Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

Sp Ed Beliefs

“All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent.” ~~ John F. Kennedy


Special Education Beliefs

The IEP process is built on one overriding theory, a strength-based model. That is, the IEP utilizes of the strengths of the child to develop and reinforce the needs of the student.


You cannot cure a psychological processing disorder by educational interventions nor can you prevent a specific learning disability. But you can prevent the disorder from rising to the level of a disability. Diagnosis is one thing: treatment is another.


Target the error, not the person.


1. IEP teams and school communities must strive to maximize student’s strengths while at the same time minimize their needs.

2. Special education must maximize student’s involvement in the general education curriculum while minimizing their needs. This framework acknowledges that differences arise out of disabilities and rejects the practice of segregation, low expectations, and overprotection. Thomas Hehir

3. Special education should be a vehicle for equity and empowerment of people with disabilities. Thomas Hehir

4. The most damaging special education assumption is the belief that a disabled person is incapable. Schools cannot allow a student with special needs/learning differences/emotional needs to believe that they are less than capable of learning.

5. Schools must recognize disability as a basic diversity issue: a part of the natural order of human parameters.

6. That a disability is not to be pitted, patronized, or vilified, and it is important to help children feel comfortable with their disability. Thomas Hehir


7. Special education should be a vehicle for equity and empowerment of people with disabilities.

8. We teach in a public school system that educates the public. It follows that if the public becomes more dysfunctional, our student will naturally reflect this tendency and become more dysfunctional.


9. The role of special education is to minimize the impact of the disability and maximize the opportunities for a child with a disability to participate in the general education curriculum. Schools must be aware not to do the opposite, maximize the impact of the disability.


10. Not “cure’ the disability but rather give children the skills and opportunities they need to live as full a life as possible with their disability.


11. Involvement of students with special needs in educational decisions. Students with learning differences must take appropriate responsibility for their education, understand the both the nature and impact of their disability, advocate for themselves into higher education/employment, integrate their disability into their self-image, and successful transition into adulthood.


12. All human behavior is motivated and the brain is purpose driven. When a teacher says, “Nothing motivates that child! He’s never motivated!” they are demonstrating a lack of understanding of motivation. When we say a child is not motivated, what we are saying is the child is not doing what we want them to do. For example, a child with a reading disability will be motivated not to read aloud or in front of a class. His motivation was is to avoid the pain of embarrassment and humiliation. The child is not motivated. He has a lack of success.


13. Reject the child’s behavior, but never reject the child. Target the error, not the person.


14. Emphasis what a child can do, not what they can’t do.


15. School should be fun for all children. Each year in the United States, approximately 3.6 million children enter first grade with joy in their eye, no fear of failure or expectation of dropping out. In fact, school is fun for nearly all children until sixth grade. At this time, a seasoned teacher can observe a sixth grade class and select the students who are not having fun in school. What happens between first and sixth grade to turn off these students?


16. •All children entered 1st grade expecting success and did not expect to experience the fear of failure or to dropout. By 3rd grade one-third of students, prefer not to be in school. Robert White, Every child wants to succeed


17. You cannot prevent the source of a specific learning difference. You can prevent the learning difference from rising to the level of a disability.


18. The brain state does not make it a disorder. The brain state exists, and how a person reacts to the disability determines whether it becomes a specific learning disability.


19. Two people can experience the same level of the disorder, but one who deals with the frustration and anxiety of the disability might do fine, while another without a supportive home and school environment might be quicker to reach a point where failure and disappointment becomes overwhelming.


20. “Earth is inhabited by all kinds of people who have all kinds of minds. The brain of each human is unique. Some minds are wired to create symphonies and sonnets, while other are fitted to build bridges, highways, and computers; drive trucks and taxicabs; or seek cures for breast cancer and hypertension. The growth of our society and the progress of the world are dependent on our commitment to fostering in our children the coexistence and mutual respect of these many different kinds of minds.” Mel Levine, A Mind at a Time


21. “We shouldn’t ask how smart you are but instead how you are smart.” Howard Gardner


22. “Emotion is the on-off switch of learning. We don’t talk about it enough as a pedagogy tool. Fear and shame shut it off; hope enthusiasm, and safety turn it on.”Edward Hallowell



I highly recommend reading Thomas Hehir’s book New Directions In Special Education for all educators. Hehir served as director of the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs from 1993 to 1999. As director, he was responsible for federal leadership in implementing the individuals with disabilities Act (IDEA). Hehir played a leading role in developing the Clinton’s administration’s proposal for the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA, 90% of which was adopted by Congress. Presently, Hehir is the director of the School Leadership Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. In addition, he is a distinguish scholar at the Educational Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts, where he is a senior policy advisor for the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative.



Thomas Hehir. New Directions In Special Education (2006). Harvard Education Press


“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.