My 4th grade son is enrolled in a school for students with learning disabilities. This year he seems to be making marked improvement. I see his written work improving and his reading is more fluent. I'd like to transfer him to a traditional school this fall, but his teachers are telling me that he needs to stay in his current school. I do trust their judgment, but isn’t there an argument for him being better served by getting into the mainstream as soon as possible?
Most parents of children with learning disabilities will place their children in special programs/schools with the hope and intention that they will eventually master the skills that kept them from being successful in traditional schools. In this case, success is measured by the “all must go at the same speed doing the same thing” benchmark. For many children, being able to be a part of the mainstream age and grade peers is significant. They are no longer called “special” for reasons they would rather not be associated with, they no longer have to explain why they are not in the mainstream, and most of all the humiliating message that they lack what others do. The combinations of these are just a few reasons to help all children get back into he mainstream.
However, as a parent the last thing you want to see happen is for your child to go back, only to fail for reasons you could never anticipate. When considering going back to the mainstream, a parent has the responsibility of finding out what the curriculums require children to do and if your child will be able to do the same. Just because your child is doing better does not mean he is starting the race at the same gate as future fifth graders.
WHAT TO DO:
Put the new grade under a microscope. Forget everything you did in fifth grade and enter into he twenty-first century expectations of public and private schools. Look for facts. Avoid analysis until you have the data you need to be objective about the curriculum.
• Get a copy of the textbooks your child will use the next year.
• Get a month’s worth of homework being given during the current year.
• Ask to see tests that the teachers have given the current year and the guidance they give children to master the content. (Worksheets, study sheets, Internet sites and more).
• Ask the teachers about opportunities for students such as your son who are transitioning to the constant daily challenge of new content, different teaching methods and teaching approaches in class (such as extra time, retaking a test, having oral tests and more).
• Samples of projects and written narrative assignments children are expected to do on their own.
• Reasons and types of disciplinary action related to events such as not completing tasks on time, poor grades, recess (if any), and after school extra-curricular activities.
Fortunately, fifth grade is still in what I refer to as the “rehearsal”
With this as your top expectation, sit with your child on some weekends and let him read to you from the books the school uses. You must make sure the child is able to sound out the words, fluently and know what it means. You will know if he does if he is able to rephrase it. Review the content the next day and then on the third day ask him a question in which he must explain the answer verbally. If he is able to then go to answer it in writing. If the school is technology based, then he should do this on a computer.
Also, you must ensure your son is ready for what must be mastered in fifth grade math. Does your child learn math with the approach he is using? If not, you could supplement with a computer program that could help him more.
Continue this process through each core subject and make sure your child is able to navigate through the curriculum at the speed and complexity that will be expected. Remember that your goal is to have your child manage the pace and aspire to pass. Anything else is frosting on the cake.
You have every right to hope to have your child reenter mainstream education. However , you must give yourself permission to make the decision that is best for you and your family in the long term.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER
Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
reading, ADD, disorder, child development
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For 30 years, Dr. Yvonne Fournier has been helping children become more successful in school. Her column, "Hassle-Free Homework," was published by Scripps Howard News Service for 20 years. She holds her doctorate in education.