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					Seattle Schools: Are All Children Special Needs?

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516

Summary:
It’s a great commentary that the “save Seattle Schools” blog hosted on is
a wildly active forum for community interaction. Anytime I visit the site
there are discussions on anything from the military recruiting in Seattle
Schools to discussions of the budget and the school board. One of the
latest really got my attention. It was focusing on the way that the
Seattle Schools run its gifted program.

Now I know that the Seattle Public Schools aren’t alone in their
challenges o...


Keywords:
Seattle Schools, Patricia Hawke


Article Body:
It’s a great commentary that the “save Seattle Schools” blog hosted on is
a wildly active forum for community interaction. Anytime I visit the site
there are discussions on anything from the military recruiting in Seattle
Schools to discussions of the budget and the school board. One of the
latest really got my attention. It was focusing on the way that the
Seattle Schools run its gifted program.

Now I know that the Seattle Public Schools aren’t alone in their
challenges of how to educate these children. But the reason it attracted
my attention was because of a recent NPR (National Public Radio) segment
on educating children with autism. What struck me was the similarity in
the Seattle Schools attempt to educate its gifted population and its
special needs population.

It left me with the burning question: are all Seattle Schools’ students
really special needs students? Well, think about it. One of the hottest
topics in educational pedagogy is multiple intelligences. That’s the
belief that people have academic intelligence, emotional intelligence,
kinesthetic (movement) intelligence, and other specific intelligences.
And more importantly, that schools should teach in ways that reach
children who learn best in all these different ways.

So the fact that a gifted child in the Seattle Schools requires a
different sort of challenge to motivate him, or that an autistic child
needs a different environment to facilitate learning, really means they
both have special needs. And if a “regular ed” child is an auditory
learner, while her classmate is a visual learner; well, aren’t those
special needs as well?

What Do Special Needs Students Require from the Seattle Schools?
Frankly, I don’t think that many teachers in the Seattle Schools would
argue with my characterization of all children as having special needs.
In fact, the best teachers I know strive to individualize instruction in
classes with 30 or more students. Of course, one issue is that the
resources of the Seattle Schools, while better than most of the nation,
are never enough. But the other, and I think easier issue to tackle, is
one of knowledge. There’s still a lot of disagreement among parents and
educators about the best ways to teach classically labeled “gifted and
special needs” students.

Inclusion is often seen as the most desirable option for special needs
students, but many a parent will tell you that ideal is often a
frustrating reality. One of the best things that the Seattle Schools can
do today to make future education better is to track the success of
students in different special needs environments. Since the children are
required to be in public schools classes, it only makes sense to track
their progress in the different venues. Again- cost rears its ugly head.
But the Seattle Schools are fortunate to have some powerful corporations
and higher learning institutions helping them out with a variety of
initiatives.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether a child’s “special
needs” are extreme or not. The Seattle Schools are going to have to find
ways to address them.

				
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