intentions, poor critical thinking.

This status update bothers me beyond the mindless posting and re-posting on social network sites. I think it’s completely untrue. Many kids with special needs would like far more than acceptance: they’d like the academic support they need to be successful. And some of them would, in fact, like a cure to be found for their disorders. This is especially true for people with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so on.

Acceptance is the starting place for kids with special needs, it’s not ‘all they want’. We do children a disservice by pretending otherwise. Instead of oversimplifying their challenges in honor of a fake national cause week, I think we could do more good by spreading awareness of foundations that work to help children with special needs. Isn’t allowing these organizations to share their message preferable to presuming what kids with special needs really want?

I know this is a bit of a hot-button topic. But I think it’s important to open it up for discussion and challenge people to really examine what those with special needs want from us and how we can best serve them. These are my thoughts as both a veteran teacher and someone who has experienced learning disabilities and mental illness within my family.  What are your thoughts? Do you think special needs kids ‘only want acceptance’?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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Discussion


  1. Angela, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been an inclusion teacher for 5 years, having worked with students with various learning disabilities as well as emotional disabilities. If teachers decided to simply “accept” these students, they would never progress in anything. Every child, with or without a disability, needs acceptance, but more often these students want coping strategies and someone who can meet them where they are and then push them further (academically, socially, and every other way possible).

    1. “If teachers decided to simply “accept” these students, they would never progress in anything.” That’s an excellent point, Michelle. It makes me think about how It’s sometimes tempting sometimes as teachers to let our acceptance of special needs kids slide into making excuses for them…or for why we don’t need to do anything extra to support them. We have to always be striving to improve and help our kids improve. We can accept who they are and where they’re at, but we need to always be challenging them to reach for more.

  2. I agree with you as well. I’m a special ed. teacher and my kids ask me all the time about their goals and what they have to do to get back to their regular classroom. They want to learn. They want to progress. Kids with special needs, especially with learning disabilities, need for people to never give up on them no matter how long it takes for them to “get” something. And yes, many kids with special needs are socially excluded. They need us to TEACH them how to interact in socially appropriate ways. I love your blog. 🙂

    1. Hi, Molly, that’s great to hear that your students keep close track of their goals and progress. I’ve noticed that with many kids with special needs–they are very eager to ‘catch up’ to their peers and meet their grade level standards. *They* don’t just accept where they’re at; why should we?

      I love your point about how we need to teach kids who are socially excluded to interact appropriately. Most kids with special needs really, really want to fit in and have friendships. I would argue that helping them do that is just as important as ‘accepting’ them.

  3. Not sure if it is my district or Texas but we do have a Special Education Week (it was the last week in December for us). My school had us do a demonstatration on how a student in Spec Ed may see the world. They had loud music blaring, had us put on glasses smeared with goop, put sandpaper on our neck, our hand in cold water. Then they asked to do something in spanish on paper. It was very eye opening. Needless to say it was extremely difficult. The Spec. Ed cordinator for our school went on to talk with us about what it felt like and how some kids experience only some of that or some more extreme. Other schools in my district have done different things.

    1. Tina, I think it’s awesome that your district did that! I like the idea of a school system recognizing the challenges of special needs kids (though the last week of December wouldn’t be my first choice) and the activity sounds like it made a big impact on the teachers. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. As a former special ed teacher and a parent of a ten year old who happens to be autistic, here is what I’ve learned:
    Children with special needs DO want to be accepted just the way they are. They don’t want someone to “fix” them. Many think they are just fine the way they are. Some do want a cure, but as my enlightened son tells me, he wouldn’t know what to do if he was different. He gets mad that people want him to fit into their world. His world is just A-OK to him. Now, I wouldn’t agree with that from my perspective (Of course I’d prefer him not to have challenges) but I cannot argue with him.
    He said he is tired of people being scared of him or thinking that his autism is contagious. He does not want pity either as he says that is “upsetting”.
    Everyone has their own challenges and if they say they don’t, they are not introspective. Our God has created all of us different for a reason. We may not agree with his choices but clearly He knows best and we must trust in Him.

  5. OOPS! I sent before I was done: Reply cont.:

    Recently, my son was praying to God to cure him of his autism. This was not because he wanted to change but because other people felt he needed to. Do I think someone came right out and told him that? No, I do not. But he is an intelligent human being who is very good at reading people. He was angry, when after much praying, he was not cured. He was thinking God did not love him or care for him. How sad is that? This message came from society, not him. We are making people like him feel like that. The good news is that he really does not care what others think, hence, his autism. But I do and wish for people to love him and accept him without pity.

    I do NOT in any way believe in making excuses for any children. As a mother and an educator I must say that if you have high expectations for children, they will rise to them. But EVERYONE wants to be accepted and appreciated and if someone on Facebook wants to advocate for that, I will not object.

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