I just read a news piece about a third grade girl who has special needs. She goes to a public school in Columbus Ohio. It’s reported that this girl just walked out of her school in the middle of the day…without it being discovered for long enough for her to walk two miles down busy roadways, evidently on her way home. Now, as if that isn’t bad enough…get this…they suspended the little girl from school for two days. After reading the article, I read some of the publics comments on the topic and I was shocked.
Some people blamed the little girl and her parents. They were cruel in saying that the mother was obviously uneduated and “the apple don’t fall far from the tree” and that the girl needed an attitude adjustment and other moronic things. Some stated it didn’t even appear that the girl had a disability…she mistakingly must believe a learning disability is evident to the naked eye…
Obviously yes, the girl does need to know that it is unsafe and wrong for her to leave the school. But doesn’t the school deserve some type of smack on the hand at the very least? This hits a raw nerve for me. There are many children out there who have various learning disabilities…some worse than others. There is Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, and many others. Some kids are high functioning, and you may not even be able to tell they have anything wrong with them…but as in Aspergers, they have poor social skills and cannot read other peoples emotions, they may laugh at inappropriate times, or not cry when it would seem they should. They don’t get along well with others, or can’t make change or tell time. Or other disabilities where they appear completely “normal” but yet cannot absorb information like the rest of us do, their minds work differently. They do not test well.
To make matters worse, unless you are very poor or very rich, there are very few avenues for a parent of one of these high functioning learning disabled children to pursue regarding getting a good education. Generally you “mainstream” these kids into the public school system. You have yearly IEP meetings with their teachers/administrators and go over the “goals” for the child for their academic career. It’s little more than a joke however in some cases. They will offer your child maybe a multiplication table for their math tests or some other “helper” type gadget. Or have the child go to another room for testing. But in alot of cases, these children are just falling through the cracks. Somehow they get passed from grade to grade, without really making much progress…I do know of juniors in highschool who do not know their left foot from their right foot or how to tell time or make change or count money for that matter.
What are these kids going to do when they are out of school? Whether they get a diploma or not? Some wouldn’t be able to ANY paying job whatsoever…I mean, you must know atleast a little about making change or counting money, or how to follow verbal and or written instructions, or how to deal with people…Now I am sure there are people who would say “Well, it’s the parents responsibility to make sure their kid gets an education!” This is true…but parents are not educated teachers. We did not go to college to learn the strategies for teaching children. I for one can not do Algebra to save my life…so how would I help my child to do it? Maybe some would say “Pay a tutor!” Well, what if you can’t afford a tutor? Can’t afford Sylvan? Can’t afford a private school…what do you do?
Now if you have a VERY low income, you may qualify for assitance with some special education facilities…but not if you’re “middle class.” So the parents of these “apparently normal looking children” are left to worry over their childrens future. How will they survive? How will they support themselves? Who will be taking advantage of them? Who will encourage them to do things that are wrong or dangerous? I know I have not researched all the avenues available for these kids, but I intend to now. There has to be something to help with these children’s education.
And as far as that school in Ohio…they need to take a long hard look at what happened here. What if that beautiful little girl had been run over or kidnapped? When we send our kids to school we do so thinking that for the most part they will be safe there. Especially elementary age children. She was in a “special needs class” she should have been better supervised…not sent to the isolation room and left unattended for 15 minutes!
| The Miracle of Poetry
by Susan Davis
When I tell people that I facilitate the creation of poetry among adults with developmental disabilities, I can feel the room grow silent. After all, what could people with severe disabilities such as autism, mental retardation, and traumatic brain injuries know about poetry? How does a person with impaired communication, low I.Q. and an inability to read or write create poetry?
In the winter of 1992, as I sat talking with a group of clients, I was struck by the natural beauty of their language – the rhythm, the inflection and the repetitive speech which, seen outside the context of autistic pathology, is nothing short of poetry. With their permission, I turned on a tape recorder and the poetry began.
The creation and love of poetry seems to come naturally to people with developmental disabilities. It allows them to break the rules of conventional language and be heard in a way they havenít been before. It gives them a chance to hear their own voices, and develop a strong sense of self. It breeds self-esteem. Above all, it gives them a forum in the community and the hope of banishing isolation.
Such was the case with Jeffrey Tolley, a young man with mental retardation who loved to play basketball at his neighborhood gym, but was horribly hurt by the treatment he received there. In his poem, “Gym I,” Jeffrey expresses
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