Special education has changed since I was in school. Today regular public schools have much more services for disabled kids and most disabled kids are now mainstreamed which means they are placed in the same classrooms are the able bodied kids. This may be good for some kids but other kids may not be able to keep up with a normal class and fall behind because they can not get the extra help they may need.
In the mid 1970’s when I started pre-school, special education was fairly new and they didn’t have all the new programs for disabled kids they have today. Mainstreaming did not exist and kids with disabilities were often placed in a segregated classroom. The class sizes in special ed classes were smaller than in regular classes and there were usually between 8 to 10 students and two teachers. This allowed the teachers to work more with the students who needed extra help. It also allowed us to have show and tell once a week in pre-school and Kindergarten.
I had a few teachers who had trouble understanding me at the beginning of the year because of my speech impairment until they got used to the way I talk. I try to talk as clearly as possible. Even today, many people still have a hard time understanding me and I have to repeat myself several times which is extremely annoying and aggravating.
In September of 1979, I started going to a special school because the regular schools didn’t have anything for me at the time. It was really hard for me to try to make friends with the kids in my neighborhood because I didn’t go to school with them so I really didn’t know them that well. Most of the kids I went to school with either had some form of mental retardation or they had a learning disability. Sometimes when we went out to lunch at school I would write down what I wanted on a piece of paper because it was easier for me to do instead of trying to say what I wanted for lunch. I knew more kids at school than I did in my own neighborhood so I had a lot of friends in school but I remain in contact with one friend who is like a sister to me. We met in school and we have known each other for over thirty years. In fact, we still see each other sometimes and we talk on the phone once a week. She lives in Alexandria with her sister. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes to get to her house. Sometimes, my attendant takes me to have lunch with her. Sometimes she goes to her house to pick her up and brings her to my house so we can be together for a few days. She takes her home too.
I had some on the job training in school but most of it was in the clerical field. I went to a school that specializes in training kids with disabilities to enter the work force when they graduate. Some of the kids had a job in place after graduation. I went to school there my last three years in school before I graduated. I graduated in 1993.