Monday, August 20, 2012

Start-ups

School starts in two days.  While I'm so ready for that -- 10-plus weeks of summer vacation is entirely six-plus weeks too much -- I don't want the stress of the school year, either.

My son will have four STEM classes.  Based on the workload last year with only two STEM classes, we're going to have to do a lot more overseeing this year.  And he doesn't have the study skills class this year that he had last year.  This is a problem on multiple levels: his resistance to help, his single slow speed, his lack of comprehension of the necessity of planning projects before doing them, and his sister's insistence for attention when a parent focuses on her brother.

My daughter will start off her first full year in general education since 3rd grade.  Transferring out of STEM last March took the workload pressure off her plate but added right back the "unchallenged" factor.  With a lack of gifted programming in our elementary and middle schools (with the exception of STEM), appropriate rigor is always in the hands of each teacher.  Even at the end of this past year in the new school, a couple of teachers indicated that their general education classes weren't at my daughter's level and that's just the way it is.

It seems to me that my school system does average really well.  However, exceptional students (of any kind) may or may not have their needs met.  In my case, both my children are twice-exceptional (2e), and I can't seem to get both sets of needs met at the same time, if at all.

I've been thinking about why my son was able to succeed in the middle school STEM program but my daughter went under by the third quarter.  (A friend's daughter just pulled out after making it through 6th and 7th grades.)  My son was already identified as 2e when he started the program.  Although we had a fair quantity of trouble getting his IEP implemented in the STEM program, he had an IEP from the start, and he did eventually get the supports he needed to access the curriculum.

My daughter, on the other hand, was successful in the elementary STEM program (almost straight A's) I believe because the elementary STEM program is quite different from the middle and high school programs.  It is across-the-board above grade level, but it seems to understand that the children are nine- and 10-year-olds.  They are children in the STEM program; they are not little adults in the STEM program.

When my daughter entered middle school, her special needs had not yet been identified in the school setting, and the demands put on her were too much without supports.  Though her difficulties were first brought to the school's attention in October, nothing useful happened through the time she left in March.  (Apparently several of her teachers hadn't even known she had a PST plan that had started in December!)  I will always wonder if she would have been successful if she had had the supports she needed from the get-go, or if the supports she needed had been identified and supplied immediately.

So here we are starting up another school year.  Open Houses are tonight and tomorrow, and, as usual, I have to go in asking, "You know my son has an IEP.  Yes, really.  Have you read it yet?  Have you read my daughter's 504 Plan?"

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