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"Special" Mountains

~ Students Tackle "Special" Mountains ~

by - Steven Michael Evans ( A High School teacher )

Imagine a world in which the ability to draw was considered more valuable than the ability to read and write. Or a society in which climbing sheer rock faces and repelling down mountains was considered the norm. Would you excel, be average, or would you lag behind? ( Perhaps a quick trip to the mirror to check your physique or sketch a self-portrait would answer that question for you.)

Visualize life as a "special needs student" in a society governed by skills and abilities which, by no fault of your own, you do not have. So, you spend hours and hours every day learning and relearning how to climb a 20-foot vertical. And it takes you weeks to complete a drawing of stick men having breakfast. ( I don't know how to draw stick-eggs!!) Still, you don't get any better, but you do try. Oh boy, do you try!

Welcome to the misunderstood and misinterpreted world of special needs students.

They spend their days living in a world in which knowing how to spell preate (pretty) and spishal special is, questionably, more important than the message behind the spelling. These are individuals who stare at words packed like sardines onto a page. They are expected to absorb, decipher, acumulate, and file data into a neat, orderly mental package which can be regurgitated at any time, without any difficulty or extra help. Right? Yeah, sure.

Oh, by the way, climb Mount Rundle and give me a Rembrandt-esque rendition of the city dump. It's due at the end of class.

These kids are learning to cope in a society that is geared toward accumulation of facts and the ability to access them quickly. They are penalized for not possessing the same skills as the so called " normal " population. They are chastised, segregated, shunned, laughed at , called names, and must work twice as hard as "regular" students just to get onto out "level" playing field called public education.

Hopefully, our world still appreciates the oddballs; the underdogs; the square pegs - even if that appreciation is long term in its arrival. There is a continual amazement offered by the individual gifts and talents of special needs students. Take Sharlene ( not her real name ) , who can list the title of every movie made in the past five years, not to mention the plot, main characters, setting and what the stars were doing on premiere night in Hollywood. Or Jacob ( not his real name either ) , who arrived a wild -child, but took up the challenge to find himself and define what he wanted in life. Or Josie ( not...well, you guessed it ) , who, at 17, has the work ethic and attitude of a seasoned university student.

The best job in the world belongs to special education teachers, who are witness to many small miracles - as well as the continued daily struggles through which special needs kinds must cope. They have been given the wondrous opportunity to work with students who may never remember how to figure out percent, or what the capital of Canada is, but can share their own Sistine Chapels, and lead an expedition on to mountains most of us don't see and the majority would otherwise never ascend.