* And it Is Done — anewperspectiveperhaps

We did it. We finally got through the 504 review and hopefully it will be last meeting of the school year. Each time I have to sit down face to face with this group of 6 people, my heart grows a little more heavy. Do people not know what they say? Or is it some […]

via And it Is Done — anewperspectiveperhaps

Read this post for more insights on why families are ditching schools and hunting desperately for a place that will readily differentiate instruction for their kids.  For ALL kids.

* Blossoming in the new school year

It won’t be long before school is back in session.  For those on a year-round calendar, the new year has already begun.  How do we help our special needs kids flourish this year?  I’ve been inspired to write this by Cee’s photography, of all things.  Here are two images to consider.  (The crepe myrtle on the left belongs to a neighbor; the one on the right is ours.  Bummer.)  Which image best represents our hopes and dreams for kids this school year?

 

Since I am far more adept at teaching than growing plants, here are some tips as you prepare for the new year:

  • Make sure you start adjusting bedtime schedules.
  • Start building stamina for longer periods of sitting and listening.  The local library is a good option for this.
  • Let your child help select lunchboxes and backpacks, where possible.
  • Get your child the school’s tee shirt (often available from thrift shops).  I have seen these add social credit by creating a sense of belonging.
  • Start preparing a daily/weekly routine for school days, most likely with some kind of break when kids get home.  The light at the end of the tunnel is important.
  • Assuming your child has issues with behavior and/or attention, plan or resurrect a reward system for extra motivation.
  • If your child’s IEP does not already include an individual orientation with the classroom teacher, ask for one.
  • Start spending time around the school with your kids.  You could probably find a garden bed to weed and trash to collect.  You might ask the secretary for some other ways to help.  Perhaps there are boxes to recycle or catalogs to file in teacher mailboxes. I’ll bet the office staff would enjoy a homemade treat.  Bribery works.
  • If homework was an unresolved nightmare issue last year, face it head on.  If your child is too worn out after school to effectively complete homework, strategize how you might approach this problem more successfully.  Talk to other parents and/or sympathetic teachers for advice.
  • Watch some “back to school” movies as a family.  Care has a list of 10 good ones, including a favorite of mine, “Akeelah and the Bee.”
  • Parent’s Choice also has a great list of back to school books.  “Thank you, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco is terrific.

Do you have any other tips to share?

 

* Whittled away….

whittlingThere are two parts to this story.  The first is a tragic one, the whittling away of a twice exceptional student by rigidity and invalidation.  No matter that the child’s psychologists, evaluator, parents, and tutor have tried to help his teachers understand the tremendous cost of working twice as hard at school.  He’s in a school with a strong emphasis on following the traditional rules for homework, no matter the cost.  They have reneged on every modification to homework that has been implemented, plunging the child and his family into a torrent of confusion and despair.

To borrow from an old song (“To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” by Nina Simone) this student is struggling To Be Young, Gifted and Dyslexic.

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Because this child APPEARS to be fine, because he is hardworking and compliant, the modifications he desperately needs are diminished, ignored, and invalidated.  He’s been whittled away, challenged, required to explain his disability over and again, drained, bored out of his wits, discouraged, humiliated, and embarrassed.

The second part of the story is a testament to the courage and determination of his parents.  They have gone above and beyond in their efforts to maintain a working relationship with staff and administrators who appear blinded by preconceived notions and unwilling to budge from “the way we do school.”  Like many parents of special needs kids, they are worried about alienating the folks who spend all day with their precious son.  If you have an exceptional needs student, you know the balancing act between advocacy and conflict.  These parents have supported their child through it all: encouraging him, coaching him, and trying to protect him from the harshness of his intolerable situation.  They are now searching for an environment which will not only meet the academic challenges of their son, but which will give him an opportunity to shine.

Will they find that environment?  I remember reading a poignant article written by a mom of an autistic son.  As she looked back over his school years, she noted that he had always been a “square peg,” subject to painful pounding into a round hole. There were only a couple of years out of 13 in which he experienced a measure of success.

This whittling away of a child’s soul is both heartless and unnecessary.  Thank God for parents who are willing to fight an uphill battle for their kids.

* Are they crying ‘WOLF?’

NO!  I’m talking about parents who are struggling to advocate for their kids.  They are NOT crying ‘WOLF!”  It’s hard to know where to begin this post, which stirs up considerable angst for me, parents, and other special educators.  Is it asking too much to allow these kids access to the curriculum?  This heartbreaking scenario is being replayed all over local counties, in both charter and traditional public schools.  Kids with IEPs are coming home with reams of homework and increased anxiety after being told they can’t use spell checks or calculators in class.  After all, “other kids” might see them using these tools which hardly level the playing field.  They cannot take a movement break.  They cannot get support for organization.  When a kid is in 6th grade and cannot spell at a second grade level, why is a spell check banned?  If you knew this particular kid, you would applaud his efforts to complete work which is well beyond his current capabilities.  What about the twice exceptional student who is definitely gifted and definitely dyslexic?   To his teachers, he is definitely being lazy.  Never mind that he’s already working twice as hard.  Yikes!

Another mystifying component of this issue is the hardline stance taken by classroom teachers who know next to nothing about these kids and their disabilities.  Parents are tiptoeing around the issues, fearful of antagonizing teachers who seem to hold all the power, who will spend their days overseeing these intimidated kids.  But the same teachers are demanding that the students advocate for themselves.  Seriously?

The irony is that some parents do not cry for HELP, denying that their child has any special needs.  They fight the school tooth and nail over the A word (autism), serious hyperactivity, and learning disabilities.  They don’t tiptoie.  They stomp.  At least they avoid all the heartache of parents trying to ensure that reasonable accommodations are in place.

Back to school, indeed.book-2869_640

* 2e: Count the cost

If you’ve been following the struggles of Tony, a twice exceptional student, you know that he is gifted and dyslexic.  He makes twice the effort at school, and unfortunately, his parents also make twice the effort to help his teachers understand their child’s struggles.  If Tony were less compliant and eager to please, he would already have the full attention of all involved.  If he were not so adept at masking his disability, his teachers might also better understand the tremendous effort he makes each day. For example, as we completed his writing survey, Tony admitted that he expends considerable effort working around his spelling weaknesses.  He will try to think of easily-spelled synonyms for words he wants to use but can’t spell.  Given his strong vocabulary, this “work around” is within his reach, but that process takes a toll.  Not only does he exhaust mental energy and working memory in this process, but he must confront strong feelings of stupidity (“I can’t spell like other kids”) and panic (“I won’t finish on time”).  All the while, he is trying to appear on task, trying not to alert his teachers or peers to this laborious process.  Here’s a review of his perspective on writing (described in more detail in post on writing graphs).

Writing survey 3See all that red?  That spells d-i-s-t-r-e-s-s.

Tony’s parents are quite remarkable advocates for him, as you probably noted in their email to his teacher.   With their permission, I am copying an excellent document they created to help Tony’s teachers understand factors that mask his struggles.

Factors that mask issues for 2e kids

I look forward to the day when we have effectively conveyed these concerns to his classroom teachers, improving the quality of life for Tony and his family (hence my desire to improve my skills in Crucial Conversations).  I’ll keep you posted!