Not much has changed in special needs education in past 20 years. In fact, 58 percent of students with special needs do not even graduate high school. With the number of children with learning disabilities increasing every year, there is an increased population of young adults who are uneducated, unable to work, and ultimately, unable to provide for themselves.
In its current form, the system is undoubtedly broken. However, if you ask Dr. JoQueta Handy, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, there is a solution to this outdated education regimen. It starts with looking at the needs of the student.
Changing the system
Dr. Handy has spent 12 years analyzing the education of children, starting as a collaboration with teachers and parents to devise ways to more effectively teach children with learning disabilities. Recently, Handy decided to visit a classroom to get an insider's perspective.
“I was visiting an ASD class and noticed there was a movie playing in the background and all the children were glued to iPads," says Handy. “I asked 'What's the lesson plan?' and the teacher said that this was the lesson plan. I was so shocked and taken aback."
Even when there is a lesson plan in place, they often are ill-fitting to children with special needs and just end in disinterest and frustration.
“We say there is a standard in special education, but there isn't really," says Handy. “Standardized testing just makes the child become a grade, a statistic, a number, and they are forgotten about."
Looking at the needs of the child
Through her work in the field, Handy had a revelation. This lack of education is not the student's fault, or even the teacher's. It is a fault in the system. It's the apathetic view that there simply is no solution to the problem.
“It's not because students with special needs aren't capable. It's because they aren't given the opportunity."
“Special needs curriculum is built around a concept of minimal gains, not trying to bridge the gap and realizing these children's potential."
Working directly in the classroom inspired Handy to look at special needs education with a different perspective. Instead of hoping a student adheres to a set of expectations, why not focus on the learner's strengths and abilities? It was through this concept that Handy came to develop her specialized education regimen which she calls the Children's Opportunity for Brilliance (COB).
Special needs education in a new light
The COB model looks to combat traditional special needs education—instead of focusing on what the child can't do, this method builds off of the child's strengths to help realize their potential. The COB model is based around the need of the child and brings in a community effort—from teachers, parents, and doctors—in order to identify effective methods on a case-by-case basis.
Handy's teaching method goes beyond special needs education, however. Handy says the method can be used for any curriculum and at any level of learning. This is because it is simply a way of understanding how each person can use their own abilities to learn in the most effective way. Internal research conducted to evaluate the COB model saw a 70 percent improvement in students after just 16 hours of one-on-one instruction.
In congruence with the COB model, Handy also partnered with several institutions to augment her program's effectiveness. Through her understanding as an Integrative Medicine doctor, she utilizes various supplements to promote healthy nutrition in her students. She has also partnered with various biotech companies to help her process. These technologies include BrainTap, a mind development tool that induces relaxation and reduces stress on the body, and Quantum Reflex Integration, which helps reduce excessive reflex tendencies.
Through her studies, Handy has had the opportunity to work with some wonderful students, whom she refers to as her “master teachers." She says they have guided her to create this program that she hopes will spark a change in special needs education.
“I have learned so much through these students, namely that we need to reject disease-based thinking," says Handy. “It's about looking at the student's strengths and looking past labels that we always seem to put on a person."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.