Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lake Wobegon effect, with a twist: where no child is neurotypical

It occurs to me that two recent posts (here, here) point towards a strange convergence: more and more children are officially "special."

On the one hand, increasing numbers of parents are seeking IEPs and 504s because of instructional failures (->"dyslexia" and "dysgraphia"), schools holding children behind (->"giftedness"), and developmentally inappropriate assignments (->"executive dysfunction" or "ADD/ADHD").

On the other hand, more and more parents are seeking special accommodations for standardized tests like the SATs because more and more parents are seeking special accommodations for standardized tests like the SATs (a vicious cycle in which private schools are enthusiastically complicit->"ADD/ADHD" and "learning disability/processing speed disorder").

The problem, of course, is that this dilutes scarce resources and raises skepticism towards special needs, disadvantaging the minority for whom the above labels are most truly descriptive.


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I had noticed the tendency at a private school my son had gone to offer almost all kids "extra time" on tests. They even provided a "diagnosis" for my kid (by someone who had never even met him) to give him extra time, though he was always the first one done on tests and usually needed to have a book with him to keep from getting bored on test days. This bogus definition of learning disability resulted in over a third of the students at the school being "diagnosed". Probably only about 1-5% had LDs, as elsewhere.

I haven't seen the problem much at the university, though---only about 4% of students there register with the disabilities resource center.

FedUpMom said...

"Executive dysfunction", don't get me started. My older dd got a "strike" against her in math class because she forgot to get my signature on her quiz. She did all her homework and had an A on the quiz, but now she feels discouraged because she forgot one stupid piece of paperwork? How does that make sense?

I had a conversation with the math teacher and he doesn't require my signature anymore.

We are getting to the point where the requirements schools place on kids are wildly inappropriate for most kids. It's time to change the requirements. Inventing new labels doesn't help.

I don't even get the IEP business. When older dd was in public school, she had an IEP, because of her "gifted" label (and that's another discussion.) I'm not at all sure that any of her teachers actually read this document, and I don't see how it influenced anything they did. Public school is all about marching kids through the day lockstep. What difference does an IEP make?

Anonymous said...

"What difference does an IEP make?"

An IEP is a contract. If the school won't follow the IEP, the parent can file a complaint with the State Dept of Education and they will make the school provide the services in the IEP.

When my son was in kindergarten, the school said...."It's too difficult to hire a speech teacher. We won't have speech therapy this year."

After much research, we discovered that my son's IEP meant that the school had to offer him therapy. It took several hostile meetings with school personnel. We had to convince them that we knew the law and would file complaints with the school. Once they believed that we knew our options and would use them, they found that they were able to hire a speech therapist.

My daughter is gifted. In our state, there are no protections for gifted students.

The principal told us that there was no point in using any resources for our daughter since she would pass the state tests no matter what the school did. She has no IEP. We couldn't get the school to do anything for her.

The IEP is a club that parents can use to make the schools teach the kids who have an IEP. Without a club, the school doesn't have to do anything they don't feel like doing.

FedUpMom said...

Anonymous, if you were able to use an IEP to get action from your school, good for you.

I see that I didn't fully understand the situation. I thought the idea behind the IEP was that the teachers would read it and take it into account when interacting with my daughter. *hollow laugh*