Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All Education Should Be Special Education

My 17-year-old daughter is dyslexic.

We knew something was up by the time she was two. She didn’t learn the words for things as easily as other kids. By the time she was five, we were looking for alternative schools for her.

We did this with a lot of trepidation.

Her kindergarten teacher, seeing that, said gently, “Everyone is afraid to look at special-ed schools, but when you see them, you will find yourself thinking, ‘Every child should have an education like this.’”

She was right.

Schools that specialize in learning differences –my daughter went to two private ones, in two different states, with her brother joining her at the second -- are the warmest, happiest schools I have ever seen. And my kids were happy and confident even as they worked hard there.

The biggest difference? The student/teacher ratio is usually around 7 to 1. When your child’s teachers work with just seven kids, they know each one. It is a true personal relationship.

And working with such a small group, outside the mainstream of how school is supposed to be, these teachers can teach the child in front of them. A twelve-year-old who doesn’t know how to read? No problem. They will start where the child is. By the same token, they can accelerate when warranted. Though my son is dysgraphic, meaning he cannot pick up a pencil and write legibly, his teachers at this school saw his math abilities and started moving faster; he was ahead of grade level when he left. His teachers had the autonomy to give their students whatever they needed: no red tape, no delays and no worry about standardized test scores.

It is, indeed, the educational experience every child should have.

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