pupils from Mayfield school walking in a line

Outside special schools

Most people have never been to a special school and have no idea what they’re like. Often there is a fear of the things we don’t know about. The public sometimes avoid talking to people with learning disabilities because they don’t know what to expect. That’s why we wanted to educate people about what special schools are really like.

I would like to say that the community is feeling more comfortable with seeing people with disabilities, but change has been slow over the last 50 years. A lot of people are still fearful and unsure about being with people with Learning Disabilities. I hope that our project has shown what special schools are like and particularly that you can learn a lot from the pupils there.

The kids who go to special schools said to us that: “People think we are babies, and we can’t do what mainstream kids can” and: “People think we are being naughty, but we don’t like being in trouble all the time.”

students outside having a picnic

This is a big problem for them. No one should have to be made to feel like babies. I have had that myself over the years and it’s not nice because it gets your self-confidence down and you feel as though you have no voice. My quote has already been: “The greatest disability of all is those who don’t respect or treat us the same way as everyone else”.

I feel that a special school gives you a much better life than in mainstream, because there is more support from the teachers in smaller classes. You can work to your best ability without feeling pressure because you know your classmates are all in the same boat. You can also build up trust with your teacher and feel confident in asking for help. It does mean that, when it’s time to leave and that support is taken away, it is hard to cope with life outside of special schools.

I think acceptance is slowly changing, with having quiet times in shops for people with Autism and sensory needs, as well as special showings in cinemas, but there’s still a long way to go.

A picutre of a website where they talk about autism friendly cinema screenings

I feel that disability awareness training in employment, colleges etc. can help students easily move from special school/college into an employment role. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, our students have so many goals in life. I really hope that their hopes for the future are achieved and more people with Learning Disabilities get jobs once they leave college.

The rise of social media means that there an extra way for people to have a voice and be heard. Also, a lot of actors with a disability use social media. Before the internet and social media apps it was harder to get information and support, but unfortunately there is now a lot of disability hate crime, because it can also be used to say negative comments, so some people avoid it.

I hope our project raises awareness of the positive aspects of special schools and the abilities of the students. I also hope it raises awareness of the difficulties that still exist 50 years after we got the right to an education.

Jennifer Brown

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