Wednesday, September 23, 2009

they say i'm special

in grad school everyone is very big on "person first language". this means exactly what it says. when you're speaking or writing you always put the person first. as in saying, "jose, a child with special needs" instead of, "special education student jose". or instead of "learning disabled kids" you'd say, "kids with learning disabilities"

sometimes i like to really get fancy. instead of saying "autistic jose" or "jose is a student with autism" i like to say, 'jose is a student eligible for special education services under the eligibility category of autism'. which basically means: a committee decided that jose could maybe have autism so that's why he gets special services. nothing in that sentence actually admits to the fact that jose has autism. because maybe he doesn't. maybe the committee was wrong. so we have to think of jose as the person, not the diagnosis.

today after presenting at an after school workshop for parents i looked down at my name tag and read, "mrs. lipstick, special education teacher"

which kind of sounds like i am a special education student allowed to play teacher through an inclusion program. sometimes i feel like this, but i'm not sure if i want others thinking of me like this.

that got me to thinking about all those meetings where we have to introduce ourselves and i say, "mrs. lipstick, special ed". as though i am telling the world, "hi, i'm special. that's all you need to know".

it is my title: "special ed" or even "sped" for short. and whenever we hear sped we think about the short bus. i wonder if it's getting to me. somewhere in my psyche i'm starting to identify myself in general as special ed. everywhere i go i hear, "oh, that's mrs. lipstick, she's special ed." and people smile with that "oh my" smile. i know what their thinking.

but what else could i say?

mrs. lipstick, educator of young minds who benefit from special services?

creative problem solver for specialized instruction?

writer of social stories, creator of behavior plans, faciliator of ieps?

master of repeated, redefined, restated instruction?

my friends in the business world get to negotiate their titles. i think it's my turn.

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