Recognizing the needs of special education

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 14, 2013
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Zhe Ping teaches her deaf students to pronounce in a special education nursery school in Shenyang, on May 13, 2009.  [Xinhua photo]

Zhe Ping teaches her deaf students to pronounce in a special education nursery school in Shenyang, on May 13, 2009.  [Xinhua photo]

The future needs of China will be very much on the agenda at the parliamentary meetings presently going on in Beijing. While there will necessarily be a major focus on issues such as the economy, I would make a plea that we not forget the very important needs of special education – an area that has been traditionally very under resourced in China.

I had the opportunity a year ago to serve as the CEO of a U.S. company which was the largest private provider of special education services in the U.S. Not only did I meet some of the most amazing and dedicated people I have ever known, but I saw first-hand what a huge difference a little bit of special education could make in the lives of individuals, their families and the whole community. I received numerous letters from parents thanking our organization for providing a therapist. One parent wrote, for example, "Thank you for giving me back my son. Because of his speech problems he could not get along with his classmates or even the family members. Your intervention changed not only his life, but our lives."

If a child who suffers from autism and cannot communicate effectively, that impacts not only the child's life chances, but also creates a terrible strain on the family and the community network in which that child is a part. In China the estimated number of such children has surpassed a million.

I also had the experience of my own daughter who had a hearing problem when she was little that made her slow to develop her speech and put her behind in reading at school. A few months of speech therapy literally transformed her life to the point that she became an outstanding student at university and today works in one of the world's top universities.

The latest research indicates that the best investment in special education comes with early intervention, even before the child goes to school. The most effective intervention is that taken while the brain is in these early stages of development.

Not only is special education important to the individual, it is also vital to society in order to help unlock those tremendous contributions that such children bring to the lives of others. It is thus important that we see these children, not as "problems" or only as "broken" but that we appreciate the tremendous difference they can make and what they can bring to our lives. This point is eloquently made in this little story by author Kevin Kling, who is himself disabled:

"Back in the days when pots and pans could talk, which indeed they still do, there lived a man. And in order to have water, every day he had to walk down the hill and fill two pots and walk them home. One day, it was discovered one of the pots had a crack, and as time went on, the crack widened. Finally, the pot turned to the man and said, 'You know, every day you take me to the river, and by the time you get home, half of the water's leaked out. Please replace me with a better pot.' And the man said, 'You don't understand. As you spill, you water the wild flowers by the side of the path.' And sure enough, on the side of the path where the cracked pot was carried, beautiful flowers grew, while other side was barren. 'I think I'll keep you,' said the man."

We need to see people with disabilities, not for the cracks in their pots and what they don't have – but for the many special talents they do have and the many blessings they bring in to the lives of all of us.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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