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Unconcious Biases

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

What is a cognitive bias? It is a thinking error we make while processing, reasoning, evaluating, or remembering information that can affect our judgements and decisions. We all make them and we all have been guilty of holding onto some of them for various reasons. Cognitive biases are formed and held onto because we see other people doing or thinking along the same lines. We can also remember things in a better light than what they actually were or remember an event differently than how it actually happened. We solidify biases when we seek out or interpret information that confirms our beliefs. We create biases when we think we are owed or owed more than what we gave for something. There are many biases that people can have and hold onto, for this article I am going to specifically talk about biases related to special education.


When someone hears the term "special education" they seem to automatically think in a negative light. I will be honest, I had a bias when I was growing up and I really don't know where it came from. I would pass by the room marked Special Education and see the one or two students in there and I'm ashamed to admit it, but I thought the kids were less intelligent or had something wrong with them. No one ever overtly taught me that, but I think because the students were segregated and no one ever saw them or talked to them I developed that bias.


Thankfully, over the years, I realized that people who have special needs are all people. Every one of us has a special need of some kind. The majority of the population in the United States with special needs are those who need corrective lenses for their eyes, 61% of the US population needs corrective lenses. In the workforce, 70% of the population needs corrective lenses and one in four children has a vision problem.


Do you know why people with vision problems are not thought of as having a special need? I don't. I presume it is because society accepts that need, can easily accommodate for that need, and people with vision problems are everywhere and everyone either knows someone with a visual impairment or is someone with a visual impairment.


When you read that vision problems are a special need, how did that make you feel? Do you believe that vision problems are a special need? According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, visual impairment (including blindness) is considered one of the thirteen categories that can qualify a child for special education. If you don't think that someone with visual impairment has a special need, then you have a bias. If you can and do treat people with visual impairment postively, but you treat other people that you perceive have a special need negatively, then you have a bias. It is up to you if you want to change that bias or not. I'm glad and thankful for the many wonderful experiences I have had since I changed my bias.




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Shelley Kenow IEP Consulting

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I am not a lawyer and therefore offer no legal advice.  My advice is non-binding.
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