Arlene is on the SCENE

Study finds disability impacts school performance

Posted on: July 30, 2011

We see differences...

A new study in the journal Pediatrics delivers what may be surprising observations and conclusions.  The first thing that made me pause was that in the sample, 33% of the students surveyed had some form of special health care need.  For the past year, I’ve been presenting to students at elementary schools about disability and our attitudes toward it, using our book Arlene On the Scene as a launching point.  And I always jump right to it in the opening of my presentation: we do have attitudes toward disability.  Don’t try to deny it.  In fact, we have reactions and attitudes toward most differences, including disability.

The idea that in a group of students nearly one third could have a special health care need, which then generates these attitudes and reactions in those around them–well it’s no wonder that all this affects school performance.

And this is what researchers found out.  Having a special health care need, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease or any other health issue, negatively impacts school performance.  That means lower grades, more absences, and less motivation to do well.  How much of that is the health care limitation itself, and how much is the lack of support from financially strapped school systems?  Or how much of that is because of our own attitudes toward disability?

The study also found that students with special health care needs were more often victims of bullying.  This surprised me, what with the War on Bullying launched recently, you’d think the teasing of kids with special needs would have been addressed.  But then again, maybe it isn’t so surprising.  An understanding of what it means to live in this world with a disability, an opening of the mind to the differences among us, the adjustment of attitudes and assumptions about disability–these are tough topics that just aren’t undertaken by our schools, given the hyperfocus on tests and stats.

But increasing awareness of disability, and of diseases like Charcot-Marie-Tooth, must be undertaken, if not by our schools then by us.  This new study is further proof of this.  We have a responsibility to our children to foster an understanding of diseases like Charcot-Marie-Tooth and the special health care needs that result.  Their future success depends on it.

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1 Response to "Study finds disability impacts school performance"

First of all, thanks for following me on Twitter…I will follow you back! But the most important thing is that I always go to the blog or website of someone who follows me, so I can find out what they are all about. I’m so glad I did. 🙂
Your article on this study of reactions to kids with special needs is so important…although I am not at all surprised by the findings. It’s sad, but true, that we often take advantage of those who are underdogs to begin with…and education at a young age is definitely the key!
I visit kindergartens and Pre-K’s to read picture books and do crafts from my own book for parents and teachers of preschoolers. I believe that the messages in picture books can help young children deal with the many challenges they face in those early years…and can certainly help them understand special needs classmates and become accepting and uplifting instead of the opposite. During my many years as a kindergarten teacher and then as a daycare provider and mom of three, I touched the lives of many special needs children, hopefully with positive results. 🙂
So wonderful to connect with you!

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