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Monday, July 2, 2012
I hesitate to publish this post as I know it will piss off many hard working dedicated professionals who do a wonderful job with children of special needs. I decided that my point needs to be heard so here it is. To those I piss off, sorry, but perhaps there is some food for thought in my opinion.
Eight years ago my youngest son was entering first grade. He enjoyed kindergarten but his teacher felt he needed help in forming his letters.
Before his first class started we attended an orientation at the school. All of the teachers in the school, first through fourth grade, were introduced. I could not help but notice that almost twelve special education teachers were introduced. When I went to school there were no special education teachers (admittedly a bad thing.) I thought at the time that twelve seemed like an inordinate number of teachers for special education.
Two weeks into first grade, we were called to meet with a Mrs. Ruth, head of special education. She was concerned that my son was not reading. I mentioned that I had three other children all now grown and out of school. None could read until Thanksgiving of first grade and all are college graduates. She ignored my comment and continued on rather arrogantly that the other children in his class were already reading and my son was falling behind.
I related to her that my son was walking before he was ten months old. No other children that I knew were walking until at least their twelfth month and yet at age six all these children are walking pretty much the same.
She recognized me for the Neanderthal I probably am and again ignored my comment. She jumped right into recommending testing for my son to see if he would benefit from special education teaching.
Grudgingly my wife and I allowed the testing.
I was not surprised when the results came back indicating my son should be removed from the first grade and go into a special education class. Mind you, at the time of our meeting to discuss the test results, my son was starting to read and was improving daily. His teacher admitted that his reading was almost up to the rest of the class.
A school psychiatrist was called to evaluate my son. She reported that my son was one of the nicest most cooperative boys she had ever evaluated. She gushed about his engaging personality.
Mrs. Ruth, ignored these comments, and then suggested we get down to brass tacks. The tests (one stated he had poor hand eye coordination even though my son was an above average athlete) indicated we should enroll my son immediately into her program.
I felt it was too soon to label a child with a disability that would follow him for the rest of his school life. Teachers would always lower their expectations for my son and even at the age of six he would know that “special” really meant (sorry) stupid.
Mrs. Ruth huffed that I was making a mistake and I would be sorry. I said, “Teach him to read, that is what they used to do in first grade” and my wife and I left.
I then realized why so many of my neighbors were sending their four and five year olds to reading-tutors.
My son, Spencer, just graduated from Jr. High. He made the honor roll every semester the last three years. Next year he will be in the honors math and honors history classes.
I often wonder what would have happened if I allowed him to be enrolled in special education at age six. Would his expectations and the expectations of his teachers have been the same? I was told those many years before by his first grade teacher that she asked for the evaluation partly on the kindergarten teacher’s comment about his letter formation problem. Would future teachers have judged him based on his early special education classes? Did Mrs. Ruth want to recruit children to her program to fill her programs many special education teacher’s classes?
One thing I do not wonder about was my decision; and no Mrs. Ruth I am not sorry. I was right, you the extremely arrogant expert, were wrong.
I do wonder, Mrs. Ruth, how many young parents with less experience than me followed your misguided “expert” advice all to the serious long term detriment of their children?
Children grow, mature, and learn at different rates. When a child has a clear learning disability the faster it is diagnosed and addressed the better. However, rushing to assign and treat a disability that does not exist can be more devastating than any actual disability.
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