Today marks my 8th blog post; I want to start working up to something different for my 10th post. I am well aware of habits and routines, and how a routine becomes a habit. Each of my posts have been written once a couple days before my post, then almost entirely rewritten the morning I post. Each of my posts have featured a picture of some sorts and about 1000 words (wow, that’s already 8000 words, mainly about myself.)
When I applied to be an author for this post, I offered my perspective as a person with AD(H)D and a teacher. As I can recall, the majority of my family’s struggles were related to school. I never had any issues with sports, friendships (when I was young) were never difficult, and I did help out around the house about as much as any other kid. I can remember the fights, the tears, and the pains from bringing home notes, report cards, and calls home from school. They have been such a part of my mother’s life that she retells the stories like an old war veteran, rocking on her front porch chair.
I’ve already shared many of the stories with you; the non-existent support, the overly intimidating IPRC meetings, the time I did get support, etc. What I didn’t tell you is the problems other parents face. I write these blogs every day from my own perspective, my own life, my own problems. Solutions that I have brought forward are not universal, they may not even be transferable; it’s just a perspective.
This brings me to my topic de jour. Although we are all different, and we each bring with us our own strengths and weaknesses, there are some universal solutions we can, will, and do adopt. During my years as a student of our province’s educational system, some of these solutions were only in their infancy, others were not even a twinkle in the ministry’s eye.
First, and most importantly, is differential instruction. This idea is so simple, yet so oddly new that education systems in the United States are only now beginning to adopt it. Differential instruction is using a variety of teaching and evaluation methods based off of the concept that every student learns differently. This idea was only accidentally used when I was in school, and before that, teachers were taught how to deliver instruction in almost a militant form. By using DI, students are able to learn the way that best suits them, and demonstrate their knowledge in their strongest form. For some students, reading is easier as a learning tool, while others learn better with open discussions. When it comes to evaluations, you may find that one student can show her knowledge better on paper, than in practice. DI is all about finding the best in the student, not the comfort zone of the teacher.
For the students that require more than DI (or teachers that do not use DI), we now inact individual education plans (IEP.) This program is fairly new as it did not exist when I was in school. IEPs are created when students are struggling to perform but do not have a formal diagnosis. This is very useful in cases where students may either not have an identifiable disability or there is a large wait time for a formal psychological evaluation. They may include some alternate forms of evaluation, or accommodations; some may include, using a computer instead of handwriting tests, have a scriber in class, and relearning past curriculum. The latter seems to be one of the most alarming for parents, as I will discuss.
The Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) is very similar to the IEP with a few additional doors that open. Where DI is implemented by the teacher by choice, and an IEP mandates that teacher to use DI, an IPRC identification is a legal mandate to the board and teacher that they must use DI to accommodate a student. I currently provide tutoring and advising services for parents that have students that learn differently, and as part of that position, I always recommend that parents pursue IPRC whenever possible. With a formal IPRC identification, students are allowed extra personal resources that may not have been available before. Unfortunately, many parents with these students are told that there is an exhaustive wait period before their students may receive a psychological assessment. For some parents, this process may accelerated with a private psychological assessment. Such assessments may cost more than $1500 and a full day of school/work; a cost that for many parents that is just too much to bear.
Within all of these acronyms and edu-babble, it all unfortunately boils down to the parent. A parent that is well informed and involved will almost always find success with their student. There are many teachers out there that work hard, and will ensure that every student is taught with DI. But when things don’t go right, parents are always the first line of defense. My parents were there for me, and my siblings, and we all made it through each finding their own success. I advise many parents that are met with struggles, but find solutions with efficiency.
As with being the strongest defense for their students, parents can also be the obstacle too. Often parents are given unwanted advice and do not take the time to learn what it all means; such as medication, therapy, identification, or modification of curriculum. When a parent hears about modification, they may think that their student is going to be pushed back a grade or two. In reality, modification means that a student may learn grade 5 math, rather than grade 8, however, this is likely because the student has no knowledge of grade 5 math curriculum. By continuing to push students in grade 8 math, those students that need to learn earlier math will continue to fail.
And in the end, the most important thing for a student to be successful in school, is confidence as a learner. A student that brings home level 4+ in grade 5 math is much more likely to feel better about themselves than a student bringing home 1- and Rs in grade 8 math. With the proper modifications and accommodations, along with some tutoring, those students can quickly catch up to their peers while building their confidence as a learner.
I can remember exactly when and how I started to fall behind in school. I also remember when and how I regained confidence in myself as a learner. For me, it was my 6th year in high school, and it happened the same year I was given the proper support I needed. So, for the parents out there fighting, keep fighting; when you finally win that battle it will make a difference. For those parents that feel lost, talk to someone, read some articles, and pick up a phone. Communication with the school is always the first step, and knowing that you’re reading this blog, you’ve already started your research. We’re all different, and it’s by understanding how we are different that we find our success.