Photo by Carina Either
When you walk into Dobie’s ALE (alternative learning environment) classroom, you’re greeted by the warm smiles and welcomes from 11 students and their caring teachers. The environment is upbeat and positive. It’s a special place for special students.
The walls are painted a clean white and adorned with colorful posters that align the walls that usually feature fresh drawings by Elijah Gomez, a Dobie student who often creates drawings about his favorite movies.
ALE is a new class at Dobie this year and the campus is excited to have them as students. The students and teachers can be seen throughout the school — in the halls, in the cafeteria, gym and more. During class, students learn about emotions, manners, reading, math, art and more — all at a pace where they are comfortable, yet challenged. Students get a lot of positive reinforcement and love.
In 2015 the number of students ages 3-21 receiving alternative learning was 6.7 million, or 13 percent of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 34 percent had specific learning disabilities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics website.
There are special ed. classes at both SCUCISD jr. high schools. Through the teachers eyes, the ALE class is so much more than academics. “Having this class allows these students to be with their peers but still learn at their own pace,” said Mrs. Derese, Dobie ALE teacher.
“The days are very structured and scheduled,” said Ms. Stevens, Dobie assistant ALE teacher. The class starts with math and go through all core classes and electives like computer lab and P.E and finish the day with career work.
Being special needs doesn’t mean you can’t do what others can, it just means doing it in a different way. Thomas Bousselot, a student in the class, said ”I like P.E. because I get to go run the track.”
People usually define special needs by what a child can’t do, but that is not an accurate definition. According to Dictionary.com , the definition of special needs is, “the special educational requirements of those with learning difficulties, emotional or behavioral problems, or physical disabilities.”
Another definition, according to the department of Special Needs in SCUCISD, is: “Special Education provides high quality, individualized services for students, staff, parents and the community through accurate assessment, identification and specialized support to promote academic and life long success.”
“Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically,” said the late Stephen Hawking, a famous theoretical physicist and author known for the Black Hole theory and his book, A Brief History of Time. Although he had ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, he accomplished many great things.
Along with Hawking, Abraham Lincoln, Buzz Aldrin, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and Bill Gates, have made great accomplishments despite their differences. They have shown that being special isn’t bad; it’s simply a different type of normal.