1. TAKS Tests, One Family’s Story
TAKS is the acronym for a standardized state assessment. TAKS testing was triggering frequent meltdowns for our son. It is clear to our child that the teachers hate the TAKS testing and the other students hate it. He started having massive meltdowns a couple of weeks before and we’ve never had that ever. We had previously been successful in preparing for testing because of the way we handle it in our home. He told me his teacher had told him, “If I don’t pass I’ll fail.” His teacher told me he was experiencing more meltdowns and I replied that it was the stress from upcoming TAKS testing and he is feeling overly pressured because someone is telling him he will fail his grade in school if he does not pass this. His teacher wanted me to know she was communicating the importance of the test to the students. I asked that she counsel him about the importance of the test in the same way we had counseled him in the past. We had always told our son: Your teachers are really the ones being tested. Your teachers are told to teach you certain material and if you are never tested to see if you learned that material, their bosses don’t know if they taught it to you. The bosses have to give you a test to see if the teachers are doing their job. So they are the ones being tested, not you. It takes the burden off their backs. So you just do your best and don’t worry about it. The teacher started doing that with him and the meltdowns ceased.
2. TAKS Test: Another Family’s Story
Our child cannot be told he doesn’t have to care about his testing performance. For our son, telling him not to worry about a test would be a disaster. He wouldn’t try at all. I simply cannot tell our son that. We have gone over that with the teacher: You do not tell him “Just do your very best” and then stop. I do say, “Do your very best and let’s see how much better you are than last time.” I find that if I don’t put a little bit of oomph on him, he will not try to perform. It is a very individual situation. You have got to see where the child is on that.
3. Child Likes to Read All the Time
Our son likes to read all the time. He is very hard to keep on task in class. He would rather be reading. He will have the right book open, but he does not want to read about history, he wants to read “Dragon Ball Z”. Or whatever he is into at the time. We are glad that he loves to read, especially his reading teacher, but he is not doing his Math, he is reading.
His Math teacher has started doing what is called “chunking” and it has worked wonderfully. The teacher says to him, “If you do the first five problems correctly, then you can read for ten minutes.” When he is done with the ten minutes of reading, the teacher tells him, “Do five more and you get ten more minutes of reading.” He is getting the concepts and he is completing what he is supposed to and it is not overwhelming to him.
4. Child is Very Literal
Being overly literal in his understanding affects our son in the classroom. It causes difficulty socially and academically. Socially, the problem recently was evidenced as the classroom teacher mentioned repeatedly that Friday was Rodeo Day. The school was planning to dismiss early so families could attend the Rodeo. Our son assumed since the rodeo had been mentioned in class, the class would be leaving school early to go to the rodeo together. He was extremely disappointed when he learned everyone was leaving school to go their own way. We asked the classroom teacher to be clear to our child about early dismissal days so he would know what to expect.
Academically, the literal thinking causes him to become “stuck” when multiple steps are required to complete a problem or activity. If there is unfamiliar language being use, or “lingo,” he becomes stuck trying to figure out the meaning of the new terms and may miss a large part of the lesson.
Communicating our child’s needs for more concrete explanations and breaks has helped get past the problems. Explaining how the early dismissal day will work and defining terms before the lesson is taught has helped. We also request that our son’s school use a “break” system for our son. Whenever our son feels pressured or stuck and needs a time out, he uses a pass to go to the content mastery classroom. He may sit in a bean bag and read a book for ten minutes. Decompressing for a few minutes has helped our son to stay on track and be able to rejoin the class and understand the lesson being taught.
5. Child Could Not Read
Our son had a difficult time learning to read. He has a non-specified disability and we have found we have to always think outside the box. We have found there are different programs that are available for general education students that wouldn’t normally be offered to a student with disabilities. Someone in an ARD meeting last year wondered if the new Scottish Rite program for dyslexia might help him learn to read. He does not have dyslexia yet, it has worked wonderfully. It was the solution for what our son was not getting, but we just happened upon it because someone knew it was a resource to try. We are extremely thankful for the general education teacher who thought to share that idea.
6. Lack of Organizational Skills
Our son is very disorganized. He is disorganized at home and at school. He would do the assignments and then not turn them in. Our son’s Asperger’s caused him to not understand the importance of completing the loop by turning the work in. There are three ways we have overcome the problem of not turning in the assignments:
1) the online Parent Connection our school has which allows us easy communication with our son’s teachers,
2) the Daily Planner our son’s teachers complete so we have a written record of what is due in each class and when it is due, and
3) extra personal assistance for those out of the ordinary times when our child doesn’t understand how to do the required thing if a special factor is added to the equation.
For example, he was assigned in school suspension (ISS) for hitting another student. Our son had a project due the day he was in ISS. He had done the assignment but we got an e-mail from his teacher saying he had not turned in his assignment and if it was not turned in the next day he would get a zero. So, we asked Michael “What happened?” He explained that since he was in ISS and he wasn’t going to go to her class that he did not think he was allowed to turn in the assignment. All this made sense due to the way he thinks. Having the extra personal assistance to check in with him periodically helps him with completing the loop on assignments.
7. Organizational Issues
Our daughter, who has spina bifida, would be unable to do homework because she forgot to bring her books home. They were too heavy and bulky for her to handle. Our solution was for her to have a set of books at home and at school.
8. Need to Teach and Re-teach Child with Deafness
Our child has always been deaf and has used sign language. Different nuances of language are difficult for him to grasp without focused explanation. Early on, we began requesting the coming year’s textbooks for use over the summer. Having the textbooks for our child to review allowed him to solve the language problems prior to going into the classroom and work on learning the new concepts.
9. Lack of Recognition of the Disability
Even though our child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the classroom teachers had their copies of her IEP, not all of them acted as though they knew there was a learning disability. It took repeated conversations with some teachers to begin implementing the modifications and working toward the IEP objectives the ARD committee had written. Our message to general education classroom teachers is to thoroughly understand the IEPs for the students with disabilities in your classroom.
10. Perfectionist Student
Our child is slow in getting some of his work done because he is a perfectionist. The resource teacher in high school had concerns about him being able to keep up. When the parents emphasized how much they were willing and able to help him with his work at home, the resource teacher wrote modifications that allowed for more of his class work to be completed at home. Further, the resource teacher wrote up the modifications for all of our child’s classes so he would be allowed to work on the assignments at home to deepen his understanding of the subject material.
11. ARD Committee Membership I
We began to feel as though the teachers thought we passed out modifications just to make their lives miserable. We asked that our son’s Assistive Technology expert attend the ARD meeting so all the classroom teachers could understand why the purpose of the modifications and why they were needed.
12. ARD Committee Membership II
Because vocabulary is such a challenge for our son who is profoundly deaf we have asked that all teachers that are going to be in contact with our son to be in the ARD so we can communicate the importance of having the vocabulary ahead of class time so he can work with the sign language interpreter on the new words.
Idioms are difficult for our son and we have communicated our son’s need to have idioms given to him ahead of time so he can fully understand their meaning. For example “bear in mind” – there is no bear in your mind. It took him about a year for him to get that one idiom. If there was an idiom in his reading assignment, it would freeze him. He would not go on. He would refuse to do anymore work because he didn’t understand the first part. We had a tutor work with him. The tutor drew a line through them and told him to skip it. We, as parents, could not get him past this, but the tutor did. We shared that technique with his teacher.
14. Reluctant to Read
Our son was not interested in the reading that was assigned. The classroom teacher asked if it was all right if our son read books about wrestling because that is what he wanted to read. We agreed and now our son loves to read as long as it is something he has picked out.