LeDerick Horne speaks about the importance of being transparent with students who have disabilities by having a meeting with them to go over their documentation and the nature of their individual services to help redefine them selves as learners.
If you’ve got a student who’s arriving in your classroom and they’ve got an IUP or 504 plan, particularly for those who have documentation, I believe in starting with the documentation, right? So sitting down with that young person, pulling out that folder and beginning with the first test, the first evaluation. Reading all that material out loud with them, engaging in a dialogue between them and these labels.
And some of these labels can be very problematic. Some of these definitions can just pull the power and the strength out of who someone is. But I believe in starting there.
And because I think, unfortunately, in many communities and many families, we think that for some reason we are saving our kids by not having a conversation about all of this testing and what have you. So I think having a conversation and beginning with the documentation is a great place to go. But all of that is really about just giving them an opportunity to start to redefine who they are as a learner. Trying to create their own definition as a learner.
So whether you begin with federal definitions and how it connects to some testing that they receive, or just a cultural understanding of this is what your difference is, ultimately I think it’s at that young person’s prerogative to sit down and say, OK, I’m dyslexic, but what does this lexicon mean to me? It can be important, particularly if someone has a diagnosed disability, to give them the language to be able to talk to other people about how their mind works, how their body works, and what they need to be successful in a variety of environments.
That is role playing. That’s saying, OK, I’m going to be your teacher. You’ve never met me before. You’re on the autism spectrum. Come up to me and explain to me who you are and what you need in this math class to be successful.
I’m going to be your employer. Explain to me what you need in order to do this job well. That self-disclosure piece I think is really, really, really important, particularly for those of us who have the quote unquote hidden disabilities. Because no one’s going to look at us and see a wheelchair and then start sizing up what they need in order to support us. It all comes, it all begins, in our language.