Removing the Stigma from SPED

Nerves, terribly awkward ice-breaker games, lack-luster lectures and questions of my place of origin- these are the reliable aspects that I know will occur every time at the beginning of a school year. While the first aforementioned three aspects are common themes of every student’s experiences, most American teens don’t have to face the last one, the frequent ask of “Are you British?” However, if you have a speech impediment such as I do, probing questions are just a factor of life that comes with living with a speech disability. It is not just kids who suffer from a speech impediment who have to face uncomfortable questions, but rather many of the students who are enrolled in SPED programs. Fellow SPED kids will find that the response we often face due to disabilities don’t have to be a bad thing, but rather a prime opportunity to educate others and replace ignorance with understanding. 


For starters, what exactly is SPED? SPED, which is used to describe special education services, is a broad term that includes various diverse types of educational hindrances. “There are 13 categories of special education as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In order to qualify for special education, the IEP team must determine that a child has one of the following,” an article written for USE writes, “(this includes) Autism, blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impaired, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment.” All of this means to say is that if a child attends any school-provided classes for the above listed disabilities, then he or she is considered a SPED kid.


While evidently the reasons one is enrolled in SPED are plentiful, all of us under this umbrella encounter a similar type of cynical reaction. The ever-so disrespectful question “Isn’t SPED for, like, really challenged kids?” has plagued mine and many other kids conversations. On the flipside though, while these questions are undoubtedly annoying, they actually provide a fantastic opportunity to inform people on the nature of SPED. That no, SPED is not just for acedmically challenged students, and that even if you do take special-education classes for learning disabilties that effect your grades, in no way does that make one stupid. 


The simple truth of the matter is that we are all born different. Some people come into this earth with a brain pre-wired to mix up certain letters, others, like me, find that certain sounds are nearly impossible to produce. These qualities are just that- qualities that add originality and flavour to one’s personality. The preconceived notions that have followed the SPED label are harmful, invalid and to those of us in it, slightly tiring. Next time you encounter someone who conveys to you that they are in SPED, maybe just smile, nod and give a quick “Really? I didn’t know that.” After all, in a world with Harry Potter, an upcoming Beyoncé documentary and constant Twitter drama, there are much better things to talk about.