Special Ed Rough-House

As a college student I held many part-time positions at the London YM-YWCA. Boys'Club. Department Office. Building maintenance. Lifeguard. Swim Instructor.

I just had a flashback to a teacher who used to bring in about sixteen boys in a special ed class for a free swim weekly. These youngsters all had severe learning and behavioural difficulties. "Teach" ran the program. I counted the heads and gave occasional swimming tips.

The thing that stays with me is the comparative roughness of the event. "Teach" seemed hard with the boys. When they needed bawling out, they got it, and then some. Occasionally to make a point he would pick one of them up and toss him into the pool. The boys loved it. They were being treated like regular kids, or so they thought.

Doubtless there was a level of trust established in the group in other venues which made it OK for "Teach" to let loose like this occasionally. When he spoke, they listened. It was the most peculiar example of youth leadership that I had ever witnessed.

But upon reconsideration it is clear that as much as possible special groups want to be regarded as regular folk. Small children do not need extensive "baby-talk". Rather, they perk up when addressed in understandable terms as little adults.

Consideration must be given to mental horizons and comprehension, of course. But we must not coddle. How much of today's youth care does exactly that, and sadly produces a weakened result.


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