“Does He Speak?”

Submitted Anonymously by an AFHS Student

The way that you treat people determines the type of person you are, and how you want to be treated. I am sure all of us have heard the phrase, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” There are people who demand respect even if the respect is not given.

bullyingThere are so many students in every high school that live with some sort of disability, but do not want it to be addressed or expressed to a classroom full of students. Some disabilities are unseen to the eye, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there.

I was able to earn the amazing opportunity to be a student ambassador; not just any student ambassador, I was an ambassador for a student that lived with learning disabilities. It was a very eye opening experience. It even made me question if basic humanity still exists.

Of course, I could tell this student was different and may have had a disability. Even if I had not known, I would have treated the student with the same respect that I do for others. I am going to refer to him as George to protect his identity. My job was to direct and introduce George to his class and teachers. It sounded like an easy job for me, and I loved helping someone who didn’t know where to go.

Teachers may not see the side of this that I am able to see, but students are mean. Even teachers sometimes may not realize the impact their words have on students. Every teacher made it more difficult and uncomfortable for him. The tightness of the room was unexplainable.

I had the opportunity to talk to a special education teacher about this issue. “I think that overall the students at Agua Fria treat students with disabilities really well… Some things may appear “strange” to you even though their outward appearance is very typical, but this is because their disability makes their brains think differently- which brings so much diversity to our world!” Mrs Hughes said.

Every single teacher requested me to leave after I dropped George off at his next classroom. Little did they know, he did not have the ability to introduce himself due to his issues with communication. So, asking him to introduce himself was so difficult and hard for him to do. Out of six teachers, four of the teachers asked me “does he speak?” I just wanted them to understand that he can hear too.

George relied on me to introduce him to his teachers, but I had to disappoint him when his teachers asked me to leave. I met up with George at his previous class, then walked him to his next class. While we walked down the hall, all eyes were on us. As I was walking a student yelled at me, “Is that your new boyfriend, is that the best you can do?” Which if it was possible, broke my heart even more.

Mrs. Hughes said, “I have seen students with disabilities that are unseen to the eye (such as Autism and Specific Learning Disabilities) been made fun of and poked at by other kids and that has broken my heart.”

I have always had a huge heart, but this made me wonder why this issue is being hidden under the thought that this is not happening. It’s sad to see how much is not being acknowledged when it comes to how special needs students are being treated. Students may not always do it in front of teachers, but it happens every day. It IS happening here in the walls of Agua Fria! When you are able to experience the bullying first hand, what his life looks like through my eyes was very hurtful. We need to educate ourselves more on the issues that we don’t understand. Every kid deserves the respect from every student and teacher. No matter what disability they have.

To make a change we all need to unite together, and make a difference. The first step, of course, is acknowledging that this is actually happening. We need to realize that our words matter. Once we stop ignoring it or acting like it is not happening because our “students are nice,” that is when things will start changing.