Sunday, October 27, 2013

The person with the hardest job in education is paid minimum wage and has had minimal training

I've mentioned this in prior posts, but it deserves periodic attention.

In most school districts special ed students are "mainstreamed" for several classes. #1, for example, takes Algebra - though he reads and writes at a 3rd-4th grade level [1]. (#2 is also "special ed", but his needs are different. He takes advanced coursework.)

Curiously, and this is why mainstreaming works better than one might imagine, #1enjoys his algebra and seems to get some of concepts, particularly those with visual analogues. (DragonBox helped). He'll never use Algebra in later life, but then neither will most of his neurotypical peers.

Of course he can't follow the regular class materials. That's where the hard job and no pay part comes in. He has an "aide" who is supposed to reinterpret the class material in ways #1 can understand. Yeah, in realtime, without an adapted text. It's a challenging task for a talented thinker who knows the source material very well and can adjust it to the peculiar features of an atypical mind. 

That talented thinker is, of course, not working for minimum wage. Instead the most challenging job in education goes to someone with limited education, no training, minimum wage and limited benefits.

It's interesting to think how we might do better even as our funding shrinks.

[1] Incidentally, long ago, when I was an ignorant physician caring for kids with disabilities, I did not understand how valuable it was to be able to "read at a 4th grade level". That level enables useful email, comprehensible texts, scanning newspapers, reading sports news and much more. The jump from 0 to 4 is bigger than 4 to PhD.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Explaining disability to a boy who won't go to College - truth and hope

I wrote the end of High School, the end of dreams six months ago. Before and since I've been thinking about how to explain to  #1 why he isn't going to get a (true) High School diploma, and why he won't be going to any of the Colleges he loves to dream about.

I think most would agree that this is not an easy conversation.

Fortunately he has given me time to think. He approaches the topic from time to time, but usually veers off. I think I now have a story that is true but leaves some hope and a direction.

The key is that he has many cognitive and behavioral disabilities. Some are more amenable to improvement than others. There's not much, for example, he can do about his base IQ. So I'm not going to talk about that; I won't say 'there are some things your brother and sister learn quickly that you cannot learn'.

I can, however, talk about disabilities that I expect to improve with time and effort. One his core disabilities is difficulty persisting in tasks that he does not enjoy. For example, he has always been a relatively talented hockey and baseball player -- but he is very inconsistent at practicing. Lack of practice means he plays at a C or rec level rather than at a more competitive level.

Of course his hockey or baseball activities, though important for his life, aren't my key focus. They illustrate a broader problem that has biological roots in cognitive fatigue and frontal lobe dysfunction. This biology, however, has shown more change than his base IQ. These problems appear to respond to training, practice, medication, and time. They are problems that can be addressed.

So it is, at the moment, that I expect to explain his disabilities this way:

It is hard for you to work on things you don't enjoy. We and others can help you learn to do that. When you are able to work hard on things that are tiring and bothersome, you will be able to do many things. If you want to do an online High School degree then you could do that too.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

ADHD, CDD, and Related Conditions - what I wrote in 2002 holds up pretty well today

I started this blog in 2004, Best You Can Be, when #2 (Asperger) was 5 and #1 was 7. Since that time I've written about my thoughts on the nature of brain disorders and the limits of our medical classifications -- among other topics.

Today I rediscovered one of my last pre-blog classic personal web pages -- it was largely written in 2002 and when #2 was not-quite diagnosed and we were getting our heads around how to work with a 5 year old #1. In some ways the hardest times (to date!) were behind us -- but I'd had time to think about the nature of cognitive disorders and disability. I put some of those thoughts into a web article called ADHD, CDD, and Related Conditions.

Rereading it today it holds up pretty well -- I did a good job anticipating the next decade of evolving thinking about classifications and the nature of disability. If you're thinking of ADHD or similar disorders, it might be worth a scan even now.