Special Education

Breakfast with Thomas Hehir

By Christina A. Samuels — April 04, 2008 1 min read

A morning session with Thomas Hehir, a professor at Harvard and former director of the U.S. office of special education programs, was a bit of a lift. He started his presentation on “ableism”—the notion that our attitudes about disability are so negative that they distort the way we educate students—with the clear message that children with disabilities are doing far better today than they ever have before. In addition, special educators know much more now about good practices for learning disabilities.

What got my attention, though, was his statement that most of the gains have been made among white middle-income and upper-income kids. (He drew his conclusion from these studies.)

He thinks that many of the problems that remain are based on practices rooted in “ableism.”

The goal is not to make children feel like something is wrong with them, nor to ignore their disability to the point where children are constantly struggling. You can read more about his conclusions in his book New Directions in Special Education: Eliminating Ableism in Policy and Practice.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.