Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beyond Imagining

I have an interesting reference to Special Education. My degree is nearly 25 years old, and so are my ideas regarding SpEd. When I did teach, it was under a regular educator who knew nothing of learning styles. Many things she did were good, but when it came to the kids who were LD, I was given a lot of latitude.

A few years after leaving the education circuit, Ben gave me a whole new look at SpEd from the other side of the IEP table. It's NOT the same.

So now I have about a month to catch up on the legal/educational/therapuetic aspects of teaching a class of four kids with Orthopedic Disabilities. I don't know anything else about them, yet.

I look back on my life, where I worked at the CDC (Child Development Center) with Eric and that beautiful curly haired kid whose name I can't recall...I can see their faces and their smiles.

And Brynn, who "suffered" from a rare chromosomal disorder known as Trisomy 13 which left her with no language or body control...but whose spirit was that of a wise-cracking cheerleader! Lots of positive energy there.

And the Artist, Maria?, who lived in a state institution. I was told she liked to paint. The nurses would look at me nervously as I arrived each week right before her bedtime, thinking, how long is she going to keep her up this time? She moved so slowly, but with such purpose as she made circle after circle on the ragpaper, carefully picking up the color from the pallette. Georgia O'Keefe would have been impressed. I almost talked the local art club into selling her paintings.

Okay, so I have known 4 OD (Orthopedicaly disabled) kids/people in my life. Now I am blessed enough that 4 more will join the lot.

Back to the title.

What is beyond imagining is how far we have come. Maybe I'm just lucky to be in such progressive circumstances,and the examples I've seen are more the exception than the rule, but schools seem to be attempting inclusion. And REAL MONEY is being spent on the most handicapped kids among us. Not money "taken away" from regular classes, as evil administrators would have you think, but money in addition -- specifically mandated for special needs kids. In fact, many schools are so clueless, they end up not spending that money given to them for special ed. Hmmm....

Even Peter Wright, infamous for "Wright's Law" and encouraging parents to litigate in order for their children to recieve a "free and appropriate education" is excited about the possibilities of IDEA 2004. It used to be kids had to fail before individualized education was with RTI, or "Response to Intervention", kids who may be falling behind are singled out each year and given intervention proven by research to be effective!

I don't think Ben would have slipped through the cracks with his poor math skills if true RTI had been in place. And teachers are going to have to be more creative than giving worksheet after worksheet to try and help kids. The onus is one the teachers to find appropriate intervention rather than on the kids (and parents, by default) to "catch up". These are things that good, effective teachers have always done. It is encouraged these things be done in the regular classroom, where the most learning can take place.

What makes Peter Wright's blessing so meaningful is he was one of those kids who fell through the cracks, the learning disabled kid. He went on to be a lawyer whose voice strikes fear in the heart of every public school administrator.

Instead of the institutions of the past, at the high school here, profoundly Mentally Disabled kids are placed in the Fine Arts Hall where they interact with their peers to an extent, and are recognised at graduation. I'm not sure who this is better for...the PMD kids or the "normal kids". It's hard to have "eugenic" thoughts about someone you've known your whole life, unless you've got a heart of stone.

As monolithic an entity as public education is...I may being idealistic may be the best place to encourage equality, to discourage ablism, to save us from our own greed that lives in a land of "not enough" except for the "worthy" (eugenics).

I have so much work to do, so many ideas to be digested, in so little time. Thanks, Kristina, for the links that got me started.


Kristina Chew said...

And thanks for this post, Rose!

All I know about special ed I pretty much learned through Charlie-----a huge benefit to my education----and what you share hear about your experiences, personal and professional, is invaluable.

abfh said...

Rose, I believe you're right about the importance of integration in the schools. It certainly changed many people's ideas about race, and before that, the public school system helped many groups of immigrants to assimilate into American society.

If the schools took an active role in ending the use of harmful negative labels and promoting acceptance of neurodiversity, they could do so much good.

r.b. said...

ABFH--Assimilation is key.

Many old school teachers don't like it, because they expect everyone to be exactly the same. One teacher I talked to blamed her cancer on the stress of having a child who needed diapered in her classroom. I think it was probably her rigidness that was a problem long before.

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