Monday, March 17, 2014

The Only Disability is a Bad Attitude

One topic during the JET Skills Development Conference focused on teaching English to children with disabilities. Although I hoped to receive some insight about teaching to special needs children, the discussion quickly turned into a 10 minutes rant by one JET concerning the way Japan ostracizes children with disabilities. I cannot speak for Japan as a whole; however, I can state that this is not the case at any of my elementary schools. In one of my schools, a specific teacher is hired to give one-on-one lessons to a 1st grade girl with Down’s syndrome. Aside from morning greetings, lunch, and cleaning time, she spends most of the day with this teacher. My interactions with her are limited, but she surprisingly greets me in English even though I’ve never taught her to do so.

During graduation practice I silently observed how well she behaved. She sat without fidgeting, stood at the proper moments and, although her speech is slurred, spoke and sang along with the other students. I am unsure about the progress of her formal education, but it is comforting to see how a small town like mine provides a teacher to cater to her special needs. Another school of mine also has a special needs program for five students from various grades. These children are given an education in a safe and stress-free environment with teachers who are both caring and understanding. Moreover, my town has also hired a child psychologist to visit the schools and observe classes to identify and help children who may be in, what they refer to as, 'the gray zone.'

Therefore, does Japan ostracize children with disabilities? Not in my town.

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