We're All "Special Ed" in Something
Goal: To teach mainstream youth to be more sensitive to special education students, and to reduce their harassment of these youth; to remove the negative stigma often associated with the term "special ed".
Materials: Chalkboard, chalk, one sewing needle for each student (choose small needles with narrow eyes), sewing thread (choose a thick type of thread), one cracker for each student.
1. _ Gather together both mainstream and special ed students and assist the students to acknowledge that the mainstream students have been harassing the special ed class members. Inform the group that this class will examine if that harassment is justified.
_ Inform the class that they will be conducting an experiment to examine if any of the negative names used to describe special students are accurate. The experiment includes three trials:
Trial 1: Pass out sewing needles and thread to all of the students and ask them to each thread the needle. Many of the participants will have great difficulty completing this task. Identify to each of the students who cannot easily thread the needle, that it appears that they may be "special ed" (in need of a extra help) in needle-threading.
Trial 2: Pass out the crackers and ask the students to each eat a cracker and then whistle. Identify to students who cannot easily whistle that they may be "special ed" (need extra help) in whistling.
Trial 3: Ask each student to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Note to students who are off-key or don't remember the words, that they may be "special ed" (need extra help) in singing. Observe that in this experiment everyone discovered they were "special ed" in something.
2. _ Inform the students that everyone has areas they excel in, and areas where they can benefit from extra help. Share several examples from your life of areas where you need special help, and areas where you excel.
_ Ask the students to each share their areas of strength and areas where extra help is needed. Assist the students to acknowledge that "we are all special ed in something". Note that when your area requiring extra help happens to be in school, the label "special ed" is used. If your extra help is needed in out-of-school areas, such as bike-riding, choir or room cleaning, no name is given to this extra help, but it's no different, just outside of school.
3. _ Recap to the class their conclusion that everyone has special needs in some area, and then observe that phenomena makes us all pretty much the same. Ask several of the mainstream youth who had been most vocally harassing the special ed participants, to consider how they would feel if they were harassed about their weak areas. Encourage these youth to clearly articulate that they would dislike such treatment then elicit a strong commitment from these students to curtail their harassment of the special ed youth.
4. _ Review the major points of this lesson:
Everyone has areas that they excel in, and areas where extra help is needed.
If you need extra help in school, then the name "special ed" is used to describe the help given to you.
Most people do not like to be teased about needing extra help.
It is normal and expectable to need extra help in different areas, including school.
We are all "special ed" (need extra help) in something.