Is There a Problem in Special Education?
He doesn't quite come out and say it but I believe his premise is that we are over-identifying students rather than accepting that ALL students have different ways of learning and challenges to learning.
From his column:
People gifted in more than a couple of areas are rare, and people gifted in one area but lacking in another are not unusual. A person with outstanding musical aptitude, for example, may be noticeably lacking in social skills, and a person with outstanding verbal skills may be mechanically inept.The mere fact that a person is lacking in some characteristic or ability does not necessarily mean something is "wrong." That a certain 10-year-old child is shy, lacks conversational skills, and prefers solitary activity to group play does not mean something is amiss inside the child's brain. Nor does the mere fact that a child struggles with learning to read or do math mean his brain isn't working properly.
And he's right. I think one issue for our parenting generation is wanting to fix/help our children if they struggle. Struggling is good. It challenges a child to overcome a difficulty, to be able to urge him/herself along and take great pride in overcoming that challenge.
So for parents, where is the line for helping/guiding versus hovering? Are we part of a generation of labelers so it is easier for us to not have to push our children and see them struggle?
Or is it that science has caught up and now we know there are learning disabilities that do need to be addressed (and weren't when we were 3rd graders)?
From his column:
All of this is to say that for all the prior lip service, today's educators seem to have absolutely no respect for individual differences, no respect for the fact that "lack" is not synonymous with wrong. In today's schools, the range of acceptability concerning an ever-increasing number of aptitudes has been getting narrower and narrower over the past couple of decades.
This narrow-mindedness on the part of educators has coincided with the proliferation of various supposed childhood "disorders."
Okay, so is a learning disability low on the scale versus autism? Is this the battle being fought between parents (or will it become one as we all chase after education dollars)? Is this the battle that districts are facing as they face more and more students with a disorder and have to stretch the Special Education dollars further?
He ends with this:
I fully recognize the legitimacy of a conscientious diagnostic process. I also recognize that some kids need professional help overcoming certain deficits. I'm simply saying that when all is said and done, the number of children being identified as needing "special services" in schools is approaching the absurd. The trend, carried forward, predicts that it won't be long before all of America's kids will have a diagnosis by age 10.
What do you think? (Full disclosure; I have a special needs child who probably struggled a lot more than he had to because we got a diagnosis of his disability fairly late.)