Today I was thinking about Robin Williams and also about advice I was asked to give to a new special education teacher when I came across this quote from the movie Patch Adams: "You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome."
This quote sums up what I have learned is most important to the success of my students. I have never had two students whose disabilities were alike despite sharing similar categorical labels of autism, ADHD, learning disabled, etc. Every child's interests, learning styles, and needs are vastly different, and remembering the person first and not the disability is the most important step to creating a great classroom and plan for each student. At times, it can be scary to read the labels on IEPs and evaluation reports and wonder how a particular student will ever be helped, but if you focus on treating each student as a unique and special person, then the rest will come much more easily. I promise.
Candace Burckhardt is an international education consultant with an emphasis on special education, English learners, and social-emotional learning.