Monday, December 15, 2008

How Is Your Box Labeled?

I know teachers have tough jobs. I know they are often overworked, and that it is difficult to give each child individual attention. But like it or not, in the world of special education, individual attention is dictated by the IEP. And to me, that individual attention means thinking outside the box when you have a student receiving special education services, especially a child with complex disabilities.

For example, just because a child has decent expressive communication skills, it doesn’t mean that child’s receptive skills are equally as good. My oldest daughter is a perfect example of that. She has learned what her doctors term ‘cocktail party conversation’. She can appear to carry on a conversation with anyone – because she has learned to imitate the cadence and flow of conversation between people in a group. She does not, however, have much of a clue what the conversation is about or what her responses really mean. She gives the impression of understanding, but if quizzed, obviously does not understand. I believe a good teacher would notice that immediately. However, most of her teachers have not.

I had a conversation with another parent this weekend on that same subject. Her son is hearing impaired and has a cochlear implant. His expressive communication is adequate but his receptive is sorely lacking. So what did his most recent school hearing evaluation say? Not much, because he was labeled as ‘bad’, not concentrating on the task at hand. I believe a good teacher would have realized that receptive communication might be the issue.

Ashley is another student that often baffles her teachers. Because Ashley sometimes gives the impression of hearing spoken language, teachers believe they can always speak and she will understand. However, if she is quizzed on what was spoken, nine times out of ten, she did not hear correctly. For example – she confuses words that same similar – pig and big – key and me – you and blue. Her hearing impairment is so significant that she cannot rely on speech, and her teachers need to realize that. Most of the time they don’t.

In the second grade, Ashley’s teacher said she was a visual and auditory learner. Ashley is deafblind. In this current school year, 8th grade, the teacher made the statement that she can communicate just fine verbally with Ashley. Maybe the teacher can speak just fine to Ashley, but Ashley is not hearing her.

This box that surrounds our children with disabilities is more often than not the reason for discord between parents and the school system. If we could all think outside the box – if teachers could take the time to understand the whole child – if administrators could give teachers the support and time they need – I really believe there would be fewer problems.

But if our school districts continue to place our children in boxes, disputes will continue, and our children will be the ultimate losers.


MMC said...

Nicely said.
And very true.

Casdok said...

I so agree with you.

little.birdy said...

It's sad how many times hearing impairments are mislabeled as behavior problems. Ugh. Good luck in your ongoing quest to educate the educators!

terena said...

There is a lot of interest in the field of learning disabilities that children with an LD label actually have a Auditory Processing problem. Even kids diagnosed as autistic more than likely also have auditory issues. Auditory processing is probably far more prevalent than educators realize and they need to stop labeling children "bad," or "retarded," and start wondering if the child is hearing!