Special Education – Parents vs Schools
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
We’re all born completely unique – there will never be another one of “us” in this world. Even identical siblings don’t share all of the same DNA; there’s a little bit of something that makes them different from their counterpart. Much like birthmarks, or hair and eye color, much of our live is pre-determined before we even leave the womb, which is why physical, emotional and learning disabilities should be treated as such – a factor that couldn’t be helped. People who require special accommodations to properly function are not “lesser” people than those considered normal, but there is a stigma surrounding these disabilities that is a hard one to break.
Take learning disabilities, for example. As hard as it is for the afflicted child to deal with, it’s often a source of stress and tension for their parents. Over the years, some schools have started to use their special education programs as a type of “dumping ground” for the children who struggle with a disability of some sort, as it’s easier to push them off onto a specialized teacher so they can then focus on the children who fall in line. This is an unfair process to everyone involved, and can leave both parents and children feeling like there is no hope for a successful education.
Communication Between Parents And Schools
There is often a lack of proper communication between parents and teachers who are involved in the special education process, and this barrier hurts everyone in the long run. In a study done within the last several years, researcher Jeannie Lake interviewed parents of children with disabilities, mediators and school officials, all of whom had been part of a special education appeals process within the Massachusetts school system. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into what happens to cause the breakdown of crucial communication within the special education program itself.
The results of Lake’s study were profound, and shed a lot of much-needed light on the issue. For instance, 90% of the study’s participants cited a discrepancy between their own views of their child’s disability and how the school viewed it. There were two distinct outcomes: parents said the school either saw their children as being “deficient” and focused only on their weaknesses, or significantly downplayed the child’s disability while not considering them as people with unique talents and capabilities. The school said that parents were often single-minded in their idea of what was the best course of learning for their children, and were not open to outside suggestions. The problem was now on the table, and therefore able to be solved in a successful manner.
Another issue that was approached during the study that both parents and school officials agreed on was the distinct lack of communication from both sides regarding the child’s best interest, as well as developed problem-solving skills. Parents complained the school had advanced knowledge of their child’s educational plan or disability and withheld it from them, and the same was true of educators vs. parents. There was a breakdown of communication somewhere along the line, and the child in question was caught in the crossfire. The same outcome was true for trust – if parents had little faith and trust in their child’s education, then it was harder to communicate successfully without their being an unhealthy dose of skepticism.
Resources vs Funding In Special Education
Resources also played a part in the value of special education, as it’s often a struggle for schools to get the special education funding they need to continue to run a successful program. This left both parents and school officials on uneven ground, as they both felt the stress and tension of trying to secure the necessary funds. All in all, communication was the key factor in all scenarios, and with a lot of effort on the parts of all involved, a tentative agreement was reached in which everyone recognized their part in the child’s education and struck a truce going forward.
While this is an enlightening study into the inner workings of the special education system, it also highlights the ongoing frustrations parents can have regarding the education their child is receiving within the school system. It really does take a village to raise a child, and special education programs need to run like a well-oiled machine in order to give their best effort to the children who partake of the services. A clear definition of special education and what these programs can provide to children who need this specialized type of assistance to be put in place, and a large part of the child’s success depends on getting information across all fronts in a timely and effective manner.
Parents might not always realize their child has a learning disability until they reach a certain age and are able to begin school; that’s when it often becomes obvious that a child who is struggling might require different learning techniques that differ from what they’re currently receiving in the traditional classroom. A school system that is sensitive to these special needs is often the first to speak up to the parents, but that’s not always the case. All parties need to work hand in hand for a child’s continuing educational success, not just in the recognition of a disability but in how it’s handled after diagnosis.
As a child develops, it’s important to keep in mind there will be areas where they need your assistance. Children with special needs often require more guidance in areas that may come easier for the masses such as social-skills, self-skills and motivation.
It might be hard for parents to recognize that their little one has an issue, and the ever-present stigma surrounding special education might keep them from pursuing education deviations from the norm. Special Education Resource recognizes how delicate this process is, and wants your child to receive the best possible special education tutoring available through individualized lesson plans and one-on-one communication. By taking your child’s current curriculum and molding it to fit their specific learning needs, both academic and behavior progress can seen within a relatively short amount of time. We are working tirelessly to remove the negative connotations surrounding special education, and want your child to live in a world free of bullying, where they are recognized for their accomplishments and talents. The truth is, a label doesn’t have to define a child, it only proves all children learn differently. Your child is unique, just like you, and deserves to be treated as such. With continued support, school will become fun for your kids once more.
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