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Short, enjoyable, and easy-to-read, this uplifting book delivers a powerful message and unique perspective on special education. It explores the world of special education from the point-of-view of people who love what they do, presenting necessary basic information with enthusiasm, and showing just how rewarding such work can be. The authors emphasize the normalcy of exceptional individuals and the imperative to include them in everyday life at home, at school, at work, and in the community. While acknowledging that this field includes sadness and pain, the authors nevertheless take readers past those feelings to share with them the joy that comes from helping individuals reach their fullest potential, whatever that may be. The focus of the book is to explain: 1) what makes people exceptional and 2) what does one need to know to understand exceptionality. For future special education teachers.
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Unique in format, length, perspective, and tone, this introduction to exceptionality provides basic information, but goes well beyond the essentials to give students a "feel" for exceptional people and what it is like to work with them. It acknowledges both the sorrows that arise for individuals with disabilities AND the joys and rewards of working and communicating with a wide range of exceptional children, youth, and adults.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
People who work with exceptional individuals sometimes convey the impression that life is always serious and tragic. Stressing the sorrows that arise for individuals with disabilities, these people tend to overlook the joys and rewards in the fields of human services and education. Moreover, professors in teacher training institutions so often preoccupy themselves with statistical data and basic facts that they neglect to give students a "feel" for exceptional people and what it is like to work with them. Thus, the unknowing may get the erroneous impression that working in these fields will be dry and tedious or, even worse, full of sadness.
We have found that working with exceptional children, youth, and adults is exciting, engaging, and uniquely rewarding. Despite occasional "down" moments, it is a world of joy and delightful communication. When working with exceptional persons, one's perspective becomes very important. We can mourn because a rosebush has thorns or rejoice because a thornbush has roses. Those who cannot see the joy and humor in life's struggles will soon find that the thorns drain their enthusiasm and strength to endure the difficult periods.
Shortly after undertaking the writing of this book, we looked up from our professional journals full of confusing definitions, elaborate theories, conflicting results, and current controversies. We suddenly realized we had fallen into the same trap as many others in attempting to teach students about exceptional individuals. We had blindly missed the essence of our field. Our preoccupation with academic analysis had distracted us from viewing the emotional side of our work. We had forgotten the joy of watching a child with a physical disability take her first steps, an adolescent with mental retardation get his first job, or a child with a behavior disorder bring his temper under control. We had even forgotten about the bad times-our disappointment when an elementary student with a learning disability returned from summer vacation having lost much that he had worked so hard to learn; our agony when w~ held down a self-destructive child with emotional disturbance; and our anxiety as we fold desperate parents about the lack of local adult services for their daughter who was about to finish school.
If we, as professionals in special education and human services, do not project the joys as well as the pains of working with exceptional people, we are not projecting reality. If students enroll in an introductory course about exceptional people and they only learn how many times a child with Down's syndrome rocks during lunchtime, the frequency of thumb sucks of a student with a severe disability, or the number of head bangs exhibited by a child with serious emotional disturbance, then it is no wonder that individuals with disabilities are thought to be odd. And it is no wonder that those of us working with people with disabilities are also considered a little crazy. It is imperative that we stress that exceptional individuals are just like the rest of us and should be included in ongoing events of everyday life-whether that be in a school setting, the workplace, or community.
Our message is simple: The fields of human services and education are exciting and vibrantly alive. Rather than permitting dry academic commentary, nitpicking detail, and only sorrowful emotional experiences to dominate introductions to exceptionality, basic courses should impart a flavor of the personal joy of dealing with exceptional people.
However, we are worried about misinformation and misconceptions concerning exceptional individuals. Please note that we consider exceptionality to apply to people whose physical traits, mental characteristics, psychological abilities, and/or observable behaviors are significantly different from the majority of any given population. This deviation can be in either direction and includes giftedness. Our concern derives from the fact that misinformation and misconceptions can have a profound effect on the attitudes of the general public and therefore influence interpersonal relations and public policy.
With these ideas in mind, we have pushed aside traditional academic format and customary formalities in an attempt to provide you with a light, enjoyable reading experience. You need not take copious notes or scrutinize the print; just sit back, gather some basic information, and share with us the joys of working with exceptional people.
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