When an assessment team convenes to evaluate and report the results of testing a child for learning disabilities, the experience can be overwhelmingly stressful and negative for the parents hearing the news.
I just witnessed a 3-hour IEP during which was the mother was not once reassured that her child would ever achieve his full potential.
The teacher who chaired the meeting sat in the big, adult seat above the rest of us scrunched into tiny chairs meant for children. She took charge of the meeting, hammering away at the test results that qualified the mother’s little boy for special education services.
Not once was the label “specific learning disability” discussed in any detail other than as the diagnosis which entitles him to special education services. And not once was the “disability” discussed in terms of a “different way of learning” or that the teaching establishment simply needs to learn how to teach him in the way he learns.
Not once was that mother addressed in a positive manner about the many gifts her child displays. Not once was she told of the many famous and accomplished individuals who have achieved greatness because their way of thinking is like her son’s.
Not once was this meeting looked at as an opportunity to build on the child’s strengths and to strengthen his weaknesses in a targeted, proactive and focused way to bring him up to grade level in a timely manner. Instead, the words disability, depression, sadness, and lack of achievement were tossed around. Hints of trouble in the home were brought up, and then squelched because of “confidentiality.”
The mother burst into tears and sank into despair. “What’s a mother to do when she’s just trying to get help for her child?” she wailed.
It was cold, clinical and without compassion. Test results were gone over in excruciating detail, reducing the child to a set of numbers that zig-zagged across the normal, average range.
I sat in the seat of that mother several years ago. I heard the educational psychologist drone on about the testing; I got the diagnosis of “specific learning disability.” My son was herded into Special Ed classes where his specific disability was treated as though he is a slow learner, rather than a different thinking one. I trusted the “experts” to do the right thing.
It took far too much time for me and my son to get on the right educational path—indeed, we’re still fighting a resistant bureaucracy that does not have the proper programs, and teachers who do not have the proper training to teach children who possess a “specific learning disability.”
Let’s call it dyslexia, for that is what it is. Let’s treat it as a different way of thinking, which is what it is.
Let’s give parents a clear path for their child’s success instead of putting him on a track for continued failure.
And let’s spare these children and families the misery that is all too familiar to anyone who has been there. The research is definitive. The programs are available. The success stories are real. The will to make a change is still missing.
Who will be the one to finally stand up and say, “Enough?” Which highly paid bureaucrat will finally summon up the courage and heed their conscience and finally take care of these kids who suffer so much in a system that isn’t built for them?