How do you welcome the new student to your classroom who has a visible disability? Do you give this student a "special seat" somewhere at the back of the class with his Ed Assistant sitting right beside him? Do you insist this student does his work outside of the classroom because he makes "noise"? Do you announce his "special project" to the class that is very different from the rest of the students (because you are pleased with your "super" idea)? Do you get the class ready for their work and then add "Oh yeah, he can watch a video on his IPad for this" (because you forgot to plan intentionally for this student)? Do you presume he can't read or learn to read because he can't talk and avoid teaching this important skill, preferring for him to hand out papers, take stuff to the office, work on endless printing sheets (because the sheets are alphabet, after all?)? Do you feel good at night because you "let" this student sit at circle today with the others (at the edge with his EA of course)? Do you stress about his "overbearing" mom who will insist he takes part yet again? Do you avoid seeing her at all costs, instead letting the principal interact with her, because she says the "same thing over and over again"?
Who is watching your actions? EVERY. SINGLE. STUDENT. They are all watching how you interact/treat/ behave with this student. AND your actions will affect how they treat this student; how they accept this student; how they welcome this student; how they will treat other people with disabilities as they grow up. Your actions will either change our society positively for people with challenges or your actions will cause students to continue with the status quo; people with challenges can keep to themselves, have to fight for real jobs with real income, have to fight to be accepted for their diversity.
Patrick Carney states, "We have students in our schools for approximately 1000 hours per year, over the course of 14 years" (p. 20). Wow, that is a LOT of time. During this time, we have a responsibility to model acceptance for diversity and a welcoming attitude for every single student who walks through our door. Every student deserves a teacher who will presume their competence, who will expect them to do their very best and who will guide them with a loving hand to do the best they can.