Friday, April 4, 2014

He's Not Broken, Your System Is

"You are here to allow the divine purpose of the universe to unfold.  
That's how important you are!" -- Eckart Tolle

So, my kid is graduating 8th grade.
He's moving to high school.
Leaving the only school he's known for 9 years.

He's excited about it.
He's ready for an adventure and the thrills of high school that he has watched happen with his brother and sister: proms, dances, dates, football games, hanging out with friends --

His speech teacher that he has had since he was two said it best:
"He's excited because every change he has had up until now has made his world bigger and better."
He thinks change is good.

He's upset to say good-bye to his beloved friend and aide, Sarah.
He's not too sure of how to get to his new school...or what to do once there.
He's trying to picture it and he can't.
But overall, he's pretty excited for it.

Then we went to his first hour of formal testing...with a stranger...who gave him candy...and let him quit when he said he didn't know the answers anymore.
Would she let any typical kid quit??
Is that being nice...or is that having low expectations?
Is this test just a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Sure feels like it.

My kid needs to enter a system...a formal system that specializes in disability...a system that prefers to segregate...
and list all of the things Patrick can't do.

I look at all of the things he can do.

A system that wants to prove its value and needs to keep perpetuating this myth of can't.
The myth of "experts".

I'm the expert on my kid.

I don't need a special ed credential to know what's the right placement for him.
It's the one he's had since kinder -- fully included, with support, in his class with his typical peers,
100% of the time.
That's been working for nine years.

On May 1st, I'm going to sit in on a meeting filled with strangers...who will list all of the various gaps in my son's knowledge.

The gaps identified, by the way, from tests that are created for people with 46 chromosomes, not 47.
They're "standardized" but for what kind of kid??
Someone with autism, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome?
Is this a one-size-fits-all test??
If so, how can it measure anything meaningful?

They'll be overly polite.
They'll make comments about how charming Patrick is.
They'll smile...and act as if they know what's best for him educationally.
When they don't have a clue.

If I could, I would dismantle this system.

All children would start in their neighborhood school, in the typical classroom.

No one would have to earn their way in.

I'd train every single teacher in the country in good teaching practices...teaching teachers how to be engaging, how to mix up their class time with active/passive learning, how to monitor and give meaningful feedback, how to use technology to teach, reteach and assess for understanding.
I'd encourage creativity and cooperation and constructivist learning.

If every teacher knew how to extend a lesson and scaffold a lesson and offer support to all learners, we wouldn't need special ed...
which by the way, isn't freaking

Imagine all the money we could save if we didn't test and create goals and retest every three years.
Not to mention the time.
Precious time being wasted so the system can prove over and over how valuable it is...
when the results STINK.

75% of people with intellectual disabilities are UNemployed. 
--> 75% <--

Completely intolerable.

3/4 of the people in your system do not end up working...
why do you hold on to the outdated (and educationally false) notion that separate is equal??

25% of students with intellectual disabilities are fully included in school.
25% of people with intellectual disabilities are employed.
Isn't that an amazing coincidence??

Does it take a graduate degree to connect those dots?

Why do we have this system again??

I know I will have parents tell me amazing stories of amazing special ed teachers doing heroic things...
even a broken clock is right twice a day.

There are good people...terrific a terrible system.

I don't want to dismantle the people.
Just the system.

I want to crush the oppressive bureaucracy of deficit thinking.

A system that itself is disabled --
blinded to the many things the student can do, in favor of underlining and in bold all of the many things the student can't do.

 I view Patrick as a violet living in a daisy world.

He isn't a broken daisy.

He's rare and beautiful and exceptional in his violet-ness, just hanging out with the daisies.
Our garden is better for the variation in the beauty.
Our world is better with is the very definition of grace-in-the-ordinary.

Can you see his violet beauty?
Or do you see a broken daisy?
He's not the one who's broken...your system is.

"Peace requires everyone to be in the circle -- wholeness, inclusion."  -- Isabel Allende


  1. Excellent sharing! All of the tip about Grace is essential to read carefully. Grace keep our mind fresh and increasing our life sprite. Thanks.. special education strategies is one of the best website in the world educational space. You can get lots of educational service for your child in this site. We have built a magnificent system that’s able to reach any kind of child bottom of the life.

  2. Amen really, a table of strangers? You need more district and prior teachers & therapists and family members at the table with you. Upper education and Middle school is broken. We must fix it.

    1. P, You are so so right! I'm bringing a bunch of people with me...Patrick's entire village (well, maybe I'm exaggerating) but you get it. The educators and therapists who have been in our life will be there. Thank you!! :)

  3. Hopefully u will fight and the new people will see how great patrick is. Inculsion does work

  4. thanks for this careful thinking through of the school experience you've avoided and continue to try to avoid. i particularly like the line about a broken clock being right twice a day. i've lately realized that the educators that i thought were doing a good job only made us hopeful for the next thing, which was always disappointing. without those people we liked and appreciated and their good intentions we might have insisted even more on a consistent quality of experience, instead of a consistent quality of damage incurred through low expectations, collegiality and assumptions of professionalism as knowledge. i don't think they had bad intentions, but i think they were naive about the system they are part of. but special ed is a smaller part of a huge broken system - i'm not sure who it works for anymore and it amazes me that Sir Kenneth can have the most popular video of the TED talks series, and yet nothing in that system, or the systems that support it, changes in any fundamental way. wishing Patrick all good things in high school...

  5. Aaron, I am convinced our system stays the way it is because of lack of vision. We have nobody at the federal level who wants to set a vision -- they just want to create mandates that are unfunded and educationally questionable. The current obsession with standardized testing is a classic example. Ken Robinson speaks to what we should value in education and then goes on to explain how to create classrooms that value those qualities. There are schools doing it. It's just spotty and not uniform in any way. Your line about: "a consistent quality of damage incurred through low expectations, collegiality and assumptions of professionalism as knowledge" was chilling and spot on. The people within the system are usually good-hearted but their consistently low expectations and continued desire for the status quo keep people with intellectual disabilities from thriving.

  6. This post inspired me to write this post. feel free to use it on the May first meeting

    1. AZ, I am so inspired by your post!! Thank you for sharing it with me and thank you for sharing your video. It is very powerful. How heartbreaking to know how mistreated you were in the segregated settings and how hopeful to hear the story of your general ed English teacher and your success with AP US small feat! Congratulations on all of your academic success. Can't wait to hear about your next graduation...from university!! :) GO AZ!

  7. Hay beth how did the Iep meeting go.