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Defining “Idealism” in raising Special Needs kids

What does “Idealism” look like in raising special needs kids? Would it be ok for

special needs kids to get segregated, get away with their behaviors, not get

educated or sustain with low wage jobs as adults or would it be the same as

raising a neurotypical kid?

The concept of idealism or an ideal kid can be defined as a ”Perfect kid” with his/her

academic merits- accomplishments, qualities or the ease with which they carry

themselves and is an all rounder. That idealism while raising a special needs kid

needs to be more or less the same comparatively based on the severity of the

spectrum. However, sometimes this idealism gets defined or gets imposed by their

IEPs/society/and or other environmental expectations surrounding the kids on the


Here we are trying to assert that Idealism for kids on the spectrum doesn’t have to

be compromised or imposed by external stimuli or other factors, rather can be

defined by the individual with Self reliance and Self Determination. With timely

and appropriate support this pursuit is achievable.

As a child develops in its environment, he/she is surrounded by the complex

interactions of the multi-tiers( family, school, society, community) around and

which contribute and promote to the growth of the child. These multi -tiers

interact between themselves and can affect the child in many ways. In the case of a typical kid these interactions are in alignment while a desync exists in the case of special

needs kids. The desync can be further broken down as low expectations,

assumptions, pity and various other attributes. It needs to be cautioned that not all

of these attributes are harmful.

It remains a fact that the effects of assumptions or lower expectations imposed by

the IEPs/Society and other environments are systemic. As an individual grows in its

environment they absorb and start to reflect what is expected out of them. The

resultant could be short term or long term ones that impede the individual’s

functionality and independence to various degrees. This in turn interferes with the

individual’s self reliance and self determination that gets ingrained and feeling

limited or not able to outgrow these imposed limitations as soon as they turn

adults. Adults who are not prepared to live independently after high school, and

have to lead their lives as dependents to others terms.

It all begins at the Tier 1 - comprised of family and Schools that can customize

plans by incorporating inclusion at school and society, choices in daily activities,

active decision making, including them in building plans to finish chores or

activities, encouraging them to ask questions( for Speech or other technological

devices can be used to support speech individuals on non verbal spectrum),

participating in their IEP meetings which eventually fosters Self reliance and

determination down the line. Even though these skills need to be supported by

parents and schools initially with support and practice it can be eventually

transitioned to the individual on the spectrum( based on the severity of the

spectrum). The alignment between the parents and school is usually not a smooth

and easy one but with active advocacies, awareness of rights and by making use of

resources available in our community can be very effective. Tier -1 needs to make

sure that individuals on the spectrum are getting prepared to live independently

and become productive citizens in the future.

Thus “Idealism”, while raising Special Needs kids remains more or less the same in

comparison to their neurotypical peers based on the severity of the spectrum.

Idealism needs to be defined by the individual and not get imposed or limited to

their IEPs/Society and or other external environments. Individuals on the spectrum

with timely and appropriate support can reach this pursuit with the promotion of

Self Reliance and Self Determination which are their “rights."

Priya Pasumarthy is a health care provider and an award winning author of Our Little Promise(2022) and Halloween At Luke’s(2019). She lives in California with her


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