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Tagging Kids 'Special'

By Mike Snyder

Several weeks ago, I posted about opening up to my friends, family and colleagues about the difficulties we were facing in addressing my son's education delays. Since I'd started blogging, I'd heard from a lot of friends about similar issues with their children, things I wouldn't have known if I hadn't shared first.

At the time, I speculated if the silence among friends wasn't partly due to the past generational stigma of having a child or children with issues. The comments were mostly positive, although someone who posted as "Get a Life" rang in with this:

"I am so sick of all you parents with your special needs children. They don't have this or that. They're just slow. Get over it. Yes, that's right. You brilliant yuppies managed to have slow children. Ahhh, so sad."

I didn't give it much thought that day. Mostly I thought the comment was sad, but perhaps I was hitting some nerves that would prompt discussion. Also, "Get a Life" kind of made my point about stigmas and attitudes.

Recently, I've been giving more thought to the labels that we apply to our children. "Special needs" is one, "special education" another. They seem innocuous. What connotations do they have?

My wife's friend told her at lunch last week that she didn't care what label they put on her son if it meant he would get the help he needed. As parents, I think we all second that sentiment, and, truthfully, we need some terminology to keep us from going in circles any more than we already do. But how might the kids feel about the labels?

Let's face it, we've all either born witness or felt the heat from kids teasing or bullying in school. Kids can be cruel and they don't throw around the term "retards" for positive reinforcement. Despite our best efforts to teach our children to do and say the right things, the lessons aren't necessarily applied on the playground.

My son's in preschool right now, so it's not a big issue for us, yet. When he gets older, though, what will we tell him and when?

A couple of weeks ago, I tagged along on a field trip with my son's class. On the bus, one of the teachers told me about her kid, an eighth-grader who has had an IEP since first grade. He's been mainstreamed the entire time and has done very well in a "teamed" classroom that has two teachers -- one to provide extra help when it's needed. Now that he'll be transitioning to high school, the teachers who will be administering his IEP there want him to sit in on the meeting about his plan's goals. His mother, who is a special ed teacher, is very concerned at how he might react to learning that he's a special ed student. She never told him he was. The "special ed" umbrella covers so many issues, she was afraid how he would see himself, she says. Ironic, no?

In the end, we always want simple answers for complex problems, especially when fear, be it public or private, comes into play.

Is it wrong to try to protect your kids from themselves in attempts to build self-confidence and allay very real parental fears of teasing and bullying? When is the right time to come clean with your kid if he or she is in special ed? Is sensitivity training in schools a part of the answer?

By Mike Snyder |  December 18, 2007; 6:30 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
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Comments


Honestly, so many kids today fall under the umbrella of special education, IEPs, ADD/ADHD that I don't think it really matters. Not to mention, the vast majority of kids in special education preschool will not need special services their whole academic career. And so what if they do? I think schools and communities are doing a better job at educating kids to know that some kids think, walk, or do things differently and that is OK. My husband has a half brother who is mentally challenged and as far as I can tell he is pretty well treated. Sure there is some teasing. But you know what, the kids tease the fat kid, the short kid, the kid who dresses funny. I am not sure he is really teased any more. Doesn't make it right but he is surviving. We just have to keep educating parents, teachers, and kids and eventually they will understand. Again so many kids have these issues these days. I wouldn't spend an awful lot of time worrying about it. Especially since you don't know if he will need these services for very long. And if a kid can go for K-8 not even knowing he was special ed, then you get bet his classmates didn't know either.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 7:22 AM | Report abuse

"Let's face it, we've all either borne witness or felt the heat from kids teasing or bullying in school. Kids can be cruel and they don't throw around the term "retards" for positive reinforcement. Despite our best efforts to teach our children to do and say the right things, the lessons aren't necessarily applied on the playground."

It depends on the kid.

It depends on the school.

Not every kid gets teased or bullied, but some do. You won't know until you get there just how your child will react, and just how other children will react to them. Mine was totally impervious to any negative attitudes - perhaps because of a cheerful nature and social skills that have always been "on or above grade level". Visit the school(s). Ask other parents. Take a good hard honest look at your child's temperament, and you will have an idea of what to expect.

Posted by: cotopaxi | December 18, 2007 7:25 AM | Report abuse

I find it very hard to believe that a kid gets to 8th grade without knowing he was tagged as "special". Why else would he have an extra teacher? I think that parent has blinders on on this subject.

Posted by: joe | December 18, 2007 7:34 AM | Report abuse

As the mother of a special needs child with developmental disabilities and a chronic medical condition I have to say that the comment from "Get a Life" hurt me to the core.

Posted by: Older Mom | December 18, 2007 7:35 AM | Report abuse


All we can ever do for our children is support them, right? And today we have more resources to do just that.

foamgnome makes a good point that kids of all stripe get teased--I was always the smallest girl in my classes at school and was called "shrimp" and "shortcake" and never picked until the very end for sports teams.

My parents encouraged me by saying that I had other talents, and while I wouldn't play basketball professionally, I could do other things. Maybe this analogy is apples to oranges, but what I'm trying to say is that supporitng our children and encouraging them in other ways (sports, artistic talent, creativity, helpfulness, giving or you name it) may reduce the sting of the snarks out there.

Take care.

Posted by: Carolyn | December 18, 2007 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Joe, in response to your comment, I'd like to note that many school districts are implementing team teaching now...with a general education teacher and a resource teacher or special education teacher in the classroom together. The idea of team teaching is that both teachers share the classroom duties. Though the special education teacher is in there because of students with IEPs, (s)he does not work with only those students. Therefore, it is entirely possible that this student could have no idea about his status as a student receiving special education services...because every student in that classroom receives the benefits of having two teachers.

That parent does not have "blinders" on about the subject...I highly doubt that many parents who have to go through the act of getting special services for their children have "blinders" on. Most of these parents are just trying to do what they think is best for their children. Any parent should do the same, because really, all children have special needs, whether it is documented by an IEP or not.

Posted by: SPED Grad Student | December 18, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I agree with foamgnome - so many children need extra help - one way or another - that the 'special needs' label is meaningless. We found that the school administration was more to blame with placing a stigma on such a child than other children. When we asked for an evaluation, the vice principal responded that an evaluation would stigmatized my child and that would be BAD.

All I wanted was to make sure my child was not left behind - if that meant getting extra help, so be it. DH and I arranged for a private tutor, and transferred to a Montessori school (where it is expected that all children have their own way of learning).

We never hid the fact that our child needed extra help but we emphasized the fact that it is up to the adults (the parents, teacher, principal, tutor) to find out how a child best learns, not force her to fit in with the 'traditional' method. She never thought it was bad or thought less of herself because she had a tutor (as a matter of fact, if she saw a friend during her tutoring session she was thrilled to introduce her tutor and explain what the tutor was doing).

Posted by: slacker mom | December 18, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

"The idea of team teaching is that both teachers share the classroom duties. Though the special education teacher is in there because of students with IEPs, (s)he does not work with only those students."

It is simply insane that the "special" kids are in the same classroom with the normal kids, disrupting the place and holding everyone back. Inexorably a classroom with "special" kids and normal kids is only going to move at the pace of the slowest, to the detriment of all.

Posted by: Lugo | December 18, 2007 8:10 AM | Report abuse

It's apparent that "Get a Life" is not a parent! I assume he/she was one of those kids who threw around the "retard" label in school!

We all hope for the best for our children. We feel our children's scraped knees, bruises and heartaches as if they were our own.

Posted by: Keith | December 18, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

There is nothing "insane" about having children with special needs in a regular education classroom. Perhaps if you, Lugo, had a wider diversity in your classroom growing up you would be more open and accepting of people who are different from yourself.

Posted by: SPED Grad Student | December 18, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I know each kid is different and there is not a "one size fits all" cure, but here is my story:

Through elementary and middle school I was in and out of "remedial" classes (mostly for English and math). As early as the third grade I remember being pulled from
class to have one-on-one classes and a battery of tests to try and figure out what was "wrong". I don't remember if the school ever came to a conclusion, but by the time I went to high school I was placed in normal level classes and my learning problems were ignored.

I proceed to fake my way through high school. I never studied outside of class and became an expert at finding the loopholes. During this time I was also a prospect for Division I (one) college soccer, so academics were low on my list of priorities. Furthermore, since I was "passing" my classes, there was no reason to draw attention to my deficiencies.

By my senior year of high school, I had never read a book for pleasure and I am sure my reading and math level was 2 or 3 years behind where they should have been. But, as a fluke, I was recruited by a military academy and that all quickly changed.

The big change was that I was forced to study. There were no more free passes and teachers looking at me with pity. So I focused. It was very difficult at first as I studied for 5 or 6 hours each night only to get Cs and Ds, however I slowly got the hang of studying and survived.

During my junior year at the Academy, I had more tests based on the recommendation of my Spanish teacher (bad English translated to bad Spanish). After two full days of tests I was diagnosed with "likely" learning problems and the most likely culprit was dyslexia, however my brain had found ways to work around the problems so it was difficult to identify. Ultimately, by the time I graduated I had a B average.

Although I still battle with my letter switching, spelling, grammar, and lack of times tables, I am now in a Masters program at a tier-one university with an A average.
The point of my story is that as a kid on the bubble between "special" and "normal", what I lacked was hard work. At the Academy I received constant additional help from my professors, but not because I was "special", but because I was motivated.
Ultimately, I came from a great school system and received help early in my education, however until I was forced to apply myself I was never going to learn how to work around my problems.

Posted by: Mike | December 18, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Children know when they are "different". All kids feel different, but some are more different than others. (This is starting to sound like "Animal Farm".) Honesty is the best policy. In particular, parents of special needs kids need to let their children know that they are SMART -- in some cases, they're brilliant. I was diagnosed ages ago with ADD when no one had heard of it. I took medication (for which I had to go to the nurse) and thought that I was probably mildly retarded or something but that no one was going to tell me about it. I did okay in school, finishing with a solid B average, but I wasn't working up to my potential -- because I thought I didn't have any. When I was in college taking a class on teaching reading, we were discussing attention deficit disorder and how a child has to have at least average and usually above average intelligence for such a diagnosis. I was thunderstruck. Left the classroom in tears, called my mother and yelled "You never told me I was smart!" All my life until that point I believed I would never achieve much because of this "disorder".

My grades from that point on were straight As (except that damned biology class) and I have been essentially unstoppable in my professional life. So please, please believe in your kids and let them know they're not stupid.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | December 18, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

To Mike:

Hmmm...perhaps I was sitting next to you?

Growing up in the Fairfax County School System I felt as if:

Yes, they labeled us early and often and we all talked about it on the playground and discussed who got speach therapy, who got help with math, who sat in a higher grade only for math, and on and on. The children were fully aware of the evaluating and classifying - and I bet they still are!

I also was "remedial" for a while, and I personally thought it was ridiculous. I could read on a very high level, but I couldn't spell, no matter how many times they tried special classes with me.

There was no threshold level below which you can fall in my schools - if I did badly, was lazy, or didn't understand, I was either withdrawn from the class, got a bad grade or had to re-take it.

I'm with Mike - no motivation from teachers since I was a marginal student anyway, who cared? I wasn't a superstar and I wasn't clearly needing extradorinary services. I was on the low end of average in some subjects, excelled in others, and still can't spell.

I think the school systems fail in educating students in the middle, more than on either end of the educational spectrum.

Posted by: Amelia | December 18, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"I think the school systems fail in educating students in the middle, more than on either end of the educational spectrum."

Yes, as a student primarily of the 80's (I graduated in 1992), I agree 100% with this statement. The super bright ("G and T") kids were made to shine and knew darn well they were 'smart' from about 4th grade on, the "special ed" kids were labeled as that (and in their own class for everything buy art, music, gym, etc. -- they were not 'mainstreamed'), so the kids in the middle were just that -- in the middle.

I had a really hard time getting into Honors English for my senior year of high school because I hadn't been in it before! I got my way and did pretty well in the class and then wondered why I hadn't been put in honors classes before. Oh that's right, way back in Elem. School, I wasn't "G and T".

After HS, I earned 3 degrees (an AAS and 2 BS's) in 5 years, followed by a Masters 4 years later.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | December 18, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I work in higher ed, and I know that I've heard similar conversations about exactly what potential means. The question we sometimes throw around is: Are there still any kids anymore who simply aren't college material? Is it unethical for a college or university to continue to collect tuition money from someone who perhaps shouldn't be going to college? And how is it that kids can go through 13 years of school and not come to terms with the fact that there are things they're good at, and other things where maybe they're not?

I think that what the poster quoted in the paragraphs above MAY have been trying to say (although badly) is that in some cases, parents might be refusing to accept that their children may have actual limitations. Perhaps even two highly educated adults can and sometimes do produce a child who isn't necessarily college material. There's no shame in that. It doesn't mean the child isn't kind or good or worthy, or even that he or she is going to have a bad life.

But sometimes I think some parents campaign to have their children labelled special, and to have an aide, and medication, and special tutoring and extra time on all the tests and exams, because they themselves are unable to accept that their children may actually have limitations. That's not fair to anyone, including the child. \

For example, there are a number of children at my kid's elementary school who last year had an aide READ them the SOL for READING COMPREHENSION. How exactly is that benefitting anyone? In some cases, these parents might be better off simply releasing their kids to be their flawed, imperfect selves -- and stop pushing hard for academic advantages for kids for whom academics might be less important than a whole lot of other things. Sadly, not everyone is college material.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Just one comment on the "mainstreaming" - it generally works well if the support services are there, but there have to be some limits. My wife is a special education teacher, assigned to work with a grade three student who was very violent. For whatever reason (and given medical privacy laws I'm not privy to the details), this boy would lash out at others for no apparent reason. The kids would be working quietly at their desks on some assignment, and this child would get up and start beating on another child picked apparently at random. He would also beat the teachers - it seems that since he figured out the adults wouldn't hit him back like some other kids would, it was "fun" to hit them. My wife spent a good deal of her time physically restraining this child - she learned numerous ways to do that without causing him physical harm.

That's a kid who doesn't belong in a mainstream class, and the school system was finally forced to move him out of the classroom into a Catholic-run special education facility for disturbed children.

(In Ontario, there are two publicly-funded, parallel school systems, the secular "public" schools and the Catholic schools. It's a long story dealing largely with the French vs English language/culture issues, but it's there. And it turns out that for whatever reason the Catholic schools had better facilities in this case than the "public" schools did.)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | December 18, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

At my daughter's school, for the most part, the "special needs" children are mainstreamed as well. There is also a GT/LD class, however. The children are divided up across the grade for reading and math so, contrary to Lugo's comment, all the children are able to be taught at the level appropriate for them. My daughter mentioned to me one day that some of her friends get pulled out for speech. I asked her what that meant (I knew but wanted to see what her perception was). She said that they worked with another teacher in small groups because they needed extra help sometimes. I told her I thought it was wonderful that they were getting the help they needed and that everyone needs extra help sometimes. These children are not teased or taunted at all. For my daughter, I think it's helpful knowing that these resources are available.

So, Mike, I would weigh in on not hiding this from your son. "Special" does not mean retarded and I think kids today know that. My son has a special need that could never be concealed -- he wears a prosthesis to walk b/c he lost part of his leg to bone cancer. He can't run as fast as his friends and has trouble with some physical activities. He's in his last year of preschool and I've lost many a night's sleep worrying about how kids will treat him in elementary school. So much of the play with the boys at recess is physical and if he can't keep up will he lose friends? And, he will need to have a special curriculum for PE. I can only protect him so much, however. He will find friends who will accept him as he is and may unfortunately suffer the torment of teasing or isolation. It will make him a stronger, more sensitive person. It will break my heart, which was already broken once with the cancer, but I will be there for him to support him, love him and encourage him every step of the way. That's our job, our most precious job that we all love so much.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | December 18, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

For teasing and things, I think it's true that kids can find something to tease about almost no matter what, and so that's kind of a separate social issue.

For the labels though, I think a lot of it comes down to the details. I think it's very important to tell the child what the base issue is and not let it stay generic. No one is "special needs," really; that's a grouping of many specific learning differences and physical challenges all lumped together, which is totally not helpful.

My cousin was profoundly dyslexic to the point that one doctor said she was "retarded," but once that was correctly identified, she got some support - and then the hard work was up to her. But she knew what the issue was and now to explain it, rather than thinking she was stupid. She now has dual Masters, one in stats, and is a teacher herself.

I also agree with the comment above that it is really important to not set only one goal (university, say) as "success." Fitting a child who might be really talented as a craftsman or entrepreneur into an academic mold is just asking for disaster.

Posted by: Shandra | December 18, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

9:10: I think your missing the point. There is a wide range of special education programs. A good number of these kids do not have any cognitive delays at all. In fact at the preschool level the number one delay is speech and language, which has nothing to do with cognitive development. In fact, the vast majority of these kids will go on to normal or typical academic life after the very early grades of preschool. The second biggest special education label is ADD/ADHD which again has no barring on cognitive ability. But a good number of the kids are in there for motor skills delays, social delays (mild forms of autism), and there is a minority of kids that do have cognitive delays. Some of these kids will go on to overcome their cognitive delays and some won't. Clearly a person with downs syndrome will never over come fully the cognitive delays. But case in point, my friend who has a PhD in economics was labelled special ed in math and reading in the early grades. I can tell you now, she can run circles mathematically around 99% of this country. I think there is a common misconception that parents, especially parents of young children, are pushing for special education services to give their kid some kind of academic advantage. Are you serious? It is heart breaking to hear your child has a problem. And as far as college goes, unless your kid is some sort of genius (and few are), there are no guarantee any kid is going to finish four years of college in 4 years if at all. The vast majority of this country still does not complete a four year degree. You may have some valid point in the later years of schools that parents are so desparate for academic advantages that they will work the system. But I can tell you that no one and I mean no one is thrilled to learn their preschooler has a learning disability. And it is important to note, just because your kid has a learning disability now doesn't mean they will be delayed in the future. BTW, my kid is in special ed preschool. She has a very mild form of autism. She doesn't have ANY cognitive delays but she has the social skills of a slug. We are working on that. And no, I was not over joyed to learn she had autism. And college is pretty far down our thoughts right now.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

WDC 21113 I could not agree more. I was not in the G and T program but was tracked with those students for all my classes in Middle School. Three times a year the G and T students would get to go on field trips and I would not be allowed to go. There was one other student who was similarly lacking in talent and gifts. Todd and I would go from class to class those days all by ourselves. Most teachers did not even show up having no idea that we were not part of the G and T program, those that were there clearly did not teach us as they would have to repeat the lessons to the other 25 students and there was one teacher who really took the whole thing to heart and attempted to let administration send us on the next field trip. That was a no go. I never did figure out why.

Todd and I did well in our classes even though we were somehow less bright than the other kids. Now and then we would joke with the teachers that we should get extra credit for having to do all the work but not have gift and talents that the others did.

Talking to other people over the years I realize how lucky we were to be allowed in the classes at all. Lots of schools do not permit this and I am glad ours did. Being denied some field trips is goofy being denied a challenging education is detrimental.

Posted by: Also 1992 | December 18, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree with lugo re. mainstreaming. Who exactly is it helping? Only the special-needs student. It's not helping the other 15-20 students in the class who are going to be forced to learn at a slower pace or in some cases be in physical peril. Like m2j5c2, I know of a student the Fairfax Co high school system refused to throw out because he was special needs and they were afraid they would get sued. One day he beat on a kid and the VICTIM'S mom turned around and sued BOTH the school AND the special-needs kid's mom!! I believe she won, and I was so happy that someone finally had brought a lawsuit to stop the touchy-feely lunacy! The special-needs kid was kicked out of school, and finally the school was safe again.

If the problem is benign like they're dyslexic or have poor hand-eye coordination - mainstream 'em. If they have more severe problems, admit that you have been dealt some really bad luck and deal with it ... but don't try to bring everyone around you down as well by attempting to shove a square peg in a round hole.

Posted by: Anon | December 18, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome, you are being a little misleading about parental motives. There was a recent article - here in the Post I believe - about how parents of children with Down's are upset that 90% of Down's babies are being aborted. One of the reasons for this was that "if there are fewer Down's babies, then funding might be cut for programs for people with Down's!"

Posted by: To foamgnome | December 18, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

This discussion happens quite a lot at our house. Our oldest has been obviously g&t since beginning school. He qualified on the test scores alone in 2nd grade. Our middle is an undermotivated but very bright average (in our county means on grade level) and our third is medically diagnosed autistic who is scheduled to be mainstreamed Kindergarten next year. We have found that each child struggles and excelles at their own pace and with their own issues and our job rather than judging the world around them is to prepare them, help them, encourage them and love them.
Who they become is yet to be seen but so much emphasis on what other people think, from experts, teachers, friends is much less important than what they believe about themselves. That comes mostly from home. The world is full of people who do really well in school and can't get the hang of "real" life and vice versa. Are we sure we can predict so much of a child's future from all this testing rather than teaching them to do their best in the challenges they face?

Posted by: 3mzmom | December 18, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Although the comment made by Get a Life was extremely insensitive, I think he/she has a good point to make. I live in an area where the emphasis on academic achievement is so great, it's becomming the sole indicator of success. In a way, it's a shame because there are so many other characteristics of human endeavor that makes a person wholesome. It's not the fault of the education system itself, but I do believe that the people that have gained success through its principles are using it as a tool to seperate the successful from the failures.

Lugo's earlier comment, "It is simply insane that the "special" kids are in the same class with the normal kids", points out that people accept the belief that the major goal of educating a child is to stuff his/her head full of as much information, logic, and facts as possible. OK, fine. But if a parent, or system, focuses on the educational development of a child to the detriment of the parent's or child's social and emotional wellbeing, I don't think that any good could come from it.

There's a lot more to life than cognative development! Live it well!

Posted by: DandyLion | December 18, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

When my daughter was born she had trouble breathing and was whisked off to the NICU. In my confused, scared and exhausted (labor was long and I had not slept) state I asked how long the nurse thought she would be in the NICU. She is not in the NICU I was told in a rather condescending tone. Your daughter is in the Special Care Nursery. I then tried to ascertain what on earth a Special Care Nursery was, better or worse than a NICU, who was special versus who was not special etc. Finally, a kinder, friendlier nurse informed me that the hospital had changed the name of the NICU to Special Care Nursery so it would be less intimitating and frightening to parents.

Are you kidding me, my brand new baby turned blue when she ate, had IV's in her arms, monitors on her chest, was in an incubator (properly termed isolette), I was given CPR classes before I was allowed to change her diaper and the hospital thought this whole situation would be less upsetting because no one said the word NICU.

The nursery for the not so special babies was called the step down nursery and for the truly not special it was the well baby nursery. Never in my life did I realize how stupid the term special had become. All the babies were special to their families, most of them were well, some were a little sick and other needed intensive care and believe me that is what I wanted to hear. Your baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where doctors and nurses with specific training are taking excellent care of her. Would have been far more assuring than don't worry it is a Special Care Nursery.

Posted by: Special from Birth | December 18, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Not every kid gets teased or bullied, but some do.

----

BULL.

Every kid I ever knew got teased or bullied.
The teachers spent time in almost every class I was ever in giving this or that kid a time out. Right now, in my son's class, there's one boy bully and one girl bully and I've personally seen them torment every single one of the kids in the class at least once.

I've never heard of a kid who went through 12 years of school without someone picking on them. You're completely wrong.

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome, you are being a little misleading about parental motives. There was a recent article - here in the Post I believe - about how parents of children with Down's are upset that 90% of Down's babies are being aborted. One of the reasons for this was that "if there are fewer Down's babies, then funding might be cut for programs for people with Down's!"

Posted by: To foamgnome | December 18, 2007 09:36 AM

I was talking about children who were born not deciding if a child should be born. Being labeled special needs after your born is a completely different situation. I was responding to someone who said their parents are pushing their children to be labelled special needs to get an academic advantage in college. Deciding if a child should be aborted or born has nothing to do with it. I won't go into the abortion debate because it is a purely a personal decision and way beyond this blog topic.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

You're right. There's also COGNITIVE development.

Posted by: to DandyLion | December 18, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I left out two important things from my description of my son's class: the two bullies appear to be bullied by older siblings.

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I can tell you I'm not happy with the results of special Ed in Fairfax county. Special Ed is supposed to be about recognizing that some kids are just as smart as their peers, but they need to learn in a different way. Despite efforts to avoid it, the Special Ed program in Fairfax makes its participants look like the dumb kids.

My daughter is a graduating senior and has had an IEP since 5th grade, for a minor learning disability that makes it difficult for her to convert what she hears into words. It was taking her three hours to do one hour's worth of homework. She was exhausting herself on her work. The school was reluctant to put her into special ed because her problem was not that severe, but we wanted to ensure that her needs were recognized so that she could get extra help in class and extra time on tests. However, what happened wasn't truly individualized instruction. My daughter got lumped in with a group of kids with far more serious disabilities than her own, and the program did virtually nothing to help her become self-sufficient without the extra help.

Further, the team taught classes in high school are often where they put the kids who aren't labeled "LD" but often behave badly or don't do well in school. The result is to compound the very problems the LD kids have. My daughter was very unhappy with the program, and in hindsight, I am sorry we ever put her in it. She would have been better off learning to cope with her disabilities on her own than with the "help" the LD program gave her. She would have gotten a better education with better teachers, too.

Simply put, the LD program in Fairfax is geared toward kids with very serious problems. The kids who have minor problems and just need a little extra help have no place in their system.

As for the woman who is worried about her son discovering he has a learning disability, don't worry, he knows, and has probably known since third grade.

Fairfax has a great school system if your kid is average. It has a great school system if your kid is really smart. It has a great school system if your kid has profound learning disabilities or handicaps. But, if your kid doesn't fit one of those molds, he or she won't get the help she needs.

Posted by: John | December 18, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

1. The apple does not always fall near the tree. I have 5 children. None of them is the academic that my wife or I was.
2. Teasing is a means kids use to establish dominance in their society. It can get out of hand. The Columbine incident was motivated by teasing. Everyone, in some way, falls out of some mainstream. If a child can make light of the initial gesting they receive, it will usually end. This is different than bullying, which ia a mark of a real personality problem.
3. Children know when they are being treated differently by their teachers. Trying to supress from your child that they are educationally different is futile.
4. If your child NEVER reads outside of the classroom, look into it.
5. Success in the classroom will not necessarily be a measure of success in life.

Posted by: John D. | December 18, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/15/AR2007111502031.html

I just read the article on down syndrome that I think you were talking about. It said nothing about parents wanting kids to be born to keep funding up. The whole article is simply stating that they want people to consider down syndrome as a fulfilling life and not to abort. Again abortion is way beyond this topic. As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I can tell that I do NOT wish more kids were born with this condition or that the a cure should not be found for any reason. Why would I want any parent or child to go through this stress. It would be completely strange and selfish for me to wish this on any one else. Enough said about this.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

re: foamgnome

While I can't vouch for how widespread the issue is, I can say that yes, I knew a kid who was on a full sports scholarship to Duke University and his helicopter mother got him declared some kind of learning disability that at Duke would allow him extra time to complete exams. She found out what the policies were at Duke from another parent and found a doctor willing to certify him in his senior year in high school. I don't know the details but she was really proud because this kid was no Einstein. I was there when she told us the story.

Of course he flunked out because he was:
1. an athlete
2. no einstein
3. at Duke, a tougher school than I got into

In general though, I admire the woman's persistence to do something to help her kid get ahead, even though it was ethically questionable. I wish my parents had put that much effort into my college plans, seeing as how they let me fail in situations that still affect me during grad school applications.

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

DCer: I do think there is a fair amount of working the system for the older grades. My point was Mike's kid is in preschool and from my own personal experience parents are in no way hoping that their child would get labelled special needs in preschool to have any academic advantage. Most parents can't see through the emotional drama around learning their young child has a problem to think about college SATs. It is said that college has become the corner stone of success in this country that parents are willing to do that to get their child in college. It hurts the truly special needs people as well as the typical people. I can tell you I long for the day that my daughter won't need any special services. Academically speaking, my daughter is right on target and learns very naturally. Like I said her issue is socially. And I am prepared that she may need services going through high school. I hope not. And I look and listen to other parents and I know they feel the same way. The only parents that seem to think the special education label is nifty are the parents of older children who think this means unlimited time on the SAT. Frankly, the SAT is so far down the road. I am concerned if my kid can make friends in kindergarten; not if she will get into college.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

My gifted, high-performing child began to visibly struggle in the 8th grade. He was hiding it, trying mightily to compensate. Teachers didn't want to hear my concerns, thought I was over-reacting, said it was maturation issues, etc., etc. I knew that there was more to it. Despite his father's strong objections, I had him evaluated, and the results were shocking - showed severe deficits in reading comprehension. Overall evaluation indicated attention deficit. After 2 years of intensive tutoring, my child just received his PSATs. 98th percentiles across the board and maintaining straight A's. He's performing well again, he's confident, and he's fully aware of his weaknesses and what he needs to do to shore them up. Trust your instincts. When you see that your child needs some extra help educationally, get it. If that sets your child apart, help your child to deal with that. What matters is to help your child to understand what s/he has to do to succeed and then to set about doing that.

Posted by: CarolB | December 18, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The only parents that seem to think the special education label is nifty are the parents of older children who think this means unlimited time on the SAT. Frankly, the SAT is so far down the road. I am concerned if my kid can make friends in kindergarten; not if she will get into college.

------

we are in agreement.

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

fr Lugo:

>...It is simply insane that the "special" kids are in the same classroom with the normal kids, disrupting the place and holding everyone back. Inexorably a classroom with "special" kids and normal kids is only going to move at the pace of the slowest, to the detriment of all....

And who would YOU consider to be "normal"? Some jock who constantly sleeps through the English class that he needs to get a C in so he can play on Friday night? Which med school did YOU graduate from???

Posted by: Alex | December 18, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Would be helpful if you clarified what an IEP was; as a first-time reader I don't know the term.

Posted by: KD | December 18, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

No one has special needs. We all have the same needs: to be loved, to be productive in our work, to have and to be a friend, to have areas of competence. These needs are the same no matter if we have a genius level IQ or are Developmentally Delayed. These needs con't change if we have a learning disability or a physical disability. No one has special needs - we all have the same needs - that is the probelm with the term. Some folks need extra help toget thsoe needs met. To say that some folks ahve special needs is to say they are "less" than the rest of us.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

IEP-Individualized Education Plan. A written plan that sets up goals and services needed to meet those goals. The plan should be individual to the student identified.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Would be helpful if you clarified what an IEP was; as a first-time reader I don't know the term.

Posted by: KD | December 18, 2007 10:29 AM


KD:

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. Every child who is determined to have a disability is required to have an IEP, which outlines the means by which the school will ensure that the child will receive "free appropriate public education" or FAPE, as required under Sedction 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Posted by: CarolB | December 18, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

As an aside, sometimes parents forget that there are many fields that kids of average academics can excel in. I knew people who were basically flunking out of high school who had reasonable success in:
1. Music
2. Acting
3. Athletics- like personal coaching, etc
4. Nursing
5. Trades- I had a friend who did "ok" at a landscaping company he owns, but I think he would have excelled as a plumber or electrician
6. Blue collar business- I knew a woman who owned 7 nail shops and made money by renting the booths to the nail people themselves. She wasn't wealthy, but she had 7 stores!
7. Artists- I knew a competent artist who went on to work in construction- painting murals and fake marble on plaster walls.

If I face an issue like this I will encourage my kids to look at the trades.

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Barney teaches us that everybody is special.

Posted by: DandyLion | December 18, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

While "Get a Life"'s statements are a bit harsh, I sometimes wonder about this myself.

A few years ago at my husband's Christmas party, we ended up sitting at a table with three sets of middle-aged parents. All had tween/teen-aged children, and they all talked about their kids' "disabilities".

At first, we felt awkward sitting at the table. As a recently engaged couple in our late 20's/early 30's, we felt like we were invading some sort of private support group. As the evening wore on however, we were just looking to escape to another table.

See, all of their children's "disabilities" were some form of an attention deficit disorder. And all were lamenting their kids' behaviour - none of them liked doing schoolwork or chores, they'd rather just hang out with friends and goof off. As a result, it was just so hard to have a child with a disability who couldn't learn properly.

Let me get this clear: I am NOT negating actual attention deficit disorders. One of my oldest friends (we've known each other since we were 13) was diagnosed as an adult. For years we all loved him but basically labeled him as a brilliant and annoying spaz, and he gave his teachers the headaches caused by having an obviously brilliant student who turned in crappy work. It took Herculean efforts to get him to focus on any task at hand. His diagnosis and drug regimen as an adult has changed his thought process radically, and he says he feels better because of it. So I don't discount the concept of attention deficit disorders, or the drug therapy that can help calm the brain activity down.

But the behaviour these people described? It sounded like general, envelope pushing behaviours of kids at that age. My husband and I were both fairly focused, bookish kids, and in comparing stories, even we acted out from time to time and would rather hang out and goof off. It's the hormones and the general level of maturity, not a developmental disorder.

It also annoyed us. Because my husband is seriously dyslexic. His spelling is atrocious. He tracks text with his finger to read even the most basic things. He struggles with small printed text (i.e. - forget using a phone book). He struggles to put sentences together - both in written form and verbally (I still tease him - when we first started dating, he even wrote down his 5-year old phone number incorrectly!). His learning disability is well documented and he spent years with outside therapists as a child improving his reading and tracking skills.

Yet other than pushing to let him take the SAT's a second time, *untimed* (he didn't need too much extra time per section and it ended up doubling his score), my mother-in-law has never told anyone he has a learning disability. She simply said he's dyslexic and he needs a little more time to process things. He was never "special". She taught him that this was simply how it was going to be and he had to learn to work with it.

How did not being in a special education program to accommodate his dyslexia impact his schooling? He graduated with a Regent's diploma from the NY public school system and is the only person in his family to graduate from a four year university (a B.S. in Electrical Engineering). And definitely the only one with a M.S. (and he's even thinking of a PhD these days).

So yeah, I get angry too, when parents with basically healthy, normal kids who think that their moderately hyper and/or less than brilliant child is given a learning disability or ADD diagnosis. Especially when it seems more to please the parents' vanity or to give them an excuse to not perhaps instill some discipline in their kids than to actually help the child. (Again, *not* saying this about legitimate learning disabilities.)

However, throwing around statements like "Get a Life"'s on a board like this is irresponsible and definitely shows a lack of tact. The Internet is vast, and there are many kids who have actual learning and physical disabilities. I imagine talking about it on the Internet is a huge comfort and resource.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 18, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I have found that in this day and age, schools expect children to learn in the same way. If a child does not, there is a risk that he or she will be labeled learning disabled or more commonly as having attention deficit disorder. One of my kids was labeled ADHD in 3rd grade because an inexperienced teacher insisted that he get tested. And because the testing is subjective, he met the criteria (the teacher scored him off the charts, home score much lower). Like good parents, we started medications. And the meds even in "normal" children work. Fortunately, we realized that despite the fact that he was an underperformer, we felt that he was highly intelligent. We had him tested and found that he was highly gifted and many grades above in math and reading/writing. His school was surprised. Now that he is a teenager (straight A student in all high level classes), he can articulate very well what the issues were in elementary school He says the past (and in fact current school work) "is a joke" and he didn't feel like wasting his time. He preferred reading books he liked (his 3rd grade teacher would not let him choose any of his books). You would hope that a teacher could engage a very bright child, but unfortunately schools are quick to find problems with a child and not with themselves or their program. Also, I found that my child learns differently than the typical child (he learns best by hearing as opposed to being visual so he doesn't need to look at a teacher to be listening and absorbing the lesson) and so may seem different and if a teacher is limited in experience and knowledge, he or she will believe that the child is "learning disabled". My child had an IEP for 2 years before I put a stop to that non-sense (actually a really terrific teacher who recognized his gifts put a stop to it. She also provided him with challenging work that he enjoyed).

I am not saying that any of your children may not have LD or ADHD, but I worry that normal children are being labelled because schools are lazy and quick to label. All children have their strengths or weaknesses and there is a wide spectrum of normal development between K through 3. I now hear that schools are expecting kindergardeners to read which is outrageous since it is often normal for kids not to be ready (and then they are referred for testing and labelled delayed when the kid is clearly normal). I think too that the expectation that all children learn the same way is just wrong.

Posted by: working mother | December 18, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Chas's point is, should these kids just work harder to deal with their disabilities and find a way to succeed and meet the demands of the system? Or should the system have to accommodate them? What's fair?

By law, the system must accommodate them, if they are diagnosed as having certain specified disabilities.

Is that fair? I don't know. What's fair? And to whom?

Ultimately, you can ask if that's what's in the best interest of the child? Does it help them to get ahead? In the short run? In the long run? Can a child with disabilities expect accommodations for the rest of his/her life? Definitely not. At some point, that individual has to perform on the same playing field as the rest of us. Having a disability is not an excuse for not doing the very best that you can do. BUT, in this country, when you're under 22 years old, if you have a disability, you are entitled to a public education. IDEA ensures that you, at a minimum, get that.

Posted by: CarolB | December 18, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

to CarolB:

You said:

"should these kids just work harder to deal with their disabilities and find a way to succeed and meet the demands of the system?"

Actually, that's not my point. My point is more along the lines of working mother's (in the post in between ours). Labels are so easily slapped on and sometimes hard to remove. And sometimes they are inaccurate labels, put there to please an adult...whether it's a parent or an educational professional.

My anecdote is an example of how learning disabilities don't automatically mean you need special education for your entire career. It depends on your deviation from the norm.

When my husband was diagnosed as a child, his school system wanted to immediately put him in Special Ed and my mother-in-law fought tooth and nail to keep him out of it. She knew he was a smart kid; he did not have a developmental or intellectual deficiency, like the majority of kids in his school's Special Ed program. She knew that program was not appropriate for his disability, and had his therapists confirm that to his school system.

It seems that today everyone has to quantify everything. There's a label or a percentile or whatever. And god forbid if you're not in the normal or above average range.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | December 18, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

OK, so it's all the school system's fault you can't produce normal kids. Gee, who do you blame next? Well, la de dah with the T&G students. Aren't you 'special.' Schools don't have the resources to provide an individual teacher for each kid according to his/her special needs. It's up to the parents to bring a healthy, intelligent kid into the world. If you can't do that, you're the failures.

Now go out and buy that special, oh so incredible, always sick kid everything they want to Christmas (such a materialistic time of year, don't you think?) and pay for their car, ballet lessons, soccer uniforms, and ADHD meds. You deserve what you raise in this life. Stop whining.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Many of you are missing the point. Please admit the truth. There is a wide range of intellectual ability in the human race. Some of us are off the charts intelligent, some of us are "average", some of us are just not that smart. DEAL WITH IT!! If your kid is not that intelligent, it's too bad but DEAL WITH IT. Do not force the public school system to hold back the "average" and "above-average" kids to deal with your below-average child. Sure, we all want to think that Junior is a genius, but sadly he or she probably is not. And you can make up all the pyscho-babble reasons and phantom conditions that you want, but please admit the truth. There is a distribution of intelligence, and your kid just happened to get a draw in the lower tail.

Posted by: Get A Life | December 18, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Obviously some of these "Get a Life" characters are just being a mean, bitter human beings who are saying these things out of immaturity and craving attention. These blogs always get troubled people who have nothing better to do than poison everything around them with negative, hateful self-righteousness. However, in this case there may be a certain truth to that sentiment on some level. In our information economy (versus an industrial economy), intelligence, especially verbal intelligence, is at a premium. We are also in a region with no industrial base and a white-collar, advanced educationally-based economy where the "smartest" often rise to the top. It's no accident that Thomas Jefferson High School is consistently ranked as the top or near the top of the best high schools in the country. People in this area especially are all too keenly aware of "tested" intelligence and its corresponding relationship to class. Just like being in shape, having a good-looking mate, wearing stylish clothes, driving a nice new car, and living in a huge McMansion in a brand-name suburb with lots of technological toys and accessories also are markers of wealth, prestige and authority so too is having a high IQ or being "gifted and talented" seen by many as being a reflection of and a stepping-stone to the "important job" and the "good life".

In the work world as well as school to many of us the very worst thing we can be called or thought of is stupid. It's because it means we're not as valuable as someone who is smarter and can not manage in the world as well. It's equivalent to failure or being a "loser". Children know this from an early age because of their own native competitiveness as well as the messages they receive from their families. A lot of bullying and teasing comes from trying to establish and enforce dominance and it continues in (slightly) more subtle forms in adulthood. We are competitive animals and those who have had personal success in their own lives often expect that their children will inevitably follow suit. I've talked to parents who seem to believe sending their child to an Ivy is their birthright. For parents like these having a child with special developmental needs often means first rearranging expectations for the lives their child might or might not be able to have. Though it's honestly a crushing blow to our hearts we must be honest enough to know that having a child who doesn't fit our idea of what a child of ours should be like is also a crushing blow to our egos as well.

The good news is that intelligence isn't just a fixed number you live with for the rest of our lives. It can be worked with. Despite it sounding hokey and precious there is true wisdom in that old "Forrest Gump" maxim of "stupid is as stupid does". Hard work, character and perseverance really do matter AT LEAST as much as an IQ of over 140. It matters in terms of quality of life, life decisions, how far we go with the talent we have as well as our overall happiness and contentment with our lives. If more emphasis was made on humility and hard work there would be more successful as well as more happy people out there. Many of those tagged as "special" or "short bus" internalize those labels and live out those labels. The biggest tragedy is the waste of talent and productivity of people who've given up on themselves because they weren't told to ignore what category some test put them into and go for their dreams. It would also be a good lesson to those who pride themselves too much on their "intelligence" that there are more meaningful attributes than what a number on limited test puts us at.

Posted by: Mikey O | December 18, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Lots of interesting threads here:

"School systems expect all children to learn the same way". The ideal system of instruction would be a private tutor for each child, smart and well-trained enough to use the child's preferred learning style and strengths. As a society, we are not prepared to devote that level of resources to public education, so it's pretty much a given that classroom teaching will not mesh well with every student. It seems to me that one role of parents is to help their children adapt to that situation to the extent possible. Complaining about the limitations of public schools (and because this is a local log, there's a lot of complaining about Fairfax which is probably miles head of most public school districts in coming to grips with these issues) is a bit like complaining about the weather. It's not fair that some children have to work much harder than their peers - or be bored - but that's a good rehearsal for life.

I think it's also true that children who are unfocused, unmotivated or who have some processing issues that don't rise to a formal disability can be easily lost in the system. (As a parent, I've been there.) But again, with limited resources it makes sense that schools focus on children for whom lack of help means disaster or permanent marginalization (e.g. lifelong illiteracy) rather than performance short of their ideal potential. Again, parents need to be front and center motivating and encouraging their children. Even at their best, schools can't do that if the parents aren't right there following up.

Posted by: lurkette | December 18, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Get a Life says, "DEAL WITH IT!!", and that's exactly what parents are doing by advocating for mainstreaming their child or qualifying them for special education programs.

And that's exactly what I advise of parents of normal children or above average abilities that are being held back, "DEAL WITH IT!!"

Posted by: DandyLion | December 18, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome, that's not the article, I had the wrong newspaper ... it was the Tuscson Citizen.

"Many Down syndrome parents fear the worst. Such universal testing can potentially greatly reduce the ranks of those living with Down syndrome. If fewer children are born with the disorder, federal funding for research likely would decline and government support programs could be slashed."

http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/70237.php

Posted by: To foamgnome | December 18, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Mikey O. The transition to the information society has been a social shock, and (we) competitive suburbanites (not pretending to speak for anybody else on this blog as that would be a recipe for multiple flaming...) have fallen into the trap of believing that only one set of cognitive skills has value or prestige. We may regret that in the future as we lose the ability to observe and cope with the 99% of the world around us that is not symbols on a screen.

Posted by: lurkette | December 18, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

12:21: That is really sad. But these parents are not thinking too clearly. Because with every additional child born with down syndrome, the funding may increase but so is the number of users. The net result is probably the same. Overall, I think the driving force for these parents is with each child with down syndrome that is aborted, it makes them feel as if their child's life wasn't worth living. That is something that is highly personal. Again, not relevant today discussion because these children are already born.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"The ideal system of instruction would be a private tutor for each child, smart and well-trained enough to use the child's preferred learning style and strengths. As a society, we are not prepared to devote that level of resources to public education, so it's pretty much a given that classroom teaching will not mesh well with every student."

I think lurkette is right and that we're hearing extreme opinions because we're still in a period of transition with this issue. In past years, many children who could have been helped were not helped. Past generations of parents were trusting of the authority of the school system and may not have been as informed about cognitive development.

The flip side is that so many children now have IEPs. In a neighboring town in my major metro area, 40% of the children in the elementary school have an IEP and are receiving special services. I'm not surprised that there is controversy over how much we can and are willing to support this level of services. Schools have cut art, music, and phys. ed. already. Parents of typically developing kids don't want to see their children denied resources either. It's not that most parents want to deny special ed where it's needed, but it's not clear to me that a 40% IEP rate would be reasonable or sustainable.

Parents today in relatively affluent suburbs probably are more informed about what kinds of help are available. We've just come out of a period of relative prosperity for the upper middle class. Municipalities have had the benefit of increased tax revenue and have been able to provide more services in the schools. I wonder what will happen now real estate assessments will affect the tax revenue negatively. Will schools cut even more resources available to typically developing children to be able to provide the increasing demands for special ed?

Posted by: Marian | December 18, 2007 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you and am honestly not trying to throw red herrings out there. My point is: some parents simply like to play political games for funding for their kid, and I think a lot of people would be less sympathetic to this subset of parents if they knew this.

Keep my kid in this school or I'll sue.

Don't you dare recommend a private school or I'll sue.

Accept them into this neighboring district with better resources or I'll sue.

Spend thousands of additional taxpayer dollars on a program that ONLY my kid will be using, or I'll sue sue sue.

Posted by: To foamgnome | December 18, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

>>>An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan. Every child who is determined to have a disability is required to have an IEP, which outlines the means by which the school will ensure that the child will receive "free appropriate public education" or FAPE, as required under Sedction 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Section 504 is under the Americans with Disabilities Act. FAPE is associated with IDEA. Parents often make the mistake that 504 provides their child with special education -- 504 is NOT special ed and uses different criteria.

Posted by: to CarolB | December 18, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I agree with lugo re. mainstreaming. Who exactly is it helping? Only the special-needs student. It's not helping the other 15-20 students in the class who are going to be forced to learn at a slower pace or in some cases be in physical peril. Like m2j5c2, I know of a student the Fairfax Co high school system refused to throw out because he was special needs and they were afraid they would get sued. One day he beat on a kid and the VICTIM'S mom turned around and sued BOTH the school AND the special-needs kid's mom!! I believe she won, and I was so happy that someone finally had brought a lawsuit to stop the touchy-feely lunacy! The special-needs kid was kicked out of school, and finally the school was safe again.

If the problem is benign like they're dyslexic or have poor hand-eye coordination - mainstream 'em. If they have more severe problems, admit that you have been dealt some really bad luck and deal with it ... but don't try to bring everyone around you down as well by attempting to shove a square peg in a round hole.

Posted by: Anon | December 18, 2007 09:28 AM

My older son has been mainstreamed since 4th grade. He's a 10th grader now. His diagnosis is autism, and his SDC (Special Day Classes) from preschool through 3rd grade were Language Delay / Communication Handicap classes, not autism spectrum classes, because it took us years to get a good diagnosis, and because the school district was putting all kids with speech and language issues into those classes without regard for any of their other difficulties or disabilities.

He benefits from mainstreaming because he's considered "high-functioning" - and because he's always risen to the level of those around him. He's never brought anyone down to his level. When he was in SDC, he was on-track with the rest of the kids in that class. When he was mainstreamed he rose to the level of the neurotypical kids in his class.

His classmates benefited in several ways from him being with them. He's always had a one-on-one aide (since 2nd grade, when we *finally* got the autism diagnosis), and the regular education teachers have an extra person in the classroom with them helping out. The students get to help with someone incredibly sweet, but who is very easily distracted, and takes extra care and support, and this gives them the chance to build their own skills and self-esteme. My favorite example of this (there are many others) was the 6th grade earth science teacher who said that his most challenging student in the class - the typical big-for-his-age, poor-academic-skills, bully - had "adopted" my son. The big kid would get my boy back on track when he was distracted from class, and would protect him from other kids making remarks or teasing him. The teacher said the other kid had stopped being a discipline problem, and was improving his learning and his grades.

As I said, these sorts of things have happened over and over during my son's school career. It's obvious that a well-designed mainstream program (we live in Oakland, CA and our district's autism-spectrum inclusion program was very cutting-edge, and has become something of a model for other districts around the country) benefits not only the Spec. Ed. students, but the teachers and the typical kids too.

If it's not working in someone else's district, or in their childhood experiences, I don't think it will help to exclude the Spec. Ed. kids. Besides costing the school district(s) piles of money because it would violate state and federal laws, it deprives all the kids the opportunities to learn about people who are different than themselves, and to grow their empathy and their own unique abilities.

This whole "physical peril" notion - I live in Oakland, and I think people using that argument are fools. We had a shooting after a high school basketball game last week, and the main response was, "thankfully, nobody got killed this time."

Yes, occasionally a kid with discipline problems can become a problem in a classroom, and if that child is also special needs, the administration can have a very difficult time removing the child from a mainstream classroom. It happened that way in 4th grade, the first year my son was in a regular class instead of SDC. Guess what - we (our family) gave the district the support they needed to get the kid the placement and help he needed. First my husband talked to the other family, and suggested some of the supports that our family was receiving - their child appeared to have an autism-spectrum disorder, but was undiagnosed. Then we wrote a letter describing the situation. The problem kid was mean, he'd hurt other students for no reason, and while we greatly appreciated the other students who'd get between our son and the problem kid when the class played kickball at recess, so our son wasn't hit so hard that he was knocked down and hurt, it wasn't the students' job to protect their classmate, and the situation had to be addressed. The letter of complaint from a parent was all the district needed to be able to solve the problem, and I'm sorry that your district couldn't solve their problem without legal action.

So, now you don't have to ask how mainstreaming benefits the "normal" kids. I've just given you some examples. I have plenty more, if you still have any doubts.

Posted by: Sue | December 18, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

If your kid is not that intelligent, it's too bad but DEAL WITH IT. Do not force the public school system to hold back the "average" and "above-average" kids to deal with your below-average child.

----

oh please, this old canard. I've talked to people before who think any special ed or remedial teachers with higher salaries cost taxpayers more and take away from average kids. So you suggest that the kids just go through school from K to 9th grade or so failing 4 or 5 grades?

Only a true whiner would complain withour proffering solutions. You stepped in it "Get a Life" as an adult you have accepted the responsibility of providing this list with a solution: what is it?

To back down from your stance would be most cowardly. Are you a coward with no beliefs or are you an adult?

Posted by: DCer | December 18, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"There is nothing "insane" about having children with special needs in a regular education classroom. Perhaps if you, Lugo, had a wider diversity in your classroom growing up you would be more open and accepting of people who are different from yourself."

It is absolutely insane. School is not about being "open and accepting". Nor, believe it or not, is it about "diversity". School is about learning the material - THAT is why I pay taxes to support the public school system. Anything that stands in the way of learning the material should be eliminated, including especially the presence of the disruptive and stupid.

Posted by: Lugo | December 18, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

School is about learning the material - THAT is why I pay taxes to support the public school system. Anything that stands in the way of learning the material should be eliminated, including especially the presence of the disruptive and stupid.

Posted by: Lugo | December 18, 2007 02:54 PM

So according to you the "disruptive and stupid" should be elimated - but I thought the point was about "learning the material" - so how do you propose the public schools have the "disruptive and stupid" "learn the material"?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

actually - I used to teach in the public school system - and A LOT of parents despite the pleadings of teachers or administrators will insist that their child is not placed in special ed or receive special services. The stigma is very real and most of the time it is a severe detriment to the child. But for better or worse you can't put the child in over the parents objection (they just remove the child from the school - I have seen this happen multiple times). Its sad too because a lot of children with a little help early on can catch up and get out.

And whoever said that it depends on the kid and the school when it comes to being picked on for being in special ed is joking right? Its a hard thing to deal with, but it happens everywhere.

Posted by: rbc | December 18, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Anything that stands in the way of learning the material should be eliminated, including especially the presence of the disruptive and stupid.
---

quit whining ya whiner and propose a solution.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Section 504 is under the Americans with Disabilities Act. FAPE is associated with IDEA. Parents often make the mistake that 504 provides their child with special education -- 504 is NOT special ed and uses different criteria.

Posted by: Anon| December 18, 2007 01:23 PM

The right to FAPE is covered under both IDEA and 504. IDEA specifies the many obligations of the States in serving children with disabilities, while 504 provides the basic right of individuals with disabilities to federal services: "Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds. Section 504 provides that: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . ." 1" http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html#note1

Posted by: CarolB | December 18, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Re: mainstreaming, my two cents. I am a 44-year-old person with a physical disability. I was mainstreamed in first grade, but back before that concept even existed. I was the first kid with a disability ever to go to my elementary school. The principal was concerned about whether I would be accepted and whether it would be disruptive or of concern to the other kids. My Mom convinced him to let us give it a try.

Here's what happened. I was just another kid, learning, playing, dealing and coping with other kids. Got teased, teased others, had good days, and bad days, just like any other kid.

The other kids got to learn about differences, and most of them were as blind to my disability as I was. It was great to be with kids my own age.

My personal feeling is that mainstreaming is best for the 'special' kids and for those alongside them. Kids who are isolated in 'special education' schools and classes are less prepared and less socially adept at the point in time where they enter society at large. And the 'regular' kids learn that people are people, and hopefully learn some lessons about generosity, tolerance and kindness, and learn that life will hold challenges that are survivable.

I am still shocked, even after years of exposure, to the level of hostility that people have toward persons with any type of disability: cogntive or physical. I think deep down this is prompted by fear of the unknown, but it sure comes off as hatred.

To this day, I am grateful that my Mom let me just be another kid at school, taking my lumps, making friends, and learning alongside everyone else.

Posted by: NW DC | December 18, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I didn't get much exposure to people who were different than me when I was growing up attending exurban and rural schools with pretty much exclusively "po' white trash" populations. Today, I work with a black man from urban So. Cal., a woman born in Hong Kong, a manager from India, and various contractors from various places around the world.

I learned to cope with all this diversity during my Air Force enlistment, and believe me, I made some stellar mistakes and seriously offended people because of the blinders of my childhood, and the race-garbage that I absorbed when I was too young to know better.

I choose to live in Oakland because it's the most diverse city in the SF bay area - the Bay Area is the most diverse region in CA - the state is the most diverse in the country - and our country is the most diverse on the planet.

I don't want my children to have the same problems I faced learning to deal with people who aren't just like us. I want them to know all kinds of people, and to be comfortable anywhere with anyone.

Some people don't seem to understand that this is also a function of the public school system - integrating everyone into the society.

That isn't the same thing as creating a homogeneous society where we're all the same. I love attending Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and getting sweets for Diwali, and Dragon Boat races, and Taiko drumming, and Chinese New Year parades, and all of it.

While we're integrating all the cultural and racial diversity - what a beautiful, colorful and fun place I get to live, it makes my childhood seem so boring and bland, and well, beige.

Anyway, while we're including all of that, lets also include those with different abilities and disabilities. My disabled son has an incredible talent for music. His piano teacher is regularly blown away by his abilities, and envies the boy's perfect pitch. I've watched my son silence a room by singing a capella. He loves drama classes, and can memorize hours of lines, and deliver them with good projection, intonation, and appropriate emotional expression. (if only he could do that without a script!) The other kids in his program have the same difficulties as he does, but each of them has different strengths and abilities. It's really fun and exciting to see them interacting with each other and their neurotypical peers. They encourage each other, applaud everyone's successes, and support each other through their difficulties and struggles.

Maybe for some people, it's important that their children only be "taught the material" and only be exposed to people just like them. I don't understand that. I missed so much growing up in an environment where everyone was pretty much the same, and I can't understand why depriving a child of experiences of difference would be thought a good thing.

We all live in an increasingly diverse world, and learning about differences from the earliest years seems like an important lesson which will give a child a valuable skill for life. I want my children to learn that lesson and develop that skill, and that's why they're in public school.

Posted by: Sue | December 18, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2007/12/17/an-ousd-education-like-life-out-in-the-real-world/

I hope that link will work. It's to a guest-post written by a high school student on an Oakland education blog. The student says what I was trying to say above, and much more elequently.

Posted by: Sue | December 18, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"So according to you the "disruptive and stupid" should be elimated - but I thought the point was about "learning the material" - so how do you propose the public schools have the "disruptive and stupid" "learn the material"?"

... vocational school, maybe? Not everyone - disabled or otherwise - is Einstein. Maybe we should stop pushing everyone onto the academic track if they do not belong there.

Posted by: Anon | December 18, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

... vocational school, maybe? Not everyone - disabled or otherwise - is Einstein. Maybe we should stop pushing everyone onto the academic track if they do not belong there.

Posted by: Anon | December 18, 2007 06:36 PM

That sounds just like what my parents said about my sister. Her dyslexia was identified in 2nd or 3rd grade, and she was pulled out for remedial classes - or as we said back in the 60's - she was one of the dumb kids.

She struggled all the way through school. Our parents told her things like, don't take any more math classes, take more home-ec so you can keep a man happy and he'll take care of you. They discouraged her from college. They were wrong!

It took her 10 years to get her B.S. in civil engineering - she just kept plugging at it, and retaking math and engineering classes that she didn't pass the first time, until she understood the concepts and passed the courses. During that time, she married (to a guy who was as discouraging as our parents), divorced, got pregnant, nearly lost the pregnancy and had to give up her job and go on disability, went on welfare, broke up with and reconciled with the baby's father multiple times before realizing that his drug habit was more important to him than she and the baby were, went through a brief period of homelessness, and was diagnosed with ADD as an adult.

She belonged exactly where she wanted to be - in that engineering program. After everything she went through for the B.S. it took her less than two years to complete her masters.

Today, she works for the state transportation department (Cal Trans) as a hydrologist. When the highways flood or wash out, she figures out why and how to fix it. When they build or rebuild roads, she figures out how to make sure they don't flood or wash away in the first place.

Her daughter is in high school now, and struggles with ADD (diagnosed early!) and a learning disability due to a car accident when she was a baby. But my niece has the same drive and determination, and she'll go where ever she wants to go.

How do *you* decide who does or doesn't belong on an academic track? Does desire and drive count for anything? Make raw ability the only criteria for academics, and you'll be excluding people who have a great deal to offer.

I'd rather give them some extra help (if it's needed), and lots of encouragement. During those hard years, my sister heard one thing over and over from me - you knew when you started that it wouldn't be easy. But I believe in you, and you can do this if you want it badly enough.

Today, her salary is higher than mine. I have a degree in computer science and have been in my profession for 25 years. She'll be hosting the family over the holidays because her house (on 10 acres of woods in the Sierra Nevadas) is bigger than our parents' house (which is on only five acres) - and she owns rental property, too.

Maybe she's not Einstein, but his teachers called him slow, too. How do you judge who is worthy of an education, and what do you say to someone who's unworthy, but wants that education anyway?

Posted by: Sue | December 18, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

"I'd rather give them some extra help (if it's needed), and lots of encouragement."

Fair enough. Then YOU give them the help and encouragement. If YOU want it ... then YOU do it. Don't expect other people - teachers, students, taxpayers - to do it for you. You want it, it's your goal - so YOU DO IT.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm a special education teacher in the largest school system in Virginia. I am also one of those "slow kids" Get A Life rails on.
I think a lot of resentment is projected toward special ed kids because most people really don't understand what special education is and what it means, unless of course your child is receiving services.
As a group, parents of sped kids are some of the most active, involved, and advocating parents I have ever seen - sometimes much to my chagrin, but mostly to my delight. I think it is this level of advocacy, the screaming-at-the-top-of-the-hillside-until-someone-listens type of advocacy that gets parents of general education kids so upset.
I teach in the western half of the county, a side where the median income doesn't mean much - some of my parents spend what I make in a year on a week's vacation. The parents here are all VERY educated about their child's avenues to success. And I think there is a little bit of a push by parents to get kids labeled as something. If they can't get the coveted GT, then they want to lesser, but equally serviced, Special Ed. What we are seeing now is a push back from the parents of Gen Ed kids who know the system is being abused in some way. Ergo the ramblings of Get A Life, who by the way, is right, given a large enough population any scoring will take on a natural random distribution. But what GAL is ignoring is there are myriad factors that can affect the curve of a normal distribution. For instance, the average IQ at my school - one marker for whether a child can be considered eligible for services - is 110. That is ten points greater than the normed average for the test (and one standard deviation from the mean). What does that mean? It means that a kid with an IQ of 95 (within normal range for a "standard" population) is going to be more likely to be found eligible for services at my school than at a school where the average IQ falls in line with the normed average of the test.
The point of this post is to remind people that special education services are there to level the playing field - within the population of the child's school.
Having a learning disability is a lot like having a wall between you and a subject matter. It's impossible to learn the material that's behind the wall without first learning how to get around the wall. That is what I do for my kids. I teach them how to get around the wall. It is less about the subject and more about coping. Make no mistake; a learning disability is a handicap. It is a disability, like any other. Just because you can't see it until one tries to learn something new, doesn't make it any less of an impediment. Once I teach my kids to get around their walls, then I don't need to teach them anymore. They can do it for themselves, and they are often moved into another environment that facilitates that learning.
So to Get A Life: that guy or girl with whom you work who is highly intelligent, reads quickly, never seems to study or review and always seems to pick up new ideas and concepts quickly and easily is probably the one in 10 who grew up with a learning disability and learned how to work around it.

Posted by: Special Ed on Special Ed. | December 19, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough. Then YOU give them the help and encouragement. If YOU want it ... then YOU do it. Don't expect other people - teachers, students, taxpayers - to do it for you. You want it, it's your goal - so YOU DO IT.

----

wow, you can create a straw man and knock it down, hurrah!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

fr lugo:

>...It is absolutely insane. School is not about being "open and accepting". Nor, believe it or not, is it about "diversity". School is about learning the material - THAT is why I pay taxes to support the public school system. Anything that stands in the way of learning the material should be eliminated, including especially the presence of the disruptive and stupid

The following people were labeled as "stupid": Einstein and Edison. Neither one was "stupid", but possibly the person who labelled them was. In short, your idea about eliminating "the presence of the disruptive and stupid" is very short-sighted. I would suggest this for you: Volunteer as a tutor for a special needs classroom. That's right. VOLUNTEER. Then come back and report to the class what your experiences were. That means no "hangin' with' your 'homies'" tonight.

Posted by: alex | December 19, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"That means no "hangin' with' your 'homies'" tonight."

Your racist rants have no place on this message board. Go away!

Posted by: Get A Life | December 19, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

"quit whining ya whiner and propose a solution."

I did propose a solution - the disruptive and stupid should not be in the same class as everyone else, making everyone learn at the pace of the slowest.

"I am still shocked, even after years of exposure, to the level of hostility that people have toward persons with any type of disability"

I don't hate or fear the cognitively disabled, I just don't want them in the same classroom as everyone else.

"I don't want my children to have the same problems I faced learning to deal with people who aren't just like us. I want them to know all kinds of people, and to be comfortable anywhere with anyone. Some people don't seem to understand that this is also a function of the public school system - integrating everyone into the society."

Balderdash. The ONLY legitimate function of the school system is to teach. Absurd, touchy-feely social engineering goals have no place in the schools.

Normal kids do not "benefit" in any way from association with the disruptive and stupid. Just the opposite - normal kids are harmed by this association.

"Maybe we should stop pushing everyone onto the academic track if they do not belong there."

Exactly right.

"The following people were labeled as "stupid": Einstein and Edison."

Get real. You are out of your mind if you think every stupid and disruptive person "mainstreamed" into American classrooms is a secret Einstein. The simple fact is that some people ARE stupid and SHOULD be left behind, not forced into classrooms where they don't belong.

Posted by: Lugo | December 19, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"It took her 10 years to get her B.S. in civil engineering - she just kept plugging at it, and retaking math and engineering classes that she didn't pass the first time"

I'm sure it will be great comfort to people whose cars are washed away in a storm on one of her roads that she'll keep trying and maybe get it right next time!

Posted by: oh boy | December 19, 2007 12:21 PM | Report abuse

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

You almost made me spit coffee out of my nose -- good one HA!

Posted by: To oh boy | December 19, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure it will be great comfort to people whose cars are washed away in a storm on one of her roads that she'll keep trying and maybe get it right next time!

Posted by: oh boy | December 19, 2007 12:21 PM

Not only rude, but flaunting your ignorance (or your limited literacy skills) too.

She learned the material. She passed the courses. Her work is sound. Yes, it was a lot more effort for her to get it than for someone else, but she did it.

And to the short-sighted individual who said "you do it" - do you think my sister would be making the income she does, and consequently paying the taxes she does, if she'd been denied the education (and the encouragement she got from me and no one else - she'd be the first to tell anyone that she's where she is today due 99% to her own efforts, and 1% to talking to me whenever she felt like giving up)?

It's not a waste of your tax dollars to make someone a successful tax-paying college graduate instead of a hair stylist, which was the other option for my sister when Clinton's welfare reforms went through in the mid-90's. She did some serious negotiating in the welfare offices to get her last year of college approved as valid job-training, instead of the one-year cosmetology school most single welfare moms in the area were forced into at the time.

Your taxes and mine are an investment to educate the next generation whether they need special services or not. The investments don't have a guaranteed return even with normal, or exceptionally gifted, students. But when we invest in educating our population, we're going to get back a huge return on the majority, and only a few will turn out to be the wasted investments.

I've asked before, and I'll ask again, how will *you* determine before the investments are made which people are going to be the wrong ones to educate - the wasted investments? I haven't seen an answer that makes any sense. Disruptive and stupid - what's the criteria for how disruptive, for how stupid is too much to be worth investing.

You'd have eliminated my sister from receiving an education - a bad investment of our tax dollars, and you'd have considered me a great investment (I had genius-level results on IQ tests, always scored in the 99th percentile on every standardized test I ever took, and made straight A's effortlessly unless the material was just too boring to bother with) - and I'd have been a good investment, but you'd have missed the even better investment in my sister. She makes a better income, and has fewer dependents than I do, so her taxes are a lot higher than mine. You'd also have denied Einstein and Edison their educations.

Finally, anyone who doesn't believe the purpose of the educational system is social engineering, is appallingly ignorant of the history of the US public education system. It was started because of the huge influx of German immigrants in the late 18th and early 19th century. The English-speaking Americans forced everyone into public schools (at gunpoint in at least one state, I believe either Massachusetts or New Hampshire) so that German-speaking children of those immigrants would learn English and become Americans more like the ones already here. The specific social engineering goals have changed over time, but the fact of social engineering in the education system hasn't gone away.

Posted by: Sue | December 19, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"It's not a waste of your tax dollars to make someone a successful tax-paying college graduate instead of a hair stylist, which was the other option for my sister"

... hmm ruining the roads or ruining a haircut? Yes it's a waste of our tax dollars to send some flunkie back and back and back again to MATH 101. If I have to pay anyone's way, it should be the way of someone who can actually pass the class!

Posted by: Sue needs counseling | December 19, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"Finally, anyone who doesn't believe the purpose of the educational system is social engineering, is appallingly ignorant of the history of the US public education system. It was started because of the huge influx of German immigrants in the late 18th and early 19th century."

The first American public school was authorized on January 2, 1643 by the Town of Dedham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony -- nearly 150 years before the establishment of the United States.

Hey Sue ... I didn't realize there were so many German-speaking immigrants who beat the Mayflower crowd over here :P

Posted by: Sue is also dead-wrong | December 19, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Um, people, I bet we could find a lot more engineers who had to take calculus more than once. But none of them passed the class until they learned the material. Or should we not be allowing anyone to repeat a college course? Ever? For any reason?

And you seem awfully sure that California roads *must* all be failing because of my sister. But you don't know her name, or where she works in the state, so you have no evidence to support your supposition. I do know those things, and I'll be driving to her house for the holidays on some of the roads she's responsible for - and the forecasts are for some very wet weather. So I have a sound basis for my confidence that my family will arrive safely, while you have no basis for what you're saying. It's just trolling.

One "public" school in 1643 doesn't equal a US public school system. But that's just another fine example of someone's inability to read for information (or think critically?). Perhaps your education was a waste my tax dollars?

Posted by: Sue | December 19, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"It is simply insane that the "special" kids are in the same classroom with the normal kids, disrupting the place and holding everyone back. Inexorably a classroom with "special" kids and normal kids is only going to move at the pace of the slowest, to the detriment of all."

This comment is just asinine. I work as a special education teacher and spend part of my day in co-taught classes and part of my day in self-contained classes. My experience in the co-taught classes for the last ten years is that "my" students, the special education mainstreamed ones, are often far more intelligent than half the general ed students in the class. So to believe that all special education students are slow or stupid or behavior problems is ignorant. Just because they learn differently doesn't mean they learn slower.

Currently, my co-taught class has 12 general ed kids and 5 special ed kids. You want to know who it is that gets kicked out for behavior problems every day? Yeah, the general ed kids. You want to know who's failing because they have no idea what's going on? Yeah, the general ed kids.

Until you've spent several years working with these kids in a classroom setting, keep your moronic generalizations to yourself. You have NO idea what you're talking about.

Posted by: jef3r | December 20, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I also have to agree that slow children who are unmotivated or children who are behavioural problems should be taken out of the regular classroom. You can only teach those children who are interested in learning. Beyond that, the parent can take up the slack at home.

This means that slow kids who are willing to work harder can be in the regular classroom IF they do not hold the class back and work on catching up on their own time. A student who is incredibly disruptive, regardless of intelligence, should be tossed out. Quite frankly, if a child can't at least behave in school and let other children learn, then the child should be forced on the person ultimately responsible for it: the parent.

School systems can't do everything; they are there to impart information to those who are interested in learning,and that's IT. Those parents who are working with their children to get through their problems are admirable; neither they or the normal kids should be held back by children whose parents have not taught them appropriate behaviour or have children simply incapable of appropriate behaviour. Parents make these little people and need to deal with them once they are here. The school system is NOT here to deal with your child's personal problems.

As a young child I remember complaining about the "bad kids" and asking my parents what was wrong with them. They never answered satisfactorily, but I should never have had to waste time while a teacher disciplined a student; discipline is something that a child should be well-versed in before they ever set foot in a classroom.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 20, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The last comment was so misinformed. Children with disabilities want to learn. They just don't accomplish things in the same way or time frame.

Parents of kids with disabilities cope not only with issues regarding their childrens developmental deficits but other issues such as Tourettes which can bring behavioral problems. The parents are not too lazy or too tired, rather they work with teachers to accomplish what their child has a right to: an education.

Posted by: Mrs. Mom | December 20, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I checked in with my own home-grown graduate of special education (approximately 4 years of pull-out help with Resource teachers in elementary and middle school) about the teasing and bullying situations for special ed. students at her elementary, middle and high schools. She never had any of these experiences, and has not personally witnessed any of this type of treatment of special ed. students. So I am just going to repeat what I said earlier:

It depends on the kid.

It depends on the school.

As grown-ups we have the responsibility for modeling the behaviors we want our children to adopt. This is called walking the walk not talking the talk. Some school environments are better at making all students feel comfortable in their own skins. Those are the schools, and communities, that all of us should be working towards.

Posted by: cotopaxi | December 21, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

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