When we think of special education, it is easy to try and put each student into a box depending on their specific disability. There are those with physical disabilities who require help with manual tasks, but generally understand what is going on. There are those with mental disabilities who require help in socializing with other students. Still, there are those who have learning disabilities that need specialized attention and activities in the classroom. These seem like neat categories and ones that would be beneficial in the classroom, but to base all students on these three boxes would be to do them a great disservice.
Teacher Annette Lambeth is under no illusions that understanding learning difficulties is key above all else for helping students in special education. Of course, teachers need to be aware of the difficulties that can arise with conditions such as Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, hearing or visual impairment, emotional disturbance, and many others. However, there is much more to special education than reading a textbook on disabilities.
More importantly, teachers need to pay specific attention to the personalities, strengths, and weaknesses that students face, regardless of their disability. Special education students are more than the sum of their disability and understanding that each student is a unique individual is the first step in helping them get the education they deserve. Some students are artistic and learn best through the use of colors and creativity. Some students like simple logic—cause and effect—and benefit best from clear, simple, and direct instruction. The ultimate goal with special education is the same as with general education: make learning fun and engaging for every student. Doing so in special education is often a matter of not being distracted by a student’s disability, oddly enough.
Annette Lambeth (on Pinterest) defines the importance of education regarding learning disabilities as seeing beyond disabilities and instead looking at the heart of their students. As the Executive Director of Student Support Services in the Adams 12 Five Star School District in Colorado, she has used this mentality to oversee a great improvement across all aspects of Special Education programming. School systems around the country would benefit from having executive directors that have taken this stance to educating their students. Luckily, those in the Adams 12 Five Star School District have Annette Lambeth on their side fighting for these rights.