Building Bridges: The Importance of Friendship and Integration
by MoJo JoJo on May 11, 2015 - 8:04pm
Education is arguably the most valuable commodity in one’s life and, thus, should be considered an essential service. Sadly, however, its accessibility is questionable when special needs students are involved. Their integration into the classroom and society is difficult at the best of times. In fact living with a handicap makes getting an education even harder for special needs students as they feel left out of social circles and are deprived of basic educational services due to insufficient funding. As observed through the trend of my topics of choice for writing during the semester, the challenge of eliminating bullying and supporting the integration of all students is a cause I have taken to heart. In my post, “Bully No More”, which appeared on the News Activist website on March 16th, I wrote about a special needs student who was being bullied in his school. It was a summary of a news article entitled “Student who bullied bus monitor allegedly involved in incident with special needs student” that was published on the CTV News website. While many students can, inevitably, find themselves bullied at any point in their young academic lives, this unnamed victim was targeted with the added pressures of being disabled. This is a clear example of the issue at hand. A special needs student facing peer intimidation due to a lack of understanding of his situation resulting from ignorance of other students poor integration in the school system. Also, in a different post, “Bullying from an Unlikely Source”, which was published on the News Activist website on April 21st, I wrote about another special needs student facing mistreatment. However, in this case, the student’s instructor was the bully. This story shows the gravity and magnitude of the situation as the cases of bullying towards special needs students are not limited to only peer intimidation. As reported in the actual news article by Bernice Garcia that I summarized, the student faced constant verbal abuse from her teacher and had to use video evidence to convince the authorities. Special needs students face these challenges as a direct result of not feeling integrated into their environment. As researchers have shown, special needs students often have a “lower social standing” than other students (Pepler & Craig). When special needs students are not properly integrated into their surroundings, they suffer internal consequences through their personalities and external consequences through their interactions with others.
To solve this issue, Champlain College has started a club on its St-Lambert campus called Friendship And Community Ties (FACT). The club is run by volunteers as they organize weekly activities between special needs students and the rest of the students at the school to promote inclusion and friendships. Since the beginning of April, I have volunteered a couple of hours of my time to the club every week. My task was simple. I had help others integrate, develop friendships and break barriers to social interactions. The experience was enjoyable as I took pleasure in meeting and talking to my new special needs friends to get to know them better. Also, on April 15th, the FACT club organized an event that featured the visit of REACH, a school for special needs students, to Champlain College to take part in various games to promote physical activity. The event was organized in collaboration with college students participating in The Grand Defi Pierre Lavoie. In fact, one of the members from that team, Rachel Michaud, is writing a post on the News Activist website about her own experiences from the event. My role during this event was to have fun with the disabled students while encouraging them to partake in physical activities and become involved in a new social setting.
To further my involvement with this program, Rachel and I decided to make the REACH visit to Champlain College a permanent event as everyone from the club and the visiting students enjoyed themselves. To accomplish this task, we started a Facebook page that would increase exposure of the event and facilitate coordination between the organizers. We would also like to create a Tumblr blog, linked to the previously mentioned Facebook page, that would be a source of guidance for parents with special needs children or other individuals looking to better their health. However, we were not able to complete our project before writing this post as we did not procure the proper letters of consent to post pictures of the event online. Therefore, the project remains a work in progress. In the future, if anyone is thinking of realizing a similar project, I suggest that the proper documentation be obtained early on to overcome any obstacles.
While FACT’s activities or the Reach-Champlain visit do help promote inclusion for special needs students, it is important to acknowledge the fact that much remains to be done to eliminate the problem of the segregation of the handicapped. As for my work with the club, I will continue to volunteer with them weekly. I encourage everyone to do their part and try to be more inclusive towards special needs children in any way possible. All children have the need to feel included. If everyone contributed to help integrate disabled children into the community at large, I think the world would be a better place.
Debra J., Pepler, and Craig Wendy M. ‘Naturalistic Observations of Peer Interventions in Bullying.’ Bully Lab. N.p., 2001. Web. 11 May 2015.
36.0pt;text-align:justify;text-indent:-36.0pt;line-height:200%">Links mentioned 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to my first post: http://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/bully-no-more 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to the first news article: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/student-who-bullied-bus-monitor-allegedly-involved-in-incident-with-special-needs-student-1.2279342 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to my second post: http://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/bullying-unlikely-source 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to the second news article: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/teacher-bullied-special-needs-student-secretly-caught-shocking-verbal-abuse-cell-phone-video-article-1.979568 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to Rachel’s article: http://newsactivist.com/en/articles/flacks-newsactivist-winter-2015-complementary-course/encouraging-reach-fitness 0cm;text-align:justify;line-height:200%">Link to Reach for Fitness Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/REACH-for-Fitness/478241392323080?fref=ts
Link to Reach for Fitness Tumblr page: http://www.thefittogetherchallenge.tumblr.com/ReachforFitness