Retarded, impaired, handicapped
(This was supposed to be written yesterday 12/19, but my kid got sick so I didn’t get a chance to write so this will be a very brief entry.)
Eight years ago I can to Japan, and a lot has changed since then. When I first came to Japan, no one had felt an earthquake past 9.0 magnitude. Costco was something only found in fat America, and all my students knew the slogan “Yes, we can” as well as “Change”. But there is one part of Japan that still hasn’t changed much.
Almost a decade ago the words special needs were rarely used in schools. That term was reserved for the most mentally handicapped students. Only students which could not possibly survive on their own or were a threat to themselves or were so socially handicapped were considered to be special needs.
Meanwhile in other classes students who were clearly special needs but could struggle through classes were put into normal classes. This led to classes having such a stratified level difference that it was nearly impossible for the slower students to keep up.
So what has changed? Almost nothing has changed since that time. Students who have impairments are still going to normal classes when they should be in special needs classes because of the parent’s forcing them and the school to do that so their student can “fit in”.
Only within the past year or so have schools in the northern Tohoku region of Japan introduced school councilors, certified special needs care takers and school social workers. All of these people have been brought in to schools to support all the students but focus on the special needs students, too.
All in all there is a little movement in the right direction to get students the help that they need. However there is still a lot that needs to be done to help the students of Japan. One thing that could be addressed in the stigma parents feel if they hear the words “special-needs” when someone mentions their child. We need to help them learn that the label is not a death sentence, but an option to get the help their student needs to thrive. We need to tell them there is nothing wrong with being a special student… I was considered special needs all my academic life.
[Sorry for the short entry, my daughter got sick and so I didn’t have much time to write today.]