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Special needs community celebrates accomplishments; works for acceptance

Student+Irene+Mayberry%2C+who+graduated+last+year%2C+was+a+Buddies+Club+member+who+enjoyed+the+activities+open+to+all+Spartans.
Student Irene Mayberry, who graduated last year, was a Buddies Club member who enjoyed the activities open to all Spartans.

Student Irene Mayberry, who graduated last year, was a Buddies Club member who enjoyed the activities open to all Spartans.

Erin Newby

Erin Newby

Student Irene Mayberry, who graduated last year, was a Buddies Club member who enjoyed the activities open to all Spartans.

Erin Newby, Oracle Editor

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The special needs community has grown and thrived in the past few years, especially at WS. Many misconceptions about children with special needs have changed, but there is still work to be done to spread the word about the special children around us.
March 21 is a normal day for most people, but if you do a little bit of research it is easy to find that next Tuesday is National Down Syndrome Awareness Day.
Trisomy 21 is caused by a genetic mutation of chromosome 21; this results in low muscle tone, a large tongue, and other telltale traits of children affected by Down syndrome.
“Things like months or days that celebrate kids with special needs is a good way to make people aware,” said special education teacher Monique Blount.
Advocates for special needs children say it is important to have all different types of people represented in the media and in public school systems. Children identify with what they see. If they do not see themselves on TV, for example, or in a social setting, then it is hard for them to be able find themselves in the media.
This national day is for people with Down syndrome to be able to find people who look like them and raise awareness for the genetic mutation which they live with all the time.
“I agree [that] people with special needs are a minority [but] they are not emphasized as minorities,” said special education teacher Kasey Jackonis, who works with students who have Down syndrome. Blount and Jackonis say it is important to understand that people with special needs are people, too and that they are not much different from children without special needs. They have the same needs and wants as non-special needs children. National Down Syndrome Awareness Day is a chance to represent those who just think a little differently than the rest of the world.
“Unless you are someone aware of someone with a disability or are in the education system, you don’t really know about it,” said Jackonis.
It can be hard to find information on subjects that are not mainstream. Down Syndrome Awareness Day was observed unofficially up until March 2012, when it was officially recognized as a national day.
“You have to be able to know where to look and that is where I think people are missing the link,” said Jackonis.
It can be difficult for people to get information when special needs issues are not widely publicized in the news and on social media. But it is not hard to find if you do a little bit of digging.
“Buddies Club is an awesome way for general education kids to interact with kids with special needs,” said Monique.
It’s good for general education and special needs kids to mix. It is a learning opportunity for both parties and will help all types of people later on. It can be difficult how to handle certain situations, such as the attitude around special education, when they come up, but by engaging conversation and learning from others it will get easier and easier.
“Maybe people are not as sure how to handle it. We can teach history but we can’t teach how to handle certain situations,” said physical education teacher Joseph DePorter.

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West Springfield High School Newspaper
Special needs community celebrates accomplishments; works for acceptance