Monday, February 7, 2011

Be damned

I've been writing recently about having received a letter from the Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services.  The letter was in reply to my question about the legality of the phrasings on my son's IEP, but it also contained a description of the instructional methodologies of the STEM Program that she authored.  I needed to address the content of that description separately as I believe that it shows a misunderstanding of and a prejudice against twice exceptional children, what they need, and what parents are asking for when educating their children.  I hope that my friend and I were able to show that highly abled students with Asperger's do indeed belong in the STEM Program even though they are not perfectly gifted, as the description implies they should be. 

To address the misunderstandings and prejudiced thinking behind the STEM description, I worked very hard to remove my emotional response to the many levels of inappropriateness contained in that letter from the Director.  In addition to the inappropriateness of the content itself, the tone was pejorative.  I'm not going to share the letter here; suffice it to say that the people to whom I did show it were insulted for me.  Then there is the appalling fact that such a description came from the Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services.  Whether or not the ideas are "information received from personnel involved with STEM" as the Director later told me when I asked the source, she presented the description to me as coming from her and also as a fact.  Additionally, this description was sent to me personally, the parent of a child with Asperger's who is a STEM student on an IEP; no one else received this description, as far as I can discern, nor can it be found in any publicly available resource.

I believe that any director of special education should be championing our students, yet I feel that this description and the implicit acceptance of it keeps them back by promoting misunderstandings and prejudice.  It says that perfect giftedness is acceptable in STEM; anything else is substandard and therefore unacceptable.  I don't understand why this idea, now clearly on the table, isn't being fought tooth and nail by every person in the department.  I don't know what is happening behind the scenes at central office; I don't know how the Director responds when I'm not around.  My knowledge is based on what I see and hear, and what I see and hear is distressing.

Ironically, just today I came across a policy revision that is up for approval at this week's Board of Educaiton meeting which includes:  "The overall organization plan of the school system will be designed to facilitate the philosophy of educating every child, each to his or her fullest capability.""  I haven't yet found the actual philosophy statement itself -- only this reference to it -- but I'm ever hopeful.  I need it, just like I need the Mission Statement, to protect my child:  "Each to his or her fullest capability" means that my son will have both sets of needs addressed.  As stated several years ago and confirmed this past week, Special Education won't supply gifted curriculum, but they will support our children if they get it otherwise.  My child is in STEM getting the academic rigor he needs; now we're going to planfully address his social and organizational needs, description be damned.

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