Parents could do better to understand that most educators know the intrinsic value to be found in ALL children, especially those who struggle with disabilities. Educators could do better to seek for ways to include children with disabilities into a society that needs them. We all need to be patient with the reality our schools are filled with amazing teachers trained to work with typically developed children, who are still figuring out how to work with children who have special needs, something that their parents have had years to discover. Even many of the best special education teachers, while having received additional training in teaching children with learning disabilities, have never had one class on how to work with a child that is autistic, who has ADHD, who suffers from anxiety, poor health, or any of the other issues that some children must face which impact their educational experience. I would like to point out that that these teachers are superb in what they are trained to do. Most of our teachers are our greatest humanitarians and excel in their areas of expertise. Yet most of them, do not have training in working with special needs children. In my opinion, equipping our teachers with these skills this is the key to success. Think about it.
Would you go to a dentist if you had a heart condition? The answer is, "No." If you have a heart condition, you visit with a cardiologist. Should you attempt to visit a dentist, you may feel that the dentist is inadequate. You may find him ignorant when he doesn't know what to do to help you. You may even get very frustrated and angry, feel helpless, hopeless, and at a loss. You may want to blame the dentist for not having the skills to fix your heart. But is it really the fault of the dentist? The answer again, is "No." The real problem is that you went to the wrong person. If you have a heart condition, you need a cardiologist. And so it is with our public education system. We have some of the finest teachers in the world. But, they are not behavior specialists, psychologists, or doctors. They are teachers. They teach academics and do a great job at it. They are astoundingly successful with 80% of the kids out there. They are not to blame for the fact that we, as a nation, have a growing epidemic of disabilities that our overall public education system has struggled to keep up with.
Currently 1 in 5 students have learning disabilities. 1 in 10 students have ADD/ADHD. 1 in 50 students is Autistic and these numbers are growing. Meeting the needs of children with disabilities is only one part of the process. We must also find ways to meet the needs of the educators working with these very special and wonderful children. We need to provide educators additional skill sets and teach them how to successfully educate all children while minimizing the overall impact that a disability can have on an entire classroom environment. We need to do this, because we need these children to be integrated into our communities. Children with disabilities teach our typically developed kids character traits they may not find elsewhere, traits like patience, acceptance, kindness, personal integrity, and compassion. Our communities will grow stronger if we do this.
So how do we do it? If you truly want to alleviate the frustrations of trying to teach children with disabilities, the first step is to find or create educators with the right skill set to work with these children and to establish the right programs to teach them. You will need educators who understand the ins and outs of behavior, anxiety, sensory perception disorders, and communication limitations, but who also are equipped with the skills to give these kids the tools they need to be successful. Helping educators to understand the just right balance between modifying a curriculum for these students while holding them accountable is possible.
Likewise, helping parents to understand the unique challenges that educators face is also possible.
So if you wouldn't go to the Dentist for a heart problem, why get frustrated when teachers can't fix our kid's behaviors or have no power to modify an environment to reduce anxiety? The reality is, that we as parents struggle with these same skill deficits. My advice to parents and educators is this: how about instead of beating our fist on the table and pointing a stern finger of judgment at each other, we come together in a spirit of collaboration to find an appropriate solution. We are in this together. Parents, educators, and students all need to practice patience and do their best to understand the other side of the coin. There may not be a perfect solution out there yet, but you can be a part of a team that is working to create a solution that will enable everyone to be successful.
If you are interested in creating better educational opportunities for all children, including those with disabilities, please contact The Ducere Group.. The Ducere Group is seeking qualified candidates to join an all volunteer board for the purpose of establish one of Washington's first charter schools. To learn more visit www.theduceregroup.org or Calyn Holdaway at 253-353-4230.