My son Conner has had and will probably always have struggles in school. He was born at 24 weeks, weighed 1 lb. 8 oz., and is severely nearsighted. At first we thought that this miracle child had only those things that would keep him from leading a somewhat normal life, but then came asthma, a low processing speed, ADD, and several other problems regarding motor skills and writing.
His education background has not been the best, either. He did not attend pre-school, but went right in to kindergarten with a first year teacher who had absolutely no control of her class. My wife arrived one day to pick him up and saw chaotic children running rampant and two little boys in the corner showing each other their unmentionables. Conner was sitting at a desk with his head down because he was being punished for “not following instructions.”
We changed schools, and he now attends 6th grade at the school where I teach, but he is struggling to adjust to middle school life. We work very hard and his teachers work very hard, but he struggles to turn in work, takes three times as long to do his homework as the other students, has trouble writing complete sentences and his spelling is not the best. He is floating toward a failing grade in two classes even though he is surrounded by encouraging people who want to see him succeed.
The future is what worries me.
In an article in the New York Times posted only 5 days ago, it was reported that if something is not done, special education along with thousands of federal programs that most Americans rely upon will be cut drastically. Special education alone will be cut by $2.3 billion. My son’s state tests are modified to suit his learning disabilities, but starting next year this will change so that he will be tested without any modifications to his test. This last one is a move, at least in the state of Oklahoma, to railroad the human right of a free education regardless of disability (see assessment of fulfillment – adaptability). Not to mention the fact that Individual Education Plans, set forth by an agreement between parents and school districts, are, according to IDEA 2004 required to give these students modified tests. The State of Oklahoma will now override these guidelines even though federal guidelines trump the state guidelines.
Are we practicing social Darwinism here? Where are the people speaking up for these students in our legislature? I have taught students over the years who have needed a few modifications to their work to help them succeed, and I have watched them go on to college or other pursuits and they are successful, productive adults. Are we seeing a move to quietly disenfranchise these hard working students who also have dreams of overcoming their difficulties to achieve greatness?
I will continue to work with Conner to ensure that he does what is required of him, whatever that may entail. Like any parent who wants the best for their children, I spend a lot of time praising him for the things he does well because often he feels like the things he does wrong outweigh those more positive things. It is a daily struggle with homework and making sure he turns in his assignments. Another part of the equation is that he is a 6th grader, for he is facing more and more responsibilities every day.
All I can do is work hard with him, pray for him, love him, and encourage him to do better. I will do my best, because deep down I think he wouldn’t have it any other way.