All children are special children
By Estella De Los Santos
July 1, 2017 at 4:27 p.m.
Updated July 1, 2017 at 9:51 p.m.
My purpose for this column is to provide awareness about behavior that may cause pain, embarrassment or humiliation to children with special needs or any child.
As a grandparent of a child with special needs, I recall three incidents when other children ridiculed my grandchild.
Each incident brought terrible pain to me, and I prayed that my grandchild did not understand, hear or see what happened. The experiences left me wondering how often the ridicule occurs when I am not present.
Children with autism and other developmental disabilities often exhibit behaviors such as talking to themselves, rocking back and forth, flapping their hands or bolting away from adults.
More severe behaviors may include screaming, hitting, kicking, throwing tantrums or destroying things. These occurrences usually are labeled as antisocial behaviors.
It is important to educate ourselves, and develop understanding and inclusive attitudes about children with special needs. I, too, have been guilty of making judgments out of ignorance.
Upon hearing a child throwing a tantrum and screaming across several aisles of a grocery store, I used to think the child needed some discipline. Now I give the child the benefit of the doubt and wonder if the child has a learning disability.
Lately, several instances in the news have shown adults ridiculing children with special needs. On Feb. 7, a teacher aide posted a picture of a 7-year-old with William's Syndrome on Snapchat with the caption, "She devil."
May 16, a Fox News contributor said, "I guess we're giving birth to snowflakes now." The contributor later apologized after she learned that the boy she mocked has autism. May 20, it was reported that two teachers were fired for mocking a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with a "Most Likely to Not Pay Attention" award.
Some of the examples I found are by teachers and teacher aides. As an educator, I know that these occurrences are few; most educators conduct themselves as professionals. It is important to parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends of children with special needs that everyone is inclusive of our children.
It is important to educate ourselves and pass this knowledge and inclusive attitudes on to children.
Children with special needs and other children should not have to tolerate insensitive behavior that causes them pain, embarrassment or humiliation. Making fun of any child is not acceptable.
Estella De Los Santos is a professor of mathematics education in the UHV School of Education, Health Professions and Human Development.