Archive for the ‘Special Needs’ Category

The Inspirational Moment a Brave Student Overcomes His Stammer (Video)

October 26, 2013

Wow! What a brilliant clip this is!

Using techniques from the film A King’s Speech a teacher is able to help student Musharaf Asghar overcome his stutter and speak for the first time in front of his peers.  To watch supportive staff and students reduced to tears at the overwhelming power of his courage and achievement has touched me enormously.

Please forward this clip to others to shed some light on the positive role teachers and schools can play and what a fantastic thing it is to encourage risk taking as well as fostering a kind and compassionate student community.

Click on the link to read There Should Be No Children Left on the Outer

Click on the link to read Teachers Addicted to Referring Their Students to Specialists

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There Should Be No Children Left on the Outer

June 17, 2013

 

class

One of the responsibilities of a school is to fight to ensure that each and every one of its students is afforded the rights and respect of being treated as an equal. It doesn’t matter whether they have a disability, learning difficulty or if they have a different cultural or religious background, they must be made to feel welcome, equal and important.

Whilst this photo above may be discounted as an unfortunate error, it is not a good look, and unfortunately represents the kind of image that burns in the hearts of those who were discarded and rejected during their schooldays:

They’re the pictures parents treasure forever: a class photo that captures an entire school year in an instant.

So imagine the confusion and upset mom Anna Belanger felt when she discovered her son had been placed off to the side in his Grade 2 class photo, simply because he was in a wheelchair.

‘I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition… this just boggled the mind,’ she said.

In the photo, the class is sitting in three rows with the teacher standing on the left.Anna’s son Miles Ambridge, who’s 7, is seen several feet away leaning from his wheelchair with a huge space separating him from his classmates.

‘Being picked on and being set aside is horrendous and this was what was happening,’ said Mrs Belanger, of New Westminster, British Columbia.

She said that being in a wheelchair comes with an additional set of challenges for Miles, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at 13 months, a genetic disease that attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord.

Teachers Addicted to Referring Their Students to Specialists

June 13, 2013

As a social experiment, wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers decided not to refer their students for 12 months to an occupational therapist or speech pathologist? Wouldn’t it be interesting if they had to provide for the child and adjust their teaching to cater for the special needs of these children instead of relying on specialists to do that for them.

Just wait a minute! Aren’t teachers catering for children of special needs already?

Of course some are, but many aren’t. Here are some questions I have compiled for you to determine whether or not your child’s teacher is relying too heavily on a specialist:

1. Is there evidence that your child’s teacher is in regular contact with the specialist?

2. Is their evidence that your child’s teacher follows the recommendations based on the child’s assessment evaluation?

3. Does your child’s teacher blame a lack of progress solely on your child’s learning difficulty?

4. If you have ceased sending your child to a specialist has the teacher shown signs of giving up on your child and blaming a lack of progress on your decision?

This might seem harsh on teachers but believe me it happens all the time. Parents are put under pressure to have their child farmed off to a specialist with concerns over attention, comprehension, processing, integration, coordination etc. The parent then has to pay for a costly assessment. The assessment is not unlike a trip to the orthodontist. The orthodontist will almost always see a problem worth fixing – an imperfection that can always be adjusted with a stint on braces.

So too, a speech and occupational therapist will always see scope for therapy. There will always be a recommendation to fix this or manage that. Should the child not be eligible for Government funding, the parents would be pressured to pay for the services of a specialist. The going rate for an occupational therapist for a one hour weekly session is about $500 a month (from personal experience). If the parents refuse to pay, often the teacher will secretly accuse the parents of being selfish and putting money ahead of the interests of the child.

The truth is many specialists are called on, not because there is a major need for therapy, but for the teacher to defer responsibility. No teacher should be allowed to pressure a parent into such a move without first demonstrating a meaningful attempt at accommodating the child within the classroom.

It seems to be that this is a boom time for specialists. The scale for measuring learning difficulties has been expanding, new disorders are being invented overnight and more room is being reserved for this ever increasing ‘spectrum’. I once questioned a psychologist for pronouncing that a student of mine was on the spectrum when I didn’t feel it was warranted. His response – everyone can fit on the spectrum in some way or form. What does that mean? If everyone is on the spectrum, how is that fair to people with autism and low functioning Aspergers? Their condition will surely be undermined if they have to share a spectrum with you and I!

Be very mindful that teachers, like other professions, are prone to short cuts and self interest. It is in the best interest of teachers to outsource their students to specialists, because it means that any lack of progress can be blamed on a ‘disorder’ or processing issue rather than the teacher’s ability to cater for the student.

Of course not all teachers are like that and some students clearly require specialist intervention. There is no doubt about that. But this scenario does happen, and it does happen regularly.

Click on the link to read I am a Proud Defender of the Mixed-Ability Classroom

Click on the link to read The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read If Only All Special Needs Students Were Treated this Way

Click on the link to read Labelling Children is Extremely Harmful

Click on the link to read The Insanity of Modern Educational Thinking

 

If Only All Special Needs Students Were Treated this Way

February 27, 2013

What a fitting and miraculous end to an absolutely amazing story. I hope this gets played in classrooms all over the world:

A special needs student from a Texas high school scored a basket in the final game of the season after a player from the opposing team gave up the ball.

Mitchell Marcus, a teenage student at Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas, is the team manager for the Coronado Thunderbirds and an avid basketball fan. During the last game of the season on Feb. 12, Marcus, who has a “developmental disability,” was given the chance to play, according to Fox local affiliate KFOX 14 in El Paso. With 90 seconds left, Coach Peter Morales put Marcus into the game.

Mitchell’s a great shot,” his mother Amy told KFOX. “He took his first shot and missed. It hit the rim. You just hear the whole crowd sighing. It went out of bounds and Franklin got it. We all knew that he wasn’t going to have his chance.”

Then, Jonathon Montanez, a senior at Franklin High School and a member of the opposing team, down by 10 points, tossed Marcus the ball. “Since we were down and there was only 13 seconds left, might as well give Mitchell his last shot,” Montanez told KFOX.

Marcus finally scored, and the crowd went wild.

A video of the game and Marcus’ basket went viral after being uploaded online.

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartnan knew he wanted to tell Marcus’s story. “It’s America at its best,” he told the El Paso Times. “When I grew up, kids like Mitchell got picked on, and to see how far we have come along is touching. I get emotional thinking about it.”

NBC Southwest station KTSM first reported on Marcus’ story the day after the game, calling it “the play of the year.”

“I was so happy then,” Marcus said about his shot. “It made my night.”

Over the past three years, Marcus has helped the Thunderbirds earn a No. 1 ranking in the city of El Paso.

Coach Morales spoke with ESPN’s El Paso radio station, KROD, about Marcus’s amazing experience.

“This kid is very very loyal to your program,” Morales told ESPN radio. “He’s dedicated. We’ve had kids that come to this program and play with us and this kid has been more loyal than some of those kids to us because he wants to be here.”

Click on the link to read I am a Proud Defender of the Mixed-Ability Classroom

Click on the link to read The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read Would You Notice if Your Child Was a Bully?

Click on the link to read Labelling Children is Extremely Harmful

Click on the link to read The Insanity of Modern Educational Thinking

I am a Proud Defender of the Mixed-Ability Classroom

September 20, 2012

I hate labels, especially labels given to kids. Too often I have seen a child brandished as a “low ability” student prove everybody wrong. The beauty about mixed ability classrooms is that the group in question isn’t selected based on a label. This allows the students to be appreciated for who they are instead of what they know. This also provides more confident students with the fantastic opportunity of helping their less confident counterparts during whole class and grouped work.

But mixed ability classrooms forces teachers to accommodate for the learning needs of each student and they would therefore have to differentiate the curriculum? Of course we would! That’s our job!

It seems like others do not share my beliefs:

Bright pupils are losing out due to the ‘curse’ of mixed-ability classes, the head of Ofsted warned yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said thousands were failing to reach their full potential due to poor teaching methods.

Inspectors will now be critical of schools that do not differentiate between high and low achievers.

This could lead to schools falling into the new category of ‘requires improvement’ (which replaces the old ‘satisfactory’ description), or even being labelled ‘inadequate’.

Statistics published following a  Parliamentary question show that  55 per cent of lessons in English state secondary schools last year involved children with different academic needs.

Ofsted cannot force schools to adopt setting – grouping pupils according to their academic ability in single subjects – or streaming, where ability groups cover most or all subjects.

However, Sir Michael’s intervention is likely to make headteachers rethink their practice of mixed ability classes for fear of being marked down in future inspections.

Click on the link to read The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read Would You Notice if Your Child Was a Bully?

Click on the link to read Labelling Children is Extremely Harmful

Click on the link to read The Insanity of Modern Educational Thinking

The Difficulties of Parenting a Special Needs Child

March 10, 2012


Teaching a Special Needs child can be a most difficult proposition, but parenting one is infinitely harder.

I read a brilliant piece entitled, “6 Things You Don’t Know About a Special Needs Parent.” It’s honesty provides the reader with great insight into the difficulties of raising a child that suffers from a disability. Maria Lin, the author of this wonderful article, is the parent of a 3-year-old suffering from a disorder of the 18th Chromosome. Up until now she has been tight-lipped about her experiences. I have no doubt that this article will serve to educate people like myself and will provide some comfort to other parents who are in a similar situation.

Below is her list of 6 insights:

1. I am tired. Parenting is already an exhausting endeavor. But parenting a special needs child takes things to another level of fatigue. Even if I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, or have had some time off, there is a level of emotional and physical tiredness that is always there, that simply comes from the weight of tending to those needs. Hospital and doctors’ visits are not just a few times a year, they may be a few times a month. Therapies may be daily. Paperwork and bills stack up, spare time is spent researching new treatments, positioning him to sit a certain way, advocating for him in the medical and educational system. This is not to mention the emotional toll of raising a special needs child, since the peaks and valleys seem so much more extreme for us. I am always appreciative of any amount of grace or help from friends to make my life easier, no matter how small, from arranging plans around my schedule and location, to watching my son while I am eating.

2. I am jealous. It’s a hard one for me to come out and say, but it’s true. When I see a 1 year-old baby do what my son can’t at 4 years-old (like walk), I feel a pang of jealousy. It hurts when I see my son struggling so hard to learn to do something that comes naturally to a typical kid, like chewing or pointing. It can be hard to hear about the accomplishments of my friend’s kids. Sometimes, I just mourn inside for Jacob, “It’s not fair.” Weirdly enough, I can even feel jealous of other special needs kids who seem to have an easier time than Jacob, or who have certain disorders like Downs, or autism, which are more mainstream and understood by the public, and seem to offer more support and resources than Jacob’s rare condition. It sounds petty, and it doesn’t diminish all my joy and pride in my son’s accomplishments. But often it’s very hard for me to be around typical kids with him. Which leads me to the next point…

3. I feel alone. It’s lonely parenting a special needs child. I can feel like an outsider around moms of typical kids. While I want to be happy for them, I feel terrible hearing them brag about how their 2 year-old has 100 words, or already knows their ABCs (or hey, even poops in the potty). Good for them, but it’s so not what my world looks like (check out Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid). It’s been a sanity saver to connect with other special needs moms, with whom it’s not uncomfortable or shocking to swap stories about medications, feeding tubes, communication devices and therapies. Even within this community, though, there is such variation in how every child is affected. Only I understand Jacob’s unique makeup and challenges. With this honor of caring for him comes the solitude of the role. I often feel really lonely in raising him.

4. I wish you would stop saying, “retarded,” “short bus,” “as long as it’s healthy… “ I know people usually don’t mean to be rude by these comments, and I probably made them myself before Jacob. But now whenever I hear them, I feel a pang of hurt. Please stop saying these things. It’s disrespectful and hurtful to those who love and raise the kids you’re mocking (not to mention the kids themselves). As for the last comment, “as long as it’s healthy,” I hear a lot of pregnant women say this. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and share their wishes for healthy babies in every birth, but it’s become such a thoughtless mantra during pregnancy that it can feel like a wish against what my son is. “And what if it’s not healthy?” I want to ask. (My response: you will be OK. You and your child will still have a great, great life.)

5. I am human. I have been challenged and pushed beyond my limits in raising my son. I’ve grown tremendously as a person, and developed a soft heart and empathy for others in a way I never would have without him. But I’m just like the next mom in some ways. Sometimes I get cranky, my son irritates me, and sometimes I just want to flee to the spa or go shopping (and, um, I often do). I still have dreams and aspirations of my own. I travel, dance, am working on a novel, love good food, talk about dating. I watch Mad Men, and like a good cashmere sweater. Sometimes it’s nice to escape and talk about all these other things. And if it seems that the rest of my life is all I talk about sometimes, it’s because it can be hard to talk about my son. Which leads me to the final point…

6. I want to talk about my son/It’s hard to talk about my son. My son is the most awe-inspiring thing to happen to my life. Some days I want to shout from the top of the Empire State Building how funny and cute he is, or how he accomplished something in school (he was recently voted class president!). Sometimes, when I’m having a rough day, or have been made aware of yet another health or developmental issue, I might not say much. I don’t often share with others, even close friends and family, the depths of what I go through when it comes to Jacob. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn how to share our life with others. One thing I always appreciate is whenever people ask me a more specific question about my son, like “How did Jacob like the zoo?” or “How’s Jacob’s sign language coming along?” rather than a more generalized “How’s Jacob?” which can make me feel so overwhelmed that I usually just respond, “Good.” Starting with the small things gives me a chance to start sharing. And if I’m not sharing, don’t think that there isn’t a lot going on underneath, or that I don’t want to.

Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

February 27, 2012

I’m not a medical expert, so excuse me if I show my ignorance, but I am constantly amazed by what looks like a overdiagnosing of kids. From ADHD to autism, from dyslexia to language disorders, our students are being bombarded with medically based names for sometimes seemingly everyday based problems.

Sometimes these diagnoses prove spot on, and ultimately guide the teacher to better understanding their students. At other times however, I feel the diagnosis seems rushed, lazy and counter productive. Not only do such students receive the stigma of their newfound disability, but they also tend to lose more confidence because of it, rather than letting the revelation give them a new lease on life.

What bothers me is that in making these diagnoses, GP’s, occupational therapists and speech pathologists often see a child’s low confidence levels as a sign of a condition that is impeding their learning. Why can’t a child’s learning challenges be caused plainly and simply by their confidence issues? Why does it always have to be a condition? Why don’t they try to improve a child’s self-esteem before prescribing and labelling?

I can’t tell you how many students I have seen over the years that have been diagnosed with some learning disorder that have responded not to the recommended regime, but to a devoted teacher that spends just as much time trying to raise the child’s self-esteem as they do trying to improve the child’s academic skills.

Sometimes I think we fool ourselves into believing that school life is easy and that all children should be able to cope fairly well. School is tough for children. It can potentially damage a child’s sense of self and can be quite detrimental to their feeling of worth.

I’m not surprised kids are reluctant to go to school. I am surprised however, that our psychologists think that only 1-2% of children fall in that category:

… suffering from school refusal, an anxiety condition that affects 1 to 2 per cent of children.

”A certain degree of anxiety or reluctance to go to school is normal,” psychologist Amanda Dudley says.

”But for some, they experience excessive anxiety and it can result in persistent refusal to go to school.”

Children who experience school refusal often complain of stomach aches, headaches, nausea and other physical symptoms and are often extremely distressed when it is time to go to school.

”It can be all of a sudden that the child refuses to attend; it can be after something upsetting at school or after legitimate absence from school,” she says.

School refusal isn’t a condition. It is a natural response to the challenges that children face at school. It is also a sign that educators are blind to the real needs of their students. By overlooking self-esteem issues and instead concentrating on placing seemingly normal children on an ever-growing spectrum, we are labelling children instead of responding to them. We are diagnosing instead of truly connecting with them.

I accept that there are children with special learning needs who require targeted programs and individual support, but I also believe that there are many children who would be better served if their school helped them to adjust to school life instead of bracket them with a condition or disorder.

 


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