Opening of my Remarks at CSUN Department of Special Education Commencement

It is a great honor to speak to future teachers in special education. I began my life in special education of the most restrictive sort. My early years had to be my hardest because I had no voice at all. I want to challenge you to be open to teaching those who may currently lack the ability to show their intelligence, but who still deserve the opportunity to learn.
  It is hard to be a teacher of kids who don’t communicate. The kids don’t have writing, or gestures, or speech, or facial expressions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think. Lack of communication isn’t only a sign of cognitive delay.
I’ll give you an idea of my early life in my low, remedial autism class. My teacher was warm, but there was no instruction of any kind beyond the weather, 1+1, and ABC. Forever. I think it is pretty boring, don’t you? It is worse when people treat you like you’re not intelligent. Baby talk and high fives and “good jobs” instead of normal communication.
I think the idea that all non-verbal people with autism have receptive language processing delay is not accurate. I don’t have receptive language issues but I sat in this classroom for years, unable to show my true capacity.
It is important to not be overly confident or certain when you deal with people who can’t communicate. In fact, it is essential to have an open-mind, because more kids than you imagine are like me. How people escape this prison varies, but we must have the opportunity.
I feel that you, who are embarking on new careers in special education, need to know that a kid like me will be in your class – that is, a kid like me before letter board or iPad – who just can’t get his ideas out.  To be a great teacher you can’t be his prison guard. To be a great teacher you must find intelligence and give the hope of freedom in communication. To be a great teacher you must give a real education to those kids who may look stupid in the eyes of many, but who think, and feel, and pray every day for the chance to show who they are inside.

2 responses to “Opening of my Remarks at CSUN Department of Special Education Commencement

  1. This is so fascinating…

  2. Mr. Kedar,

    I just watched a very brief segment on youtube that featured you, and the remarkable way you found to engage people using a bit of modern technology and a lot of perseverance. I have such respect for the diligence and effort required to tediously relay what you have to say even though I am sure it is liberating, as well as validating; I suspect over time it will become a love/hate relationship working the letters into well crafted sentiments.
    I raised an autistic daughter, and have worked with children with autism for many years- needless to say I do feel I have a slight idea of what it was like for you before communication was possible. I spent 20 years looking into my daughter’s eyes and seeing the spark of intelligence burning to get out, and to this day I see kids who society labels as many things, but my gut instincts tell me under all the chatter and diagnosis is simply a soul begging to be heard. You are validating that with your words and efforts here, and with your book (which I plan on getting)
    I see where you are going with this- trying to reach educators and society, as well as other people who find it hard to impossible to relay their feelings, dreams, and ambitions. Sharing fears, and thoughts, and explaining nuance is something those of us with the luxury of conventional communication take for granted and it requires incredible souls as you to shine the sunlight on these issues, and find productive methods of addressing the unique needs of the children we raise- for as I am sure you will agree, it is those years that are so important.
    Ido, if I am not being disrespectful using your first name, I commend you, and support you, and will follow your work from here on out you can be sure. I will tell other people, and parents especially who raise children with different ways of communication than they may expect to look deeper, and to consider many approaches to discover what their individual young person needs to do as you have done- which for a former parent is seemingly akin to magic.
    Go get ’em Ido… your just the guy to show us all how it’s done.

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