Opinion
Special Education Letter to the Editor

A Lesson on Special Needs

November 26, 2019 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

An Education Week blog post covers guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on “how school systems and state agencies can coordinate to help students with disabilities prepare for life after high school” (“Preparing Students for Life After Special Education? Here’s How Federal Dollars Can Help,” Sept. 18, 2019). There’s so much focus on the vocational rehabilitation program and dual enrollment for students with special needs that no one considers students who cannot be successful with either.

What happens to young people with exceptionalities after they leave the umbrella of free appropriate public education when they turn 22? School officials and families would like to believe that these students can and will gain employment, even if the hours are minimal. Unfortunately, not all students with special needs are capable of holding employment. Upon aging out of the school system, these students are left sitting on their parents’ couches while mom and dad work, unable to pay for private day programs.

I work in a post-high school setting with adults ages 19 to 21 who are still in the public education system. I receive glares for blocking store aisles to help my students pick out groceries, and scoffs when I teach my students what a hammer is.

People with special needs are being lost in crowds, arrested, and shot by those who don’t know how to interact with them. A teacher’s job is to educate students. Should it also be our job to educate the public about students with special needs, or is it the job of the government or other agencies? I don’t have an answer. All I know is that my role is to advocate however I can for my students. Even if it means teaching outside my classroom.

Austin Macenczak

Special Education Teacher

Snellville, Ga.

A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as A Lesson on Special Needs

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Letter to the Editor We Must Recognize the Significance of Occupational Therapy in Schools
An occupational therapist urges states to make transition services a priority when addressing the crisis faced by students impacted by COVID.
1 min read
Education Week opinion letters submissions
Gwen Keraval for Education Week
Special Education Unified Sports Level the Playing Field for Students With Disabilities
Interest is growing in unified sports, where students with and without intellectual disabilities can play and compete together.
7 min read
Saratoga Springs High School Physical Education teacher, Colleen Belanger, left, instructs Hunter Fiorillo, during a Unified Physical Education class at Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. "I've been teaching for a long time and this is one of the best things I've ever done," said Belanger of teaching Unified P.E.
Saratoga Springs High School physical education teacher Colleen Belanger, left, instructs Hunter Fiorillo, during a unified physical education class at Saratoga Springs High School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. "I've been teaching for a long time and this is one of the best things I've ever done," said Belanger of the unified class.
Heather Ainsworth for Education Week
Special Education Students With Disabilities Urge Smoother Transition to College
Legislation would simplify the process for students with disabilities to continue getting accommodations when they head to college.
4 min read
College students blurred and moving around a white male sitting at desk in a college classroom
Chris Ryan/Getty
Special Education States Are Desperate for Special Ed. Teachers. But They Can't Cut Corners to Get Them
The Education Department warns states not to lower standards, even as districts frantically search for skilled special educators.
8 min read
Special education teacher assisting a diverse group of elementary students in art class.
E+/Getty