We want all our parents advocates who follow our blog to take a minute before they send us an onslaught of comments. This isn’t the blog post where we talk about limitations of students with disabilities. Or the argument some schools have against doing things differently. Or any of the arguments that keep parent advocates up at night.
This is an honest post about what some students with disabilities get out of inclusive academic expectations.
We have not really in recent years been directly expressive about the variety of students with disabilities. We’ve worked with some students who have processing delays and we have worked with students with multiple disabilities that include disabilities that directly affect the student’s health and overall cognitive function. At any one time, any student, regardless of disability, can be engaged and not engaged in a classroom. There are a lot of factors that challenge a student’s attention. Some factors are genuine and cannot be mitigated (forgot medication, challenges at home). Some are the student teacher connection; for some students this really matters, for others, less so. There are the expectations of the classroom teacher, the expectations of the curriculum, and the filtering through unwritten social contracts of being in proximity to more than thirty other people.
It is potentially possible to observe all of this at any one time in any classroom at any grade with any number of students who all have needs in pursuit of academic achievement at any specific level. It is not easy to herd all the minds in one general direction when the carrot is technically intangible. Especially when a student has a disability.
This is where advocates for students usually start talking about fish climbing trees and reaching a student’s strength. But not all skills are about mental strengths and demonstrating strengths.
Sometimes it’s about building a weaker skill.
Sometimes it’s about learning that doing the thing you least like to do but doing it because you were told.
Sometimes it’s about learning compromise and turn taking.
Sometimes it’s about building self esteem.
Sometimes it’s about kindness to someone else.
Sometimes it’s about learning to be sarcastic.
Sometimes it’s about learning to be a kid your age.
Sometimes it’s about finding a way out of disappointment.
Sometimes it’s about learning to ask for help.
Sometimes it’s about doing it differently for the same result.
Sometimes it’s about doing it again even though you thought it was done.
Sometimes it’s about learning that you are held to the standard like your peers though you thought you could slip under the radar.
Sometimes it’s about learning that maybe this isn’t what you really wanted, but living with the decision.
Sometimes it’s about appreciating that there are always going to be hoops to jump through.
But most of all, it’s about learning from that experience.
We can’t adapt these lessons. We can’t modify this opportunity. This at the heart of everything else: is the process of life. Going to school is about developing skills for any job, for any potential future.
That test for the student who has a disability is coming just around the corner. Certainly the test will be modified for the student, but it will still be a test. It will be on Volcanoes. It will be a small group testing experience with other students with disabilities. As proctors of tests, we know that the student will not choose the first answer ever in a list of questions. As proctors of the test, we know that the student’s name will not possibly be on the line. We probably can’t promise you that the student will even independently read the word ‘volcano’ in a sentence. We also can’t promise you that the student truly cares a thing that you’ve said ‘volcano’ for three weeks.
But the general education teacher did say, “I want them to know lava comes from the ground. I want them to know it comes through a volcano. I want them to know that volcanoes can be found all over the world. I want them to know that lava makes igneous rocks.”
I can’t promise you that the student will do any of that in the test either. I can’t promise you the student who does not appear to care for school can tell you that truthfully and honestly. But we’re here to try. The student we support will get something out of your class.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? 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 weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.