The Other Side of Special Ed

Today is a kind of ironic day.

You see, this blog has evolved into not your average mommy blog because I talk a whole lot (in the earlier entries) about being a teacher and I’m a special education teacher so it has that twist to it too… but I’m not trying to sell my blog to you. No it’s just interesting because today was the first day of school and I met my new crop of awesome kids who struggle with learning disabilities. Each new year starts as a challenge but one I feel more and more equipped to handle. I’m love my job because it’s not a job, it’s a ministry. I was called to do this and so I do.

I love my students. I love the challenge of finding new ways to meet their needs. If you don’t know much about learning disabilities let me just explain quickly that kids with LD have a normal to above average intelligence. We’re not talking about a low IQ here (although some do have a lower IQ to us it’s just a number). It’s just that strictly speaking, Special Education (or Exceptional Student Education as it is referred to in my certification) covers two types of children– those like my students…

… and those like my son.

Today I took Andrew for his 2 year check up. He’s 35 3/4 inches tall, weighs 29 pounds and has officially met all his 2 year old milestones and most of his 3 year old ones. You read that right. My doctor said that essentially I have a 3 year old and that in his years of practice he’s only ever met one other child who was as advanced as Andrew is right now. And as a parent I’m not going to say I’m sad to hear it but I’m not doing a happy dance either. I’m kinda taking a deep breath and a step back and realizing that as much as it’s totally awesome to hear that right now, I also know that if his learning trend continues as it is currently, we will have challenges ahead, too. We will come to see the other side of special education.

Some parents pray for a healthy child, or a strong child, or a beautiful child. Well I prayed for healthy but I also prayed for intelligent not because I would have loved him any less if he were to be in any way challenged but because we strongly value education and want the same opportunities for him as we had ourselves. But there is also this other side of it because as a parent first of all, no one wants to hear about the challenges of raising a smart child so there’s not a whole lot of people I can ask for advice. In fact some times it’s hard to be around other kids his age because I worry people think we are showing off. People routinely think he’s older than he really is because he carries on full conversations, orders his own meals at restaurants, says his complete alphabet, counts past 10, recognizes his name in writing and has a shockingly good memory. I’m proud of him but it makes for some awkward moments at times since most completely normal 2 year olds don’t do all these things. But the bigger question is what do we do with school? I’ve been told by more than one professional that we need to start thinking seriously about his education. We have already picked a preschool which he’ll start next year (yikes!) but will it be enough? Our pediatrician told us today that he’ll be the kid in first grade who’s bored out of his mind and I know full well that a bored child is not a happy (or well behaved child). So I guess right now the thing to do is digest the info we’ve been given and try to find the next step. I’m so proud of my little guy but I always knew he’d keep me on my toes. I want to be able to give him everything he needs and commit as much of my effort to his education as I do my students.

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5 thoughts on “The Other Side of Special Ed

  1. Welcome to my world. Derek is all that and more and there is nothing more frustrating than trying to keep up with his needs for learning. It is the number one reason why I chose to homeschool him and Jake. He could learn at his own pace and wasn’t ever stuck waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. He was in the gifted program when in public school and that still was not enough stimulation. When Derek started kindergarten I was told at our first parent teacher conference that I had done Derek a disservice by teaching him so much! I was so mad! I asked the teacher, what was I supposed to do, tell him no when he wanted to learn something?

    Jake has a photographic memory so he has been able to keep up with Derek in most subjects even though he is a year younger, however he has to work harder and put more time into learning. Jake’s IQ had never been tested because he did not want to be in the gifted program and or wanted to be “different”.

    Things just come incredibly easy to Derek. As his teacher, it could be quite frustrating because he came at problems, especially math and anything that involved critical thinking, in a completely different way. I teach it one way and he’d tell me no I was wrong and wasting time and do it his way. He got the right answers but how he arrived there was unique. Sometimes this was helpful for Jake and other times it wasn’t. lol

    It’s tricky and the whole time I was teaching them, I was constantly worrying over whether I was giving them everything they needed. Turns out I was, but I didn’t let go of that worry until Derek hit college and has made straight A’s every term. Jake is following right along in his foot steps. Straight A’s aren’t a requirement, but to tell you the truth I get a real thrill seeing them after so many years of self doubt.

    Em, I have every confidence that you will follow the right path that works for both Andrew and you. The fact that you already recognize that there is a major down size is huge. One world of caution, DO NOT EVER over simplify things or try to brush off his questions. If you don’t know, tell him you will find out together. When they are this smart they don’t take it well when they aren’t getting straight answers. lol

  2. I think you are in luck that he’s an August birthday. As an August baby myself, my advice is to try to get him starting with the grade above him. At least in GA, they let my mom choose if I’d go with the class where I’d be the youngest vs. the oldest. She started me where I’d be the youngest and that seemed to help me not be as bored as I otherwise may have been. But keep up the good work Mommy!!

  3. Thanks guys!!

    And thanks Chele, that’s really really good advice. We do try to always talk to him in a mature way. I like to give real answers, not babyfied ones but sometimes I don’t do as well as I should. Yesterday I picked him up in Andy’s car and he asked, “Mommy what are you doing in daddy’s car seat?” (His exact words) And I thought about it and I had to explain to him that my car was broken and had to go away for a while to be fixed. He seemed totally satisfied with that answer. I know if he’s not satisfied with an answer he just keeps asking and asking. I love it though. You’ve done an amazing jobs with your boys. I wish I could meet them someday!

  4. I have no advice from the parent POV, but I know you’ll do your best to make sure Andrew has what he needs. I was fortunate enough to go to an elementary/junior high school where the teachers were willing to let me work ahead of the rest of the class. My high school had/has a fabulous college prep track, so I had plenty of options (and enough challenge) once I was there. I hope Andrew has those same chances. 🙂 I absolutely agree with the suggestion to try to get Andrew started with the grade above.

    I really like your approach to answering Andrew’s questions. I hate it when I see a child ask a question and they get a dumbed-down answer, or even worse, “because I said so” or “because.”

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