Things are changing in our world once again. After trying a semester of a split (home and school) schedule for CJ, we have found that it is not working. He needs more structure and he and I need not be in an office all day together…..even if it is only every other day. His grades are suffering, even more than before. Even worse, our relationship is suffering. I am after him constantly to get his online work done. By the end of some days, we aren’t even speaking because there has been so much frustration and tension between the two of us.
I have always been a firm believer in public education, really, I have…..it’s just not working for my son. Since the 6th grade, CJ has been in modified special ed classes. This means that he takes mainstream classes with guidance, either from a secondary teacher or an additional aide in the classroom for core subjects. Other elective classes are simply mainstream. This year we tried to do a split program where he takes some classes online and others on-site. This has been our challenge, online classes don’t provide him enough guidance and on-site classes are getting so big, special ed kids are getting lost in them….as well as getting emotionally overwhelmed with the social challenges that always come with high school.
I have also found that, just like all kids learn in different ways…..some teachers are only able to teach in certain ways. As we have gotten up to the high school level, there seems to be less patience and understanding for kids with challenges…..and less flexibility in the way teachers are able to reach them. Last month, I had a conversation with his case manager, who also happens to be one of CJ’s co-taught classroom teachers. We discussed that with his modifications (extra time, option to key instead of write…etc) CJ has the ability to do any of the work provided…..he just needs the motivation to do it. This teacher said to me “I have been trying to get him interested, but as case-managers, we are taught to modify programs, not motivate kids”. This made me upset. Not at this teacher…..he was doing everything in his power to help my child….but his statement just goes to prove that teachers aren’t always given the tools that they need to work with these kids effectively. He is only one teacher….among the many that my child experiences every day.
I know many people who are educators and I know this next statement may make some waves…..but I think there is way too much ignorance in the teaching profession in regard to kids in special ed programs. ‘Special needs’ does not in any way, shape, or form mean stupid. Unfortunately, we have come across multiple teachers in recent years, who think just that……or at least they treat the kids in their classes as such. Although there have been a few that we have been able to educate about how neurological challenges effect kids in the classroom……and how to work with those challenges, there are even more that refuse to hear. Because of this, my son feels defeated on a regular basis. He is constantly telling me how dumb he is. CJ is far from stupid…..he actually has an IQ of 112. While he may not be classified as a genius, he is above average. One of his best friends happens to be autistic….and is brilliant, but still requires special services in school. There are so many kids in the same situation that are getting lost in the system. I am afraid that, in our situation, since CJ has entered middle school, the public school system just hasn’t been serving his needs as well as I would like. I think this has a lot to do with the class size and the rigid curriculum that is being placed on these teachers, but some of it is the teacher’s willingness to learn how to work with different children’s skill sets and challenges. A whole other part for us is CJ’s lack of willingness to engage once he emotionally shuts down. This happens quite often.
We found an option that we qualify for through GA’s special needs scholarship. Because CJ has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), GA will pay for certain private schools. We have a couple of schools in our area that are classified as special needs scholarship recipients….but not all are the right fit for CJ. We did find one, however, in the next town over, that we are going to give a try. The classes are small, 12-15 kids max, and 25% of their kids have IEP’s, so they know how to work with the requirements. They also have a 4 day class week and the 5th day is a catch-up or tutoring day. Another bonus, being a private school, they have the ability to work with a different curriculum than the state mandated common-core.
So, I am running around gathering all of the required paperwork in the hopes that I will have it all together by Friday, the day I need to go in and fill out paperwork. If all goes as planned, he will be able to start after Christmas break. This is my last hope. If this doesn’t work for him, I really don’t know what our next step is. No matter what I do, I can’t force him to want to learn and I can’t force him to understand the importance of an education. No matter how much I would love to do this on my own……I need help. Educating a child takes a team and hopefully I will find a team at this school that can help me motivate him and educate him. One of the challenges with bipolar disorder is that CJ rarely sees beyond today. So I will take a page out of his book….. for today, I will be calm and hope that this new school fits his needs. I will hope that the teachers will have patience with him and somehow help me get him excited in learning again. That would be a beautiful thing.
****Today’s graphics are a nod to the wonderful Sheena at Not a Punk Rocker. who helps me see the light at the end of this long tunnel. 🙂