Saturday, 16 June 2012
Shortly after spring break this year, my husband and I revoked our consent to enroll my son in special education courses. What this means is that a) my son will no longer receive services from the special school district, which partners with local districts to provide therapies and b) my son will no longer be protected under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Although special education works well for many, and it did for us in the early years, we found that it was becoming more and more frustrating for all of us, and ineffective for our son. All of the classes I had taken in advocacy training and all of the hours I had spent cultivating relationships with special educators didn’t seem to help. I found myself constantly disappointed, out-of-control, frustrated and anxious about what was going on with Connor while he was in school. And the results were dismal. We have had far better luck with after-school tutoring and private language therapy than we have ever had with our so-called special educators.
The one exception was with a very talented special education teacher’s assistant who helped my son for 4 years. Why was she so successful? She was a former language TEACHER. That’s right. A real teacher, with real classroom experience, teaching children with many types of abilities. The sad state of special education in our district is that there are too many special education service providers, and not enough TEACHERS.
Our kids can learn, damn it. Let’s teach them in the way they learn, believe in what they can do, and recognize that the old special education modalities DO NOT WORK for all of our kiddos. Embrace technology, embrace the fact that kids can move around and still learn, and embrace the idea that computers can read to our kids if they have trouble doing so by themselves.
And above all, practice relevant inclusion. My son has always been in a general education classroom, but he has always felt alienated by the pull-outs for services and assessments. (Push-ins are supposed to cultivated; however, fitting those into the therapist’s schedule seem to be all but impossible).
What have I done by pulling my son out of school and away from special education the last quarter of fifth grade? Hmmm…let’s see…he received a 3.8 GPA, he is no longer anxious, and he has asked to go to camp where he can be just like any of the other kids. I suspect he’ll be ready to a smaller, private school this fall…and he’ll get his wish to be just like everyone else.
As I mentioned, special education is a wonderful thing…for MANY. For us, we found cutting the cord on something that did more harm than good has forced us to seek out other, more effective methods of delivering what our son needs to be a happier, more successful learner.