By Michael Rock:

While much has been written about how to teach and educate people with disabilities, we often overlook how much we can learn from them.

Too frequently, students with disabilities who struggle in the classroom are treated as if they are lazy or “broken.” This truly is not the case. Instead, their educators can and should learn to understand that they can learn just as well as their able-bodied and/or able-minded peers provided they are given the proper supports, accommodations, and strategies necessary to do so.

In Clark County, Washington, vacancies for volunteer advisors to the county council to better address issues related to developmental disabilities have recently opened. Focuses of these roles include family affairs and special education.

Other more general life lessons can include that disability does not need to interfere with one’s happiness, the importance of patience, how to prioritize what problems to stress over, the perks of being different from most people, not feeling the need to fit in, rejecting superficial attitudes about physical appearance, and living each day as if it’s your last.

The ableism deeply ingrained in our society can make it harder for us to listen to people with disabilities, but once we do so, there is plenty we can learn.

Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.