Tuesday, October 03, 2006


In case I haven't mentioned it in this blog before, I'm an elementary education major and as part of my classes, I spend a couple of hours a week in an actual classroom to gain real experience. I think it's fantastic- there's nothing like actually being there, and it's great that I'm going to have at least 4 opportunities to see different working classrooms before I'm leading one.

That said, sometimes I see or hear something about a student that makes me sad. There is a student in my class now who apparently was moved by his family to the school he's in now because his previous school had diagnosed him with 'autistic tendencies' and wanted to give him special services. I'm not sure if they had him in a special classroom or still the general education classroom, but his family decided that they didn't want him to be classified like that and moved him to another school.

I can understand that families are afraid of the stigma that comes with a diagnosis of a learning or emotional disability, and they're often worried that teachers or other students will treat their child differently. I'm sure it's hard, because every family is naturally going to be somewhat defensive when it comes to their child.

I have a really hard time understanding how families can deny the opportunity to test their child or let their child receive special services to help them, though. I think an involved parent can be very involved in the making of the IEP (Individualized Education Program) and making sure that it's fair for the child and also keeps the child in the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment). The law requires this anyway, but a parent who's concerned can be very active in the process and can choose not to sign the IEP if he or she doesn't agree. It's not like the school or teacher is going to make all of the decisions concerning the student's treatment.

It just makes me sad for students that could receive therapy or academic help of some kind and don't. Especially nowadays, most children with some kind of disability spend most, if not all, of their time in the general education classroom, alongside children with no diagnosed disability. Sometimes the special treatment for these kids will include working with them to understand what they have difficulties with and how they can combat them. It's something the student is going to be living and working with all of their life, so it makes sense to me that we should help the child (especially if he or she only has mild disabilities) learn strategies to help themselves succeed so that they eventually don't need any extra help at all.

It's a difficult position, because parents are naturally going to be defensive when it comes to their kids. But parents should realize that most teachers also want what's best for their kids, and teachers have the added perspective of seeing many other children at that same age level. A teacher in a third-grade classroom knows, probably better than most anyone else, what a "typical" third-grader looks like, and so it's probably easier for the teacher to see differences between children than the parents, who most likely have had less experience with third-graders. It's not to say the parents are wrong... I just think that in some situations, the parents are misguided, and what they think is best for the child isn't necessarily right.

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