Everyone Benefits from Diverse Students

We can all learn something from our diverse peers.

Kristine Makhatlishvili, Staff Writer

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As an exchange student, I see many differences between my home country of Georgia and America.  One of these is how special needs students are educated in America.  In Georgia, many people do not have a positive attitude about kids or adults with special needs.  The education is lower and job opportunities are very limited.  Here at Hylton, I see special needs kids in the hallway every day, and that is very different for me.

I like the fact that these kids are studying alongside their peers. There are several reasons why it is important for these kids to study at schools with other students. No one likes to be excluded from a group. Being included in a group helps students to be successful and all students benefit from diversity in their schools and classrooms.

Special education teacher Mr. Joseph Campagna said, “They (students with special needs) can actually pick up on different idiosyncrasies or ways other kids interact. If you keep these students isolated from others, they don’t pick up how they are supposed to act which benefits them socially.”

In Georgia, children with special needs are studying with other students, but not every school allows them to work in an inclusive school alongside all of their peers.  Some schools in Georgia don’t want to address the challenges. For example, many schools do not have enough budget to hire professional special needs teachers. Other times, parents of the children with special needs  do not want their kids to study at inclusive schools because they are concerned that other students might not treat their children well.

Students with special needs face unique challenges in American schools as well.  “Unfortunately, some students don’t know to interact with them so the special needs kids don’t get to do what they want with others because others are afraid,” said Mr. Campagna.

I was very interested to learn more about a typical day of classes for students with special needs at Hylton.  When I visited a first period physical education class, I was a little nervous for the first few minutes, but then the students welcomed me with smiles and hugs. I was only in their class for about 25 minutes, but it definitely made my day. After the class, I have even more admiration for their teacher Mr. Campagna.

Mr. Campagna said, “Working with the kids is the best part of my work.  I love coming in every morning and doing my adaptive PE class.  These kids can brighten your day.  You can be so down, but you come in and one of them gives you a big hug it really just picks you up and feels amazing.”

I hope that one day children with special needs will be accepted everywhere and people will not look at them with surprised faces when they see them.