It’s that time of year again, soon, school is starting (hear that sound? It’s thousands of parents cheering)! As a disabled high school student in mainstream classes, these are the top seven things I hope my new teachers understand:
1. Just because I need accommodations doesn’t mean I’m not smart
It’s possible for me to be in your honors class and/or have good grades and still need accommodations. There’s no such thing as being “too smart to be disabled.” First of all, my disability is physical, it affects my muscles, not my brain. Second, people with intellectual/cognitive disabilities can still be smart. I have multiple friends with cognitive disabilities that are in more honors classes and have better grades than me!
2. Similarly, just because I have good grades doesn’t mean I don’t need my accommodations
Although you may think that since I’m doing really well, I don’t need to use my accommodations, it is actually the exact opposite. I need to use my typing and extra time accommodations to be able to finish tests and assignments, for you to be able to read and grade my tests and assignments, and so that I’m in less pain than I would be in if I didn’t use my accommodations. If I didn’t have my accommodations, I would not be in nearly as many honors classes or have grades as high as they are now. In fact, I would probably be barely passing, if I would even be passing at all.
3. Bullying is serious
It’s ridiculous that I even have to add this in, but after many not-so-good reactions to bullying from past teachers, I feel the need to put this in. First of all, bullying is not the same as drama. There is a huge difference. Second, when I tell you I’m experiencing bullying, I’m being serious! I don’t mean someone was joking around with me or said something rude once, I mean someone has been and probably still is saying/doing really mean stuff with the intent of seriously harming me. And last but most definitely not least, if you see me getting bullied, and you are able to, do something! I can’t always defend myself in these situations, and if all you’re doing is standing there watching, I’m sorry but you’re not doing your job!
4. I can’t always raise my hand “all the way up”
I know this can be a serious pet peeve of many teachers, and I don’t do this on purpose, but when I raise my hand, it isn’t always “all the way up”. Sometimes I need to rest my elbow on the desk, sometimes I need to support my arm with my other hand, sometimes I need to do both. I can raise my hand high for a short period of time, for example, if you’re taking attendance, but if you want to call on someone to answer questions, it can be really hard/painful to hold my hand up for more than a minute or two.
5. I don’t just want accommodations, I need them
I’m not just typing essays because I don’t feel like writing them. I have to type. If I don’t, you will have a really hard time reading my essay and I may receive an unnecessarily low grade for it. I will also be in a lot of pain and have muscle spasms/uncontrollable shaking in my hand which makes it hard to function for the rest of the day. Therefore I am not telling you I have to type because writing would be inconvenient. I have to type because writing an entire essay by hand would significantly reduce both my grades and my ability to function.
6. I want you to ask me questions
Please, ask me questions! If you want to know why I have an ankle brace, ask me! If you want to know more about my disability, ask me! And especially if you need to know something about my accommodations, ask me! I honestly don’t mind answering questions as long as they aren’t phrased in a rude way.
7. Try not to use the r-word or other ableist terms
Don’t. Just don’t. There’s no need for ableist language when there are thousands, if not millions of other words and phrases to use instead. I understand that you don’t always mean to, but if you do, I won’t hesitate to go up to you after class and (politely) correct you.
This is just the beginning. Hopefully, my teachers will be really understanding this year. Is there anything else you’d want your teachers to understand? Comment below!
UPDATE: Another version of this article was published on The Mighty! You can see it here!
I'm a 15 year old who loves singing, reading, writing, and campaigning for hypotonia awareness.
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