What message does it send?

By writing this, I am not trying to be critical of other parents and the decisions they make in this situation.  I also want to make it known that I understand that every child is different.  And every situation is different.  And that what may be the best for one child is not necessarily so for another. 

And one other little disclaimer…what follows is my opinion based on my experience, of which I don’t have a lot.  🙂  I have only four years of experience as a mother of a child with a disability.  And we have only just entered the world of education and school and homework and projects and grades and all that comes with it.  So I reserve the right to change my opinion as my life becomes more rich with experience.  I don’t think I will.  But I never like to say never…     

Here goes…

Henry is a very smart 5 year old little boy.  He learns quickly.  He is outgoing, and confident, and happy.  And Henry is hard of hearing. I am well aware of the fact that that puts him at a disadvantage.  I don’t understand it completely.  I hear.  I don’t know what it’s like to not hear well.  I don’t fully understand what he has to do to keep up with us hearing people.  But I do know that it is a significant effort.  And I do know that he will have to work pretty darned hard to do some of the things that most of us do without even thinking. 

When I originally wrote this, I stated that teachers in our county are able to grade children with an iep on an adjusted grading scale.  What I have learned since is that children with ieps may have an adjusted curriculum.  Yes, the two are different, but in the end, they have the same effect.  And they both lead me to the same conclusion.

To be honest, I don’t even know what an adjusted curriculum is.  What is the reason for, and what are the consequences of an adjusted curriculum? I don’t know.  I don’t know which children qualify for this “adjusted curriculum.”  Does it have to be written into the iep?  I don’t know.  Are all children with ieps considered for this?  I don’t know.  (And frankly, I wonder how it is that I haven’t even heard of this before now.) 

I don’t know enough about it, clearly.  But it really got me thinking about Henry’s education, his life, his goals, and through what lens I want him to be viewed.  Yes, he has a disability, but no one should let that label cloud their view of him.  It also got me thinking about people, and how we treat each other, and how something as wonderful as compassion can evolve into something unintended.  Something that sends an unintended message to a little boy. 

I don’t know when we began trying to make everything fair.  Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes it is terribly unfair.  Is it fair that Henry doesn’t hear very well?  No.  It’s not fair.  That is his challenge.  But he has gifts, too.  We all have gifts.  And we all have challenges, granted that some are much, much greater than others.  The reality is that people are different.  Kids are different.  Some kids are athletes.  Some kids are leaders.  Some kids are social butterflies.  Some kids are smart.  Some kids are creative and artistic.  Some kids will change the world with their kindness.  I want my kids to discover their own gifts, and understand that those gifts, along with the challenges they own, are what make them who they are.  I want them to learn to live with and overcome their challenges, and I want them to use their gifts for good.  These are the ideas I believe in.

But then we do things as adults to try to make all children the same…make everything fair.  Why do we try to even everything out?  Do we make the world a better place?  Do we make things fair by doing so?  And where is the fairness for those kids that really excel as athletes or scholars or artists?  Aren’t we taking from them at the same time we are giving to others?

What message are we sending to this little boy of mine?  What message do we send to his siblings, and his peers?  I mean really, really think about this…  He has a disability.  If his curriculum is changed based on the fact that he has a disability, what does he learn from that?  Are we telling him he’ll never be on the same level, no matter how hard he tries?   

How would I explain to my son that he isn’t quite good enough, smart enough, fast enough, strong enough to do this on his own, just the way he is?  I have spent the last four years since his diagnosis telling him that he IS enough, just the way he is.  And I believe that.  And if he IS enough, just as he is, then why is there any reason to even things out?  I wonder what unintended consequences this all has.  I wonder what he learns, and what other children learn from situations like this. 

I don’t want his successes muddied.  When he succeeds, I want him to be proud of himself, and know that his accomplishments are all his own.  He will know how hard he worked for something, and he will appreciate it.

And Henry is going to have to work hard.  Harder than most other children.  Yes. 

But he will.  And he will know that he did it. 

He did it just the way he is.

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What message does it send?

7 thoughts on “What message does it send?

  1. Wow- my gut immediately says “no way” to the adjusted grades. I get suspicious when schools try to inflate grades, for any reason. For one thing, areas needing help might not be identified, which puts the child at a distinct disadvantage in later years. A child might think he or she was very talented in school, then enter college to find that they had not received the same level of education as their peers. I would rather have my child work really hard and obtain a “C” than to be given an adjusted “A.” Plus, when a child does earn an A, you know it is legitimate when there is no grade inflation.

    I hope our area schools don’t “adjust” grades for kids on IEP’s- something to look into before Nolan enters elementary school, I suppose!

  2. Huh? Grading kids with IEPs on a different grading scale? The ONLY grading on a different scale I ever knew of resulted in a different type of diploma – one that would not result in Henry getting into a school (VT) with more ease, it could actually make it more difficult?!?

    I would ABSOLUTELY say Henry should be graded JUST LIKE the other kids – you are RIGHT, he is SMART, CAPABLE, and CAN DO IT. Yes, he has a hearing loss, but he does NOT need to be graded on a special curve.

    Kristen, something just doesn’t sound ‘legite’ about this to me – I encourage you to keep Henry on the regular grading scale and ask more questions about this.

    I’m so glad you posted about this! If you need anything, you’ve got my # :). I’ll ask to see if I can find out any more info…

  3. IEP’s are supposed to be put in place to ensure that each child is exposed to an equal chance at learning. That could mean anything from providing a child with Braille books to holding them to a different standard if they aren’t able to learn in the same manner.

    Here’s a little bit on our experience with IEP’s: My 6th grader has cerebral palsy. It has taken him longer to achieve most physical milestones than other kids. Because of his muscle tone and delays, when he was smaller (kindergarten though maybe 2nd grade) he was not able to write as well or as quickly as most of the other children. It took him much, much longer to accomplish the same tasks and the concentration he needed to perform fine motor skills left him exhausted. An example of the way things were modified for him would be that if the class were taking a math test with 30 problems, then he may have been required to complete 15 of the same difficulty. As long as he showed mastery of the material, it really didn’t matter if he was able to do it 30 times or only 15. He was still graded in the same way. As he grew older and became better at his fine motor skills, this sort of thing was removed from his IEP and he was required to do exactly the same things as his peers.

    Now, in the case of his twin brother, who has ADHD and a major case of scatter-brain but is a very smart child…the school wanted to put a 504 plan in place that included allowing him to turn in all of his work at one time each 9 weeks. Why? Because he was too lazy and irresponsible to turn in his homework every morning. Rather than penalize him, they thought it would be best if he just kept it all crumpled up in the bottom of his book bag and I could iron it all out and send it in to be graded before report cards were issued. Not! How would he learn to do what he was told or pay the consequences if the teacher and I took over for him?

    If the school wants to provide Henry with a way to enhance his ability to learn…such as an amplifier and headset or another tool to facilitate his access to the same material as the other kids…that’s one thing. But to expect less of him just because he doesn’t hear as well? No way. You’re absolutely right to insist that he get an appropriate education. That little one is going to go places in life and he shouldn’t be held back by the school system, whether they mean well or not.

    (I’ve reread this a few times, and hope it’s coming across in the tone I intended. It’s meant to be supportive, but you can never be sure how you sound online. 🙂 I think you’re doing a terrific job with your kids.)

  4. My two cents… find out exactly and specifically what they mean when they say “adjusted”.

    When Tate was in public school, with an IEP, he wasn’t “coddled” and things weren’t dumbed down for him. It was all about making sure he had access to the same information (like using the FM).

    Other HoH kids needed more intervention. For instance… if a HoH kiddo isn’t hearing everything, then he might not have the same vocabulary to work with. Suppose the class is going to do a science lesson. He may need to be “pre-taught” some new vocabulary words that other kids may already know. (That’s just one example I could think of.)

    That’s how it has worked out in MY experience. I’m sure you’ll be doing your research!

    Since we’ve pulled our kids out and have been homeschooling, I have him evaluated every year or two by an education specialist, recommended by our audiologist. This woman has identified Tate’s strengths and given suggestions for his weaknesses, which we work on at home. For instance, introducing a lot of idioms and proverbs. I don’t know it this is typical of many Deaf/HoH folks, but Tate is VERY literal, so we work on figurative language.

    Maybe that’s way outside the scope of what you’re thinking about. Sorry!

    Henry and Tate and kids like them CAN DO IT. They’re intelligent and resourceful and persistent and capable.

    You’re doing a great job… hang in there!

    Julie

  5. I can’t really speak to the adjusted grades part, but I can address what goes on in an iep meeting.

    Our situation was somewhat different in Abby’s case because she has a mobility issue. At first they wanted her to be able to be involved with all the therapy services they could provide, which we didn’t want, as she was already heavily involved in outside therapy. She did require an adaptive gym teacher in elementary school.She didn’t like it.

    I can say with complete honesty that she hated every stitch of extra attention that she was given. She felt it made her stick out even more.
    It was important to her to be treated like everyone else.

    By the time she graduated, the extent of her “help” was only transportation to school, and special consideration to travel in the elevators.

    At every IEP, services were offered and we politely declined them.

    It was my understanding that all they were supposed to do was help the child integrate into the classroom. In Abby’s case, there were arrangements made for seating, fire drills, and minor things like that. One year they did have to brainstorm how to help her use a foot pedal sewing machine.

    I don’t understand why they would want to adapt Henry’s grades when he clearly does not have a learning type disability.

    All of that to say, you can tell them no.You can tell them you want him to have what he needs to succeed, but nothing else. You are his advocate now. By high school, he will probably not want their help, or their label.

    I commend you for your thoughtful discernment. His disability is just a part of who he is, it doesn’t define him.

  6. While we do have an IEP for Cass, our situation is much, much different. Our IEP does not equate to an adjusted grading scale, but yes, to an adjusted curriculum. Whereas a typical 4th grade student is held to certain standards in reading, math, etc, our IEP allows us to bypass those (mostly unrealistic) goals and put in place goals that are challenging, yet attainable. I appreciate the IEP.

    That said, Henry’s situation is much, much different. His delays are not cognitive, and I imagine that the standards set forth for typical children his age would be attainable for him, given appropriate tools. That’s not to say that it will be easy for him – I certainly wouldn’t want to downplay the accomplishments he is sure to make.

    All that to say that I hear what you are saying. And while the IEP (and associated adjusted curriculums) are helpful for some children with disabilities, I completely understand why you would be hesitant to include Henry in that group.

    All I can tell you is that you are his biggest advocate. And it falls on your shoulders to speak up for what you believe is right for him. It’s never easy. But often times the most important things in life are not.

    Virtual hugs. You are a great mom.

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