By Kodey Toney
In The Long Run
I had a question from a parent last week that really made me start thinking about something. Often times when we’re working to advocate for our child with special needs we forget the overall picture, which is to get what is best for the child.
The parent was working really hard to keep her child in a mainstream classroom, and he was starting to fall behind academically. He wasn’t performing the way that she, and the teachers, felt he could in the classroom. So I asked, with help from my wife, whether or not there were any modifications in the classroom to help. Apparently he was stemming and beginning to be frustrated.
She told me that there were no modifications because they were trying to keep him as mainstream as possible. They were really trying not to single him out from others.
I completely understand when you don’t want your child to be treated much different from any other child. The main focus is to have your child be as “normal” as possible and be like others. I’ve talked about this before, and won’t even go into the “normal” lecture, but you can look that up on my blog page. What I will say is this; don’t forget that our overall goal for our children is to have them do their best. As a scout master for Cub Scouts, I know this is their motto, and I think we need to instill this mindset in all children, but especially those with disabilities. We have to give them these tools to do their best. When we try to make them mainstream and tell them to be the cookie-cutter child that they will probably never be, we’re almost setting them up for failure. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive for some of these things. We should push for our child to be good in the classroom and to perform well. However, we have to remember that we also want them to learn in the classroom.
The main part of mainstreaming is for the social aspects. I’ve always said that we want Konner to be in the classroom because he’s smart enough to do the work, but we really want him to be in there with his peers. Otherwise he could end up like a loner and a recluse.
When that becomes a struggle on the cognitive side with his school work, that’s when we need to look at pulling him back a little bit and say, “Hey, you need to focus more on the work.” Konner can do the work in the classroom, but when his performance begins to struggle then we need to ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing by keeping him in there all the time. We also need to ask if we need to modify and give him some help, or those aforementioned tools to succeed.
We’re often times focused on the fight. This works for both sides. Us as parents are fighting for the child to be in the mainstream, while, not always, but many times the school is working to put the child in a classroom away from the mainstream.
We need to forget about the fight sometimes if that fight is going to affect the cognitive, educational, and academic part of the child’s life. If the child is not performing up to par in the classroom then we need to look at modifications. We need to get some help one way or another. That can be in a resource room, a special education teacher, and aide or any way we can. We need to get the child back up to the academic level that they are supposed to be performing at, or close, and then we can work again on the social aspect within the classroom. Again, the mainstream is about socializing.
Don’t be a hindrance to your child because you want your child to be in the classroom all the time. Make sure that you are doing what is right and best for them. You may be thinking that you’re doing that, but you need to step back sometimes. You need to ask yourself, “Is this what is going to help him in the long run?”