We’re going to let you in on a little secret. Renay’s least favorite poem is Robert Frost’s poem, “Two Roads Diverged…” However, she worked past that disdain for this week.
“I don’t have a disability.”
Whether it comes in a moment of exasperation or a moment of clarity, at some point, many students with disabilities come to this point and state, “I don’t have a disability.” Especially if they need help with their academic work. For the side of the adult, this brings about a lot of thoughts.
Are we too physically close? Did we give too many instructions? Who has been making fun of the student? What brought this about? Does the student know?
But at that moment, the real question is, “What do I tell the student?”
There are ways to be proactive before the question ever comes around. Special education teachers can start by opening the door and talking with the students on their case about their disability, the official name, the fact that their disability has patterns that make certain things difficult for that student. This would also be useful if this conversation came in preparation for the student’s IEP.
Some pitfalls: the family not wanting the student to hear their reason for the IEP.
Take on the question at the moment?
- Really truly, proceed with caution.
- Do not feel obligated to talk to the student then and there. You can simply state, “I am sorry you seem frustrated.” or you can ask, “Why did you make that statement” But don’t read too much into it. Report back to the case manager, no matter what you chose to do.
- Did you read the first statement?
- Have a coworker present if at all possible.
- Be factual about the way their disability presents itself. “When you get anxious, you get a break and your teacher might not always see that you need a break.”, “Your mind has trouble when you hear directions, my job is to write the instructions down for you to see them.”, “You have trouble seeing the board, my job is to make sure you have the handouts enlarged.”, “I’m coming around and asking students if they need help, but I am especially asking you right now what you understand.”
- Tell the case manager this happened.
Some students may truly not need help. Observing from the back of the classroom, having a clear line of sight to that student may truly be enough. Letting the student know that you’re there to help is very useful, and even when they ‘don’t get it’, they know they have space to try and find methods to figure things out.
While we are on the subject of proximity…
It’s that annual reminder, while some students require that you are within an arm’s reach for health or specific need, try and step away from students and give them space. Let the student make a mistake. Let the student drift off and be off task for a few minutes – what? Their peers are most definitely daydreaming, tired, stressed, or otherwise, just like the student with a disability. They may just hide it better.
One more thing…
Speaking of proximity: If you need to vent about a student and their behavior, be sure to do it without the student around. If the student appears, take that deep breath and let it out slowly. Drop the venting right then and there. Get yourself into the space to work with the student. Don’t keep talking about the behavior. You are the professional.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.