Are these easy days for General Ed? Like, you just get to give them tests and watch them take it? Maybe the grass is just greener on that side, but let me just say, that testing season is absolute torture for Special Ed.
Let’s take kids who can’t pay attention or focus for more than five minutes…
I was just having this conversation today with a couple of the social workers in the school. Back in the 70s when children with disabilities started being “mainstreamed” (whereas they were routinely excluded from public education beforehand), the hope seems to have been that (1) it would force schools to provide proper accommodations for them, (2) give more power to parents in participating in those decisions, and (3) help people, especially youth, understand disabled persons such that they would be more accepted by society. Which, to some extent, makes sense.
But at the same time, what we were wondering was if this you-are-just-like-everyone-else approach ignores some of the realities of these students’ conditions. We have a ton of IEP students in our school, and for a lot of them, they’re really not doing well, and they’re completely lost. It’s sad to watch. For a lot of them, I do think some sort of “self-contained” environment would be better for them. That being said, I would say the same for a lot of our non-IEP students that are struggling as well. I guess in the end, all kids could probably benefit from some regular individual attention and time when it comes to education.
And I wonder, just generally, how good or bad it is to have IEP students clearly aware of their situations. As an example, I have a step-sister who has Down Syndrome, whom I will call Anne. My dad’s girlfriend also has a son with Down Syndrome, whom I will call Brandon. Anne has been fully aware all of her life that she has DS. She references it a lot and seems often to act within the boundaries of what we all think when we imagine DS. At the same time, Brandon, while somewhat aware of this, has always gone under the assumption that he is mostly like everyone else. He has three older, relatively successful brothers, and has always been allowed to do everything they can. But now, he is at a point where he wants to drive, like all of his brothers can. Because of the DS, he can’t. And it’s hard for him to understand why he can’t. Anne will never have this problem because she knows the extent of her disability. But for all we know, there are other things she could do that she doesn’t even attempt to do in recognition of possibly false limitations.
(If anyone’s wondering, “Anne” will soon be graduating high school and is working with her family and school to find employment where she can gain work skills. “Brandon” has graduated and will be going to George Mason University. They have a program there for disabled students that his family believes will suit his needs while still giving him a college experience.)
Neither of these situations is ideal, I don’t think. But then how do we design a system of education to strike a balance between the two? I don’t really know. Another toughie for the education log.