When She Was Bad, She Was Horrid
Many of us remember the old nursey rhyme about when she was good, she was very, very good; but when she was bad she was horrid. Evidently many, many people feel that way about kids with disabilities. Suspension and expulsion rates for children with disabilities are two times higher than they are for plain kids. This information is based on data from the U.S. Office of Education.
According to the report, children with disabilities make up 12.46% of enrollment in traditional public schools. Yet they were subject to discipline at roughly twice that rate. In fact, 11.56% of children with disabilities had been suspended and .26 % had been expelled.
It is interesting to explore the possible reasons for this huge difference. The most simple reason is that kids with disabilities are just not as well behaved as plain kids. But simple reasons are mostly easy answers.
A better reason is that in spite of the requirement in the law that the manifestation of a child’s disability may not be used for disciplinary reasons, it is happening all the time.
Another reason is the huge push towards fully including children with disabilities into traditional classrooms. When this happens most of the training received by teachers is designed to meet the academic needs of the students. There is little to no training regarding behavioral management of children with disabilities nor how to manage their differing social and emotional needs.
One of the aggravating factors for children with disabilities is academic frustration and embarrassment that they cannot keep up with their peers. General education teachers are not trained in differentiating instruction in ways that are needed by children with learning challenges. They have little to no training in understanding children with autism and how that impacts the child’s perception of the world. Teachers need to be trained in the causes of those challenging behaviors not just keep reacting to them with suspensions which only lead to more disconnection with the class. Teachers need to be trained in positive behavioral supports. For the most part they are not. The ability to recognize the purpose of the behavior to the child as opposed to the teacher’s analysis of what the teacher thinks the purpose is cannot be overstated. It is a science to determine what is motivating the CHILD not what the teacher thinks is motivating the child.
Just maybe all these kids with disabilities really are very, very good when they are understood instead of being treated as if they were horrid.