Thursday, October 6, 2016

There is too much water in this soup

There is too much water in this soup.

By now almost everyone knows about the shortage of teachers.   However, the shortage of special education teachers is dire.  What makes matters worse is that the attrition rate of special education teachers is twice that of general education teachers.   It is estimated that between 82% - 99% of special education teachers are not ideally qualified to be in serving in their present capacity.  As special education teachers are increasingly put into general education classes the preparedness gap becomes even wider.
Then there is that pesky special education student.   Is she academically challenged or is he very bright academically.  Are there behavioral issues or is the student very well socialized and/or  docile?   What about the child with sensory challenges?  These challenges can be with acuity of the senses or with the perceptual organization of the incoming stimuli so the child is dyslexic.   Then there are the kids with orthopedic issues.   How is it that one special education teacher is qualified to meet the needs of all these differing types of challenges?   More concerning is the notion that there is ONE description of a student with special needs.  Each administrator who plans for the special ed kids in the school or system has a mental image of the needs of special ed kids.  That mental image can only fit a minority of the children. 
You cannot generalize special education students.  A child acting out in a class may do so because the child is very smart and the work is very boring.  Or there can be processing issues or sensory issues.   Only a trained person can sort out just what the particular challenges are for each student.   Yet increasingly there are no specially trained personnel.  No one intervention will work all the time nor with all the kids. 
 We don’t even begin to pay attention to the social emotional needs of the children.   The children need to learn about identifying their emotions, taking the perspective of others, accepting responsibility for their own behaviors and their roles and responsibilities in the larger community.  There is no time in the general classroom to address these needs and even if there were, there aren’t trainded personnel to do the job.  We need to put energy and time into getting to know the child and her family.   Families can tell us about their children outside of school if we care enough to ask and have the time to follow up.

Special education has been getting a very bad rap since the days of full inclusion and the need for standardized testing to make sure kids in special ed are learning.  But the truth is we haven’t had special education in our schools for many years.  There is so much water in the soup, we might as well add the stones and call it stone soup.  There isn’t any chicken in it so you know nothing is going to get better.

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