Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Apples and oranges

When my friend and I gave our recommendations for helping 2e/Asperger's students have both sets of needs met in the middle school STEM Progam, we said that the nutshell version is to know the learner and the learning.  Therefore, most of our recommendations centered around training -- special educators, general educators, people in the trenches, administrators at central office.  Training everybody in 2e/Asperger's.  We recognized that saying so may have been insulting.  But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the eating has shown for years that they don't have a recipe and have substituted some essential ingredients.

I had a second meeting last week to try, again, to get the conditions removed from my son's IEP.  I have some things to say about conditions, but not today.  While in that second meeting, the Director (of Spceical Education) got off topic multiple times, and even referred back to the big meeting a few days earlier.  One of her points was that it can be difficult to determine when an accommodation actually interferes with a program like STEM.  She offered a couple of analogies.  The first was about a student with significant mental retardation (with an IQ of maybe 53) taking a chemistry course with lots of supports; sure, you can set up the situation, and with enough supports, the student may get something out of it, but...  The second was about a person with a profound hearing impairment (loss?) joining the choir; she could join, but she really wouldn't advance.

I've thought about those two analogies since that meeting, and I've come to the conclusion that we're talking about apples and oranges.  (I don't mean to offend people with more experience with MR or deafness.  I hope that I'm describing the analogies.)  The student with MR will have maxed out his ability level prior to attending the chemistry class; the person with profound deafness does not have the ability to hear.  But this is where I think the misconception lies:  A highly abled student with Asperger's has deficits in his social and organization skills, but he has the ability to learn in his deficit areas -- just not a superior ability.  This may be the true area of misunderstanding at the central office level.

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