Imagine being the parent of a child who has special needs. This child can’t walk like the other kids. He can’t run. Writing is very difficult for him. Speaking is difficult for him (hard to believe if you have spent time with him). He has vision issues. Every task for him is difficult to achieve, but he does it. Everything he does takes much longer than it does for a child without special needs; his life would be easier if we did these things for him, but it wouldn’t be beneficial for him. This is a child who could have had reduced assignments given to him in school, but he refused that accommodation as an elementary school age child.
Now imagine being the parent of this child as you sit in a school meeting trying to make sure he is receiving his “free and appropriate education” which is mandated by law. [You haven’t experienced fun until you have had to sit through IEP meetings (sarcasm button).] Imagine that you ask for some basic accommodations to try to level the educational field in which your child is expected to play and you are told by a school employee or someone from the state that the accommodation you are asking for “wouldn't be fair to the other kids.” What?????
You are seriously telling me that asking for my child to have accommodations put in place to access his education won’t be fair to the other kids. We aren’t asking for anyone to do his work. We aren’t asking for him to be excused from work or tests. We have already established that he wants to do the same work as the other kids. We are asking for tools to be put in place for him to do the work and prove that he can do the work.
S’s second grade class took timed math facts tests. They had to solve 100 facts correctly in 5 minutes in order to move to the next level. There was a big bulletin board in the room showing their progression, and it was a BIG deal to have your name moved up to the next level. They took these tests on Wednesday afternoons.
Because of S’s CP, his fine motor skills are impacted, and he has functional handwriting which doesn't include writing for a timed test. He had an aide who came in to write for him during these timed tests. While the other kids had to write for themselves during the 5 minutes, S had to tell this adult the answers and wait for her to write them during this same time. If the kids missed any, they had to repeat the same facts the next week. Getting 99 facts right in 5 minutes was not acceptable!
There were a couple of weeks that this aide was unable to come into the class during this time; therefore, S was expected to write for himself during the timed math test. There was no way he was going to pass because he can’t write fast enough to complete 100 problems in 5 minutes. We asked the teacher if he could have a little more time during tests where he was expected to write for himself, so he could have the satisfaction of passing without anyone writing for him. “That wouldn’t be fair to the other kids.” Are you kidding me????? Forget the fact that he has an IEP that states he gets additional time on work and tests.
Because S has fine motor issues, writing is extremely difficult for him (see above). To solve math problems, we used graph paper with large squares. We would write the problems out so they were lined up, and he could solve them independently. This was how he did math.
We asked for him to use graph paper on his Math SOL (standardized test). We had to submit the graph paper we wanted him to use. We also submitted two math samples for S: 1. One using the graph paper where the problem was solved correctly because his numbers were lined up. 2. One using regular paper where the problem was solved incorrectly because his numbers were all over the place.
The state of Virginia told us that "it wouldn’t be fair to the other kids" because it was homemade graph paper and not store bought.
Kudos to our principal for being brave enough to tell me that piece of information face to face. Kudos to me for not completely losing it in the school hallway. I asked the principal if the state was testing math skills or writing skills. I told the principal that “those people” need to come and spend one day in school with S to see what it is like for him to get through a school day. I also asked the school if they could make the graph paper so it wouldn’t be homemade. The reason we had to make it is he can’t write small enough for the graph paper sold in the stores. If he could write that small, we wouldn’t need it.
Due to the level of his needs, S requires a number of accommodations to level his playing field. It was extremely frustrating his fifth grade year as we went back and forth with the state trying to get his accommodations in place for the SOL testing that they require. I remember telling our principal at the time, “We can’t possibly be the first people in the whole state to ever ask for these accommodations.” His response, “You might very well be.” He told me that most kids who have required the quantity of accommodations that S does typically don’t have the cognitive functioning that S does. (http://onthecouchwithchocolate.blogspot.com/2014/07/tell-us-little-about-your-son.html)
S is very aware of the challenges his special needs bring to his life. He also knows he is entitled to accommodations by law. He isn’t asking for an easy way out. He is looking for ways to level the playing field for himself so he can be educated and become part of the work force. The paralympics finds ways to level the playing field for their athletes. You think society would realize that’s all we want for our son instead of telling us “it’s not fair”.
Is it any wonder I need time on the couch with chocolate (and wine)?