A thought on making difference ok




One issue with accommodations and modifications in school, is that it can often be hard to avoid stigma. Kids don’t usually like being singled out or doing things conspicuously differently. Also, nondisabled kids often resent it when disabled kids are allowed to do things that they are not allowed to do.

Further, one frequent objection to accommodations is “but if I let one kid do this, then all the other kids will want to.”

Sometimes that’s true — and, often, the best solution to that problem is to just let all the kids do whatever the thing is. Sometimes there’s no good reason to restrict access to something. Sometimes changing the rule works better than making exceptions to it.

One way that something works to correct this problem is to make some of their accommodations available to other kids who would like to try them. The kid who has a documented need for accommodations probably isn’t the only one who would benefit from them.

And even aside from that, it’s good for kids to explore the world and experiment with different ways of doing things. This is a good way to learn that difference is normal, and that doing things differently is a basic fact of life.

For instance, if one kid needs to use manipulatives for math, maybe try making manipulatives available to all the kids.

If one kid needs a large print worksheet, maybe make a few large print copies and let kids try doing it that way.

If one kid needs to chew stuff, maybe make things available for other kids to chew.

If one kid needs to use fidget toys, maybe make them available to all the kids who would like to try it.

If one kid needs to type, and you have the resources to make that available to other kids too, maybe let them try doing assignments that way. And let the kids that works better for continue to do it.

And, beyond that, it helps to get in the habit of providing different ways to do things even when there isn’t a kid who needs them as a specific accommodation.

Not in the sense of “take a walk in the disabled kid’s shoes”, this is not a disability simulation. The point shouldn’t be empathy building, and it should not be presented as being about the disabled kid. The message is “there are a lot of legitimate ways to do things, and it’s ok to experiment and figure out what works for you, even if most people don’t do it the same way as you”.

You can’t always do this, and you can’t always do this for everything. When you can, it helps, a lot.

mmmyoursquid said:

I think this is implied in the post, but just to make it explicit: disabled kids without diagnoses or paperwork are still disabled. You can’t accommodate them without making accommodations available to kids without paperwork.

The other stuff is right and important too, I just thought that could use highlighting.

alv529 said:

Yes to all of this. The main reason other students in my class were upset with me for being ahead of them and two of my friends for getting extra help due to dyslexia and disability? That we got to do something they didn’t get to try. Not that I was “too clever” or “thought I was better than them”, or that my friends were “bad readers”, “stupid” or “not learning fast enough”.

If the other 10-14 kids in my tiny primary school class had been allowed to try my middle school level school books, or had been allowed to try my friends’s dyslexia friendly font books, I’m absolutely certain they wouldn’t have kicked up a fuss like they did. Because they would have realised that my books were too advanced for them, and my friends’s books were basically the same as theirs, but with a different font and sometimes with shorter paragraphs.