Today’s hot topic news article is regarding the “Second grader in wheelchair set apart from classmates in school photo” trending on Yahoo! here. Most of us can quickly look at this picture and see the gap between the special needs child and the rest of the children on the risers. While many believe this has been blown out of proportion, and it might have been, we must be cautious about the actions we do that may make a child feel unwanted.
When I look at this picture, I see children and a teacher that are looking straight ahead while the child on the right is leaning so he can be in the picture. Now, she may not have been able to see how awkward the picture looks while posing, but when a parent brings this to your attention, you need to place yourself in his or her shoes. It gives the appearance that the class does not want to be associated with the child. Yes, the child is included in the group picture, but he looks isolated and separated from the group. One way this could be remedied is for those on the top riser to come down and fill in the empty spaces. Another would be to have the teacher stand with the child not on the risers.
One of the reasons for special needs training is to learn how to include the child with a disability. He or she is already dealing with something that makes that child feel different from the other members of the class. We do not want to highlight the difficulty but help children participate and have interaction be as normal as possible.
Although it may take some careful consideration to find creative ways children can be included in activities, it might help to imagine if the child excluded was our child. How would we feel getting a class picture like this or told our child has to sit out the field trip or class activity? How would we feel as the child? If an accommodation cannot be made, is there a reasonable substitute/option that will work?