By: Sajdah Ali
When a parent witnesses their child excel beyond his/her potential, no matter the challenge or environment, it is very special. However, when a parent notices a problem in their child’s learning and doesn’t have an idea or plan of how to help them get to the potential, then the idea of special education takes a different approach.
Do these scenarios sound familiar?
- It’s the end of the Kindergarten year and the exciting start to his academic journey is beginning to settle down for you. As much as you celebrated his first step towards independence, you can’t help but reflect on how he struggled adjusting to his new friends and classroom. In addition to this, his teacher has mentioned to you at least once that she’s noticed a slight difficulty in his foundational social skills.
- The last quarter of your daughter’s 7th grade year did not fare as well as you hoped. She thought she had finally caught up to her grade level skills in reading, yet she was still far below performance standard in Math. Of course, your spouse shrugged it off as her just not being a “math person”, but you feel it’s more than that.
- Sophomore year is ending and your son continues to dismiss his homework and projects. His teacher cannot seem to get him to complete anything on time and his test scores reflect the same lack of care and consideration. When he’s at home, he seems to be able to solve every problem present in the house; from helping you figure out a Google program, to identifying a faster and easier route to Walmart without using your GPS. However, in school his number grades resemble the chronological age of a 5th grader. As much as you’ve been working through this since the beginning of 6th grade, you feel it’s bound to stay this way forever.
If any of these examples sound like something you’ve been through, then you are not alone. Many children in school today face one or more forms of an academic, social or behavioral difficulty. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 13 percent of all public school students are diagnosed with a disability. Under the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) there are 14 categories of disability that may require specially designed academic or physical instruction in a special education program. Special Education is a form of learning provided to students with exceptional needs, such as students with learning disabilities or mental challenges.
Based off the scenarios mentioned, what does all of this mean for you and your child? That’s a simple answer……Not much, right now!
At least not until the proper process of intervention supports and assessment test are conducted to determine eligibility for Special Education services. But before you go down that path, you should know what you are looking for.
Most times, when students start at a new school, with a different environment and different academic expectations; the child finds a difficult path in self navigating his/her way through the adjustment and transition phase. Just like the boy in scenario 1, he might be willing and wanting to do well but his mind and emotional self are reacting differently than expected. In these situations, the parents should focus their attention on social and emotional status.
For the middle school girl who keeps missing the mark in Math; and the sophomore who refuses to comply with the academic standards in the classroom but is an Einstein at home;
paying attention to their overall academic and psychological capabilities would be the best place to start.
How is this done? Here are a few pointers to get you started
Think PROactive and not REactive
As shocking and heartbreaking as your son’s all out tantrum was during reading circle time, or your daughter’s failing grade on the math test you spent 48 sleepless hours studying with her on- you cannot overreact! Take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions: Is this a behavior or work performance a pattern? What did she/he do prior to the situation that may have influenced the outcome? How does my child feel about him/herself in regards to it? Depending on the answers that come up, then you should schedule a conference with your child’s teacher to discuss situations, collaborate issues and current solutions.
ReFOCUS and ReASSESS and ReINVENT:
After collaboration has taken place, but the issue still presents itself, your next move is it to refocus your thoughts and knowledge on the issue, reassess how to handle it and reinvent your plans to act. At the high school level, a student not passing consecutive tests yet expecting to pass the class course is equivalent to an employee continuing to show up late to work but expecting a promotion from their boss. Therefore, you need to refocus after-school study time to items/issues that are contributing to his lack of care and interest in school. This may cause for you to reassess his aptitude by introducing reinvented (nontraditional) learning tools that encourage engagement and personal interest; such as having him create 3-D projects for math instead of the standard poster board requirement, or drawing graphic novel style writing pieces that summarizes one of the Shakespearean Tragedies instead of a typical 3 page essay.
If the matter still stands, then ReQUEST and begin to ReBUILD. Traditional Public and Charters Schools have student intervention support teams available to assess any learning disability, development plans, and implement programs/strategies that will best serve that student’s needs. You can request a meeting with the coordinator of the team to discuss your child’s difficulties and if he/she may be eligible for additional support. We can create Multi-Tiered Support System where various levels of intervention are developed, implemented and documented in the classroom setting for an extended period of time. Each program is provided and supported by state and federal laws to ensure that all possible and accessible resources are provided in order to assist your child in becoming successful in school.
So there it is, the simple steps of Proaction, Refocus, Reassess and Reinvent, Request and Rebuild all provide the primary avenue of success for your child’s learning. What you may determine initially as a disability, might just be a new scenario for you to investigate and solve with simple tools of parent ingenuity and curiosity. So, consider these steps for the 2017-2018 school year. In the end, you would have learned more about your child than you thought you knew; and a little more about the specialness within yourself that you didn’t know you had!
Sajdah Ali is the founder and lead consultant of SA Education Consulting in North Carolina. She trains and conducts personal consulting for parents, teachers and schools in program development and compliance of Special Education programs and services. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.