Opening Special Education
Special Education formed to make the schooling system inclusive to a diverse spectrum of learning abilities, but to date, these students remain on the fringes of education and students of color disproportionately so. School superintendent, Stephan Fisher, and special education teacher, Juliana Urtubey, each focus their work on meeting the needs of children holistically.
When speaking on his district’s progress, Fisher recognizes the invisible aspects of education, “We want kids to academically strive, but in reality, to be able to maximize that, we have to be able to meet those other needs as well” (Samuels, 2020, paragraph 12). The “other needs” aforementioned include mental health, intellectual capabilities, and social capabilities. Special education offers students space where these securities can be developed as kids continue learning. But, many students are not recognized as needing these services, and as a result are thrown into education without the tools to access learning (Urtubey, 2020, pp. 40).
In parallel with Fisher’s work, Urtubey seeks access to these tools specifically for her students of color. One barrier that she notes is that some families from different cultures hold different understandings of special education, “Just as parental support can be defined differently, cultural groups hold various perceptions of the word Disability” (Urtubey, 2020, pp. 42). There is a disconnect created from a lack of cultural capital: schools think parents are not engaging, while parents are nervous to engage out of fear for deportation and the unknowingness of what their child being marked as having a disability will mean for his or her future.
It is evident that special education is difficult to understand and access for many, and a more open, dialogue-based approach may bridge understanding. Recognizing where students come from emotionally, culturally, and intellectually, is a supposed quality of special education that would be beneficially shared with all students.