Special Education

I taught for a few years in public schools working mostly with kids with learning disabilities. First I taught children with dyslexia at three district high schools and one middle school. After that I spent two years working as an inclusion teacher in Middle School math and science. Before I had the full-time gig with the dyslexic kids I subbed in pretty much any kind of environment you could imagine–anything from a regular ed PE class to working with kids at the city’s mental hospital.

In all that time, in all those schools, I can remember only ever seeing one student in a wheelchair.

I’ve been thinking about this since the day we ordered Charlie’s wheelchair. Two of his therapists were over and they were getting into the school stuff: you need to make sure they’re changing his positioning, you’re going to need to make sure he has a good chair, you’re going to need to make sure the speech therapist is coming out to see him like she should, you’re gonna need to be a bitch, they’re going to underestimate him. Is it any wonder that day sent me into a tail spin?

And they know what they’re talking about. I’ve seen it myself. I’ve been in schools where I have had to fight to make sure my walking, talking, mostly-normal kids got what what they were required by law to get. I’ve had teachers blatantly refuse to do what was written on IEPs. I’ve seen administrators do it too. I’ve had my class sent to the auditorium, the un-airconditioned student center, or a closet.

I have always been a big advocate of public schools–especially when it comes to special education. I think they’re better equipped, have more staff, and are better versed in working with special needs. Now that the time comes for me to send Charlie, I’m less sure. They may be better, but that doesn’t mean they’re good enough. Who will advocate for him when I’m not there? Will he be included or is he doomed to a life of watching and never experiencing? Will he be judged on his abilities or disabilities? Will he spend his high school days doing crafts and cleaning tables while his peers study history and literature?

I just don’t know. Luckily, I don’t have to decide today.

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  1. Hi. It sounds like we are on a similar path. My daughter Emma ages out of EI in March and I am actually registering for the school district today. Its already been a learning process so I expect that to continue. You are lucky because you have enough background to know what is right and also to supplement at home as needed.

  2. Nadine Hightower says:

    2 things:

    1) apply for a teaching position. and be there with him.
    2) be an aide for his classes. So that you can oversee things.
    3) I do not get updates for Red Bean Dreams on my facebook page.

    okay that's 3
    But I've 2 cups of coffee.

  3. Katy, I KNOW how scary it is. We have been faced with similar things in the last yr or so. We decided to opt out of kindergarden, this year and are planning on hs.ing next year. I just can't ration sending my nonspeaking child to school where I can't see her and make sure that she is safe and has all that she needs. Luckily we have the support of our friends and family. I pray that you have an easy time of it and Charlie gets great teachers!

  4. Our therapists are the same way. Inching me into the process that I am so reluctant to talk about.

    I've even considered homeschooling.

    I'm pretty sure we have decided that Caleigh won't be going until she is 4 though. In Texas they start PPCD when they are 3. I think therapy wise I can do more for her at home. It's only three hours a day, but still.

    And Geezzz they are still babies at 3, right?

    Here's to not deciding today!

  5. Miss Burb says:

    MrB and I were actually talking about this the other day (LilB is 3 in June). He was like, I can almost imagine LilB sitting there, yelling (he doesn't have volume control) and them putting him away in a closet somewhere.
    When I read that line in your post, I shuddered.
    I'm really nervous about him going to school and how others will teach and handle him. We get to pick which school he goes to because the one he's zoned for doesn't have a Special Ed class. We're suppose to look at classes come Dec/Jan. Any tips on what we should be looking for and questions we could be asking?

  6. Miss Blurb-if you have questions about a specific behavior, like yelling, then I would ask how situations like that are handled. If you could meet a teacher, then I would ask her about her discipline policy. An experienced teacher should have a discipline policy. I'd also ask how long the SPED teacher has been at the school and how long they've been teaching all together. In many areas, SPED teachers are hard to come by and people are in and out quickly. For me (and everyone is different), my ideal teacher would be someone who has been teaching more than three years. There are exceptions, but most teachers who make it three years have figured out what they're doing. You might see if you would be able to observe a class in action–either from the hallway or in the back of the room. That would give you the best idea of what class would be a good fit for him.

  7. If I were a parent of a child with special needs, I'd want you to be his teacher.

  8. bitch is the new black

  9. luckeyfrog says:

    In my experience, most teachers who stay in special education for any length of time are just like you were. They really want to be in special education and will fight for those kids. I of course think it would be a wonderful idea for you to sit in on any classroom before sending Charlie. I think the teacher(s) can make all the difference.

    I agree with Sinead- "You are lucky because you have enough background to know what is right." You'll be able to know what a GOOD special education teacher and classroom are like when you start looking.

    I'm glad you don't have to figure it out now, and I think when the time gets closer, this will be a much easier decision. Charlie will show you what he needs at that point.

    I know we have at least two girls in wheelchairs at our school, one of whom comes into my class most days. They are both such sweet girls and well-liked and cared for!

  10. Luckeyfrog–so good to hear that! My MIL has one child in a wheelchair at her school as well. Maybe things are changing for the better?

  11. Katy,
    I don't know about your school district, but up here we have TSS workers in the schools to help out. Theraputic Support Staff. Could you check into that at your school district and possibly apply for a job being his TSS?

  12. I'm a para.

    Last year, the kid I worked with was in a wheel chair. One of my favorite students ever. I was his advocate. I made sure he was included in EVERYTHING. When he came and complained that he wasn't getting turns in P.E., I gathered a team, and we fought for him. He was not left out. We went to a corn maze for a field trip. Mud Mud Mud. We pushed him through it, sometimes carrying the chair, because it was thick. He was not left out.

    Hopefully you can get him a full time aide, demand it in his IEP. Then, that person will fall in love with him, and make sure he's included.

    I treat all of the students I work with, with the same love and consideration I show my own kids. They are right there in the middle.

  13. Anybody else just get a warm, fuzzy feeling from that last comment? SO great.

  14. Nadine Hightower says:

    See there are some very good people out there that are willing and lovingly ready to join TeamCharlie!!

    You are never alone.

  15. Omaha Mama says:

    Hi ya…
    I just want you to know that I've only been teaching for four years and personally know three wonderful teenagers who graduated from high school having taken general ed classes, all three who are in wheelchairs. Kyle, my personal favorite – even though one should never have favorites, is also on a wheelchair basketball team that travels the state for competitions. Very cool. :0)