by Regina Skyer
It’s graduation season—a time to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of special education students who work so hard to overcome so many challenges in the classroom every year.
In the spring, I make a point of trying to attend at least one graduation ceremony. It’s a good reminder of why the fight we show up for each day matters so much.
This week, I journeyed deep into the heart of Brooklyn’s Boro Park to attend a high school graduation for Gan Yisroel Yeshiva’s special education program. The eight lovely young women I was there to witness graduate all have Down syndrome or another significant developmental disability.
Gan Yisroel does an incredible job at integrating special education students into the social fabric of the larger school. While the girls in the special education program learn in a self-contained class, they are fully integrated into daily life and activities with their typically developing peers. When they danced with their friends this was obvious.
As part of their graduation ceremony, each girl gave a speech. All of them expressed their gratitude to their teachers, therapists, parents, and to the founders of the school – Rabbi and Mrs. Ginsburg. Their words were eloquent, heartfelt, and there was not a dry eye in the auditorium during the standing ovation they received, marching down their aisle with their yellow corsages and certificates. This program is a shining example of what good special education is about – maximizing each child’s potential, teaching them to self-advocate, heightening their self-esteem, and preparing them to be functioning members of their community and society.
Whether your child is stepping up from preschool or kindergarten, elementary or middle school, graduating high school, or simply closing out another year making their own kind of music from a cacophony of setbacks, comebacks, and triumphs—congratulations!