“Lost in a sea of ink: How I survived the storm,” Andrew Sheehan and Cynthia Sheehan
“Students with Special Needs,” Richard Kent chp. 22, Newkirk & Kent
While I’m disgusted with the treatment that Andrew and his parents received from his elementary and middle school, I can’t say I’m surprised. I think his parents were quite wise in moving him to a different school, because I can only imagine that things would get worse if he moved into high school in the same district. The even more disturbing thought – what if Andrew’s parents were not a psychologist and a guidance counselor? What if they didn’t know how to advocate for their child? If Andrew’s parents were unaware of how the educational system worked or what accommodations they could rightfully demand, imagine the situation Andrew would’ve been in then. I’m saddened by the blatantly rude and dismissive comments from Andrew’s teachers, and while I’m sure some it can be attributed to the teachers being alternately uninformed and overwhelmed, it is still inexcusable. I wish all teachers were as patient and had the foresight of Richard Kent. While certainly, we aren’t all like that, I do think that the vast majority of teachers aspire to be. I find it hard to believe that anyone who is really dedicated to teaching wants to think students are lazy or unmotivated and not want to make accommodations to help them. Such individuals exist, for sure, but I’m confident they’re in the small, tiny minority of teachers. Most of us want to help – we just need to know how.
The only reasonable solution I can see (aside from more educated, informed leadership in the form of administrators overseeing the process) is a more intricately involved relationship between the special education teachers assigned to special needs students and the classroom teachers. Students like Andrew absolutely need advocates in the school beyond parents or classroom teachers. Classroom teachers are responsible for twenty-five (or more) students at once, so they could certainly use assistance in modifying assignments and providing services to special needs students. A team of people (overseeing administrator, special education teacher, classroom teacher and guidance counselor, at least) to help would be much more effective, and would greatly reduce the stress on each of the people involved, especially the student, hopefully yielding much better results.