Why Do Kids With Special Needs Still Fall Through The Education Cracks?

So…education and how it deals with those frustrating square pegs that outrightly refuse to fit into the system provided my the mainstream education of round holes.

Why Do Kids With Special Needs Still Fall Through The Education Cracks?
Photo by August USW at http://www.flickr.com

You know the ones I’m talking about. Those kids with those newly-invented diseases created by the middle-classes that the media like to patronise, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and even autism.

It must be difficult for educators, poor things, having all these kids in their classrooms with these new-fangled, millennial, mental health conditions that apparently never existed before our time. (*cough* BULLSHIT!)

 

‘We never had anxiety in our day,’ is a comment that makes me want to gauge someone’s eyes out.

 

Yes, we all know that funding in education is tight and that there are limitations to how much these kids can be supported. And then there is the pressure of good results that the schools need to churn out to have their funding increased which can be hampered by these kids. And in a fair world, poor results might suggest that the school needs more funding for greater support, but in our competitive, semi-corrupt world where we make decisions that can make or break people, based on budgets, it can mean that precious funding is withdrawn due to poor performance.

So who is the real victim in this political tug of war?

It’s those annoying kids who distract other kids because they can’t concentrate and who aren’t being supported enough or taught in a way they understand and so trail behind their peers academically and socially year in, year out, because they are sent out of class, bullied, or have simply disengaged. 

And their parents, who work hard and contribute to this state education system, and so rightfully expect equal opportunities for their kids, are left feeling cheated, disappointed and angry. Because, (believe me), what they’re doing is a tough job already – it’s no bed of roses bringing up a child who not only has special needs but is also trying to come to grips with all the challenges a system that is anathema to them presents to them.

And they intuitively know that the school has given up on them, which is why they end up giving up on themselves and in the long term become more damaged and inevitably drain the government of more money for support as adults.

Kurt’s school explained to me that their recommendation that he leave year 12 was nothing to do with their impending results, but based on his ‘lack of motivation’. Now, you know that I know that my boy is no saint when it comes to behavior and admittedly there was truanting involved, yet in those last few months I received not one phone call from either his year group co-ordinator, the head teacher, or the school counselor; in fact, my only communication with the school was to receive several impersonal warning letters in the post that were threatening and obviously just a way of absolving them of all responsibility.

Whatever happened to the concept of pastoral care in education?

What extra support did we receive for Kurt for having a learning disability recognised by the department of education, an IEP and a designated school counselor – whom I never saw beyond our first meeting? What happened to good, old-fashioned communication, duty of care, wanting to get a kid, (albeit a challenging one), through school and across the line to ensure him of the best chance of success on the other side?

I’d made it abundantly clear that we weren’t expecting Kurt to achieve an Atar, that we’d never imagined our son in a mortar board and gown – the whole look would have clashed horribly with his piercings – instead, we had learned and chosen to focus on his own ‘personal best’ because after years of self-harm we put the limitations caused by his mental health (primarily ‘anxiety’) ahead of any expectations we’d had in a previous life.

We hoped he would remain at school for reasons pertaining to an all-round education – to further develop his emotional maturity, self-esteem and social skills.

So Kurt has been left to carve another notch on his failures board. And yes, some will say he deserves it and others will provide me with the ‘life is tough’, ‘you get out what you put in’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ arguments. And I fully acknowledge those arguments – for normal kids. But not for those kids with disabilities – learning disabilities that don’t mean they are intellectually retarded – (often ADHD kids have the highest IQs) – but require different strategies for learning, more scaffolding, more time, more support to get them there.

Would those teachers have left a physically disabled child in a wheelchair in the corridor if there were no steps to the classroom?

We did have these Spectrum conditions years ago, only those kids were secreted away in special schools, home-schooled or forced to leave school when they were young teenagers. We have so much more knowledge at our disposal now – knowledge that has come from years of extensive and expensive research so that we can help these kids become achievers.

Progress is our understanding of equal opportunities. So why are these kids still falling through the cracks?

5 thoughts on “Why Do Kids With Special Needs Still Fall Through The Education Cracks?

  1. Un-be-fucking-lievable.

    Since I’m in the States, my perspective may not be very helpful, but here’s my take: I’m a former teacher, and I’m totally blown away by your story. A few things I know for sure: 1 – In the school systems I’m familiar with, anyone who told parents their child would be better off dropping out of school would be a)slapped with a lawsuit and b)fired. 2 – The school systems I’ve worked in have alternative high schools, specifically designed to help kids with serious behavioral/learning challenges finish school. 3 – It is absolutely the responsibility of the schools to do everything within their power to help a child succeed. Of course, that high standard doesn’t always play out.

    Because another thing I know from experience: Parents often have to fight tooth and claw to get the services their child needs. It’s way too easy for teachers and administrators to give up; they’re overworked, underpaid, and probably have ten other kids with needs just as serious – it’s simply not possible to do the best for every single kid. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a fact. The parents who make themselves a pain in the ass (because they know it’s the only way to get what their kid needs) are generally the ones who manage to force the system to do what needs to be done.

    It’s a screwed system, honestly. Bottom line, I blame legislators who refuse to fund schools adequately, so that there are not enough education professionals available, not enough resources, to do the most important thing we can do as a society: take good care of our children. It’s a lot more attractive to steal money from schools to give tax breaks to your rich buddies who fund your campaign.

    Sorry for the novel. Obviously a hot-button topic for me. I’m crying inside for you and your son, and hoping for the best for you.

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    1. Love everything you’ve said and I know that the US is ahead in helping these kids. Unless people speak out about this, nothing will change and you’re right, that change won’t happen without extra funding.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I find it so disheartening to hear about this attitude and I have witnessed it first-hand. There is a long way to go and I hope it doesn’t take too long, as wonderful kids are the ones who suffer when educators have this misguided attitude. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  3. I hear you. My little girl had two assessments done for dyslexia. It showed she is highly intelligent and had mammoth skills, just that her brain had difficulty deciphering the information from a book or board. Her year 2 teacher said “She wont learn anything here, but she will get a job of some description later on.” I thought “bugger you,” and pulled her out. She is now home schooling. Many of her dear friends have ADHD and are falling through the system. It shouldn’t be this way! I am immensely frustrated, particularly as schools receive funding for each student, though if you pull them out, you go it alone. xx

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    1. Most kids with ADHD don’t finish school, which is a shocking statistic that needs addressing. Yet until we change the stigma around Spectrum disorders and learning difficulties, nothing will change. We need the media to be on our side.

      Liked by 1 person

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