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PHD Special Education, Leadership

December 31, 2012

In terms of my research interests, my career has led me to my true purpose: the inclusion of physically disabled students into mainstream schools.  The variables and their names change- integration, inclusion, inclusive education, equality – but the bottom line remains the same: general education teachers’ attitudes and administration’s inadvertent misinformation and or ignorance.  Furthermore, some fundamental questions persist as well: should there be systemic change, or simply an education or readjustment of teachers’ beliefs?  More specifically, how much do general education teachers understand that special education students oftentimes have emergent literacy skills as opposed to being in a fixed point in time in terms of their abilities, capacities and potential?

 The inclusion of the physically disabled student into traditional schools is not a new concept or idea, and in fact can be traced back 120 years.  However, research and technologies such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids have made students with, for example, severe speech or physical impairments perfectly capable of participating in general educational schooling situations.  My own experiences with assistive technology, instructional aids and IT have shown the feasibility of incorporating special education children in the traditional classroom.

 Special Education as a discipline and a source of impending research goes beyond being simply an interest of mine.  From the time I entered further education, I have been intent upon procuring a doctorate in the field of education.  What is more, the path of my career and education took a remarkable turn with the birth of my daughter, a little girl with special needs, but with every right to receive the finest education possible as any other person.

 In my own work, I have been directly involved in the lives of over 150 special education students and their parents, the students’ teachers and their teachers’ assistants.  In my capacity as Chair of a Special Education Department, I have been involved in every aspect of administration and application and development of policies and procedures, as well as continuing education for my faculty and staff.  By pursuing doctoral research, I will be ensuring the future of the support of these distinctive educators, effective administration and quality education for all students.

 My future in academics, the source of my motivation, is based upon unaddressed or not sufficiently resolved needs in the field of the application of special education.  While I have welcomed each challenge within my current capacity, I feel a need to do more, and on a larger scale to affect changes.  In effect, my position has largely been a middle-person, working between a school’s administration, my own department’s needs, and the needs of my students.  I anticipate working in a capacity where administrations understand the issues involved rather than “throwing money” at what they view as being problems.  And where funding is lacking, I will be an educated, convincing advocate for the creation of stimulating, comforting and appropriate learning environments for all children.

 I made my daughter a promise, to do all I could to ensure a future in which her uniqueness will be understood, accommodated and not limited or stigmatized.  In truth, I fight for the future of the last barrier to education.  In the not-too-distant past, advocates for education fought very similar battles, women in education, the end of segregation.  And now, we are on the cusp of the last conflict: the inclusion of special education children in mainstream education.  To that day, to our tomorrow, I will be there.

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