Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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letter to the editor:

Special-needs kids are misunderstood

Regarding the story, “Special-needs student’s classroom outbursts led classmate’s parents to seek restraining order”:

As a single parent of a special-needs child, I feel this story came across negatively, and it may cause people, especially those not close to anyone affected with any special needs, to be scared and unsympathetic to this dilemma.

Yes, children with special needs do have more issues and behaviors that can affect other students, staff, etc.

Yes, parents should not have to worry about their children’s safety while in the classroom.

However, mainstream children have issues and behaviors that affect other students and staff as well. Mainstream children can just as easily be worried about their safety in a classroom without any special-needs children.

In this situation, the school did not do enough to protect the other students or proactively help to keep it from happening again. Segregating this child is not the answer. Had the school administration had the resources available to support the teachers and aides in the classroom, things could have gone very differently. These parents were basically forced to bring the law into it to get the school to step up and make some changes.

I strongly feel that better training is required for all school staff members, as they are involved with kids that have issues, special-needs or not. Bullying, bringing weapons to school, drugs, etc., are all issues in mainstream classrooms that cause many parents to worry about their children everyday. Emphasizing that they should be scared of special-needs children is not helping.

Encouraging — no, demanding — that parents and school administrators get better training on how to handle all of these issues is the best way to start making a difference.

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  1. For the most part I support and encourage "mainstreaming" students with mental, emotional and physical handicaps into the classrooms with their peers. But not when it is detrimental to the rest of the students in the classes. The number one goal of teaching is to educate, not rehabilitate. If teachers are spending all their time and efforts on "mainstreaming" children, the others in the class are falling behind in their educations. That's wrong and should never be allowed to happen.

    Carmine D

  2. Well said, Carmine. One of the reasons the public school system has such a miserable record is the fact that it is burdened with "correcting" societal problems (not its main purpose) instead of educating its charges. The politically correct apcray it is forced to support hampers its ability to teach students what they will really need once they enter the realm of the "real" world. Who really gives a rat's ass whether or not "Heather Has Two Mommies" and what good will that nonsense do students as they seek employment? As for "children with special needs." That's become just another political football fueled by a leftist agenda. When I was in the public school system, there was a class known as "Special B" where those few which slowed the progress of the many were schooled. It worked then and could today if not for the pansy's who whine about every so-called "inequity." Get over it. Life is filled with "inequities." You can overcome them or become what is stylishly known as a "victim." Your choice!

  3. ALL children have the right to learn in a SAFE learning environment. There are NO exceptions!

    There is plenty of blame and ignorance to go around here. We should be cautious about throwing the "V word" or word "Victim" here, as it absolutely depends of the person and situation involved. But one thing is for sure, if an individual causes harm to another individual, the harmed individual might be labeled as the 'victim' again depending on the situation and or perspective. it is a case by case basis.

    Having stated that, it must be reinterated that an individual who is being irrational, cannot be reasoned with, nor is it a "classroom management problem" based on the teacher's performance. Some individuals are psychotic, on a treatment plan which may or may not include medication(s) and or behavioral plans. Ask any and every law enforcement or health care or educational professional about this, and they will be quick to tell you that an irrational person escalates into a person who is a danger to themselves or/and others. You cannot reason with an irrational person at the time they are being irrational. You have to wait until they are rational and have the ability to discuss.

    Our society has avoided addressing those who present with any kind of special needs, especially mental illness. DENIAL also becomes a great hinderance in securing the needed care an individual needs. The STIGMA of being different, in any way, shape, or form, continues to persist in our world and society.

    Most usually, those who are violent and act out, need careful and close monitoring by mental health care professionals. Such an individual could be any person off the streets of mainstream society, or they might have been identified by a professional as having a challenge and/or learning disability. Some are born with it, some have undergone some traumatic event and get the disability/handicap/challenge as a result, and some are striken with it as a disease, cancer, mental illness.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Again, ALL children have the right to learn in a safe learning environment. Distractions or dangers may have to be temporarily or permanently removed to attain this safe learning environment.

    Administrative decisions fuel the problem that this article discusses. In the current educational culture, we have teachers who put in their few years exposed to children or older students who decide the classroom "isn't for them" for a variety of reasons, and these teachers decide the grass is must greener on the administrative side of the fence. So then much of what they know of students is "book learning" and not actual experience from being in the trenches. Hence, our society has individuals who may be lacking very important common sense when dealing with students, and we see how that is all working out now after a few decade's time to brew. To top it off, teachers assigned to schools with such administrators must follow their directives, for good or ill. It all becomes a vicious cycle.

    The parent writing today's article should not take all the negativity personally. The crux of bringing up such issues is to begin the journey of addressing areas that need fixing, and that's a good thing, in my mind.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  5. All kids, students and ALL PEOPLE are frequently misunderstood--in conversation, at work, in posts.... Too many of us don't bother to listen, read, understand. So the "special needs" kids and their parents might figure out that "misunderstanding" is a part of life. "Better" training won't help at all. People often do not have the time to deal with competing priorities. That means that EVERY individual (that is not locked up) must be RESPONSIBLE FOR HER/HIS OWN BEHAVIOR even if they are "special." Violence is NEVER the answer, in war, in the class room, on the street EXCEPTING when one must defend self from someone violent in their space.

  6. "Ask any public school teacher what they spend most of their time doing and they'll tell you they spend it dealing with the backtalk and disrespect and disciplining of too many of the kids in their classroom."

    There are school administrators who should be handling these discipline students not teachers.

    God bless you and your special needs child.

    Carmine D

  7. All children have the right to a safe and nurturing learning environment.

    There are thousands of teachers who will will echo the same experiences as Commenter and Teacher ShielaCatherine, who stated the following, "I've been reading comments and considering all the points of view...I'd like to offer my own. A few years ago, I had a similar situation in my second grade classroom. For the record, at the time, I was a 25 year veteran of the CCSD with experience both as a special education teacher and as a general education teacher. It was immediately apparent that the child placed in my classroom was struggling mightily. All the necessary accommodations were made and revamped over and over again to make the experience as positive for the child and the child's peers as possible. However, when it became apparent after nine weeks that we were not going to be able to make the placement work,it took another 18 weeks before any changes were made. In that time, several CCSD specialists came out to observe and all agreed placement changes were in order. The child became increasingly aggressive and we had to evacuate the room (via a safe word and a safe meeting place) after the child became increasingly more violent. It wasn't until the child attacked another student and myself that anything changed. In retrospect, I can safely say it was not the best year for ANY of the students in my class. So...what I, a CCSD teacher suggest, is twofold...one...introduction to a general education room should be made gradually. Start with 15 minutes a day with an aide present and work up to 60 minutes. Then gradually decrease the aide support time. Secondly, institute a more expedient process that allows the professionals to scale back on the time spent in a general education classroom when it becomes apparent neither the child nor peers are benefiting. I will always look back on that year as a massive failure for the child, for his peers, and for myself."

    First and foremost, decisions start at the top, and that may be beyond the school site Principal. Now that there are performance zones and areas, we also have more layers of decision makers in the form of Administrators. Their mindsets are the template of how a school Administrators behaves in reference to policy, micromanaging and filtering it down to classroom management policies for the Teachers.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  8. We all need and deserve a safe environment to maximize our lives and potential.

    Who does not understand "special needs kids"? How?

    The original article addressed acting out behaviors, but fell short of going into underlying factors and outcomes.

    A Parent is a child's supreme advocate in law and natural order. The Parent understands and knows their child best, supposedly. We know that a normal parent/guardian loves their child, and is aware of that child's behavior and goings on. Our country values Constitutional rights, and places the parent responsible for their child until age 18, emancipated, or high school graduation.

    PARENTS have way more power than Teachers, and it is a fine art for a Teacher to acommodate and balance all the considerations and needs of each and every one of their classroom's students and their parents. Add to that the extra pressure of making sure the letter of the law is followed for all the special needs students in their class! What has happened,is that Parents are not as engaged with their child's classroom, teacher, or school. They become UNaware of parts of their child's life. This also is true of Parents of a child who has an IEP.

    In the past decade, population has grown exponentially. In response, classroom sizes grew. With large class sizes, some classrooms have had a third of the students with IEPs, in the process, as with RTI(Response to Intervention) process of elimination, or initial identification and assessments. Teachers get no extra help with the extra loads, the paperwork and red-tape is staggering. Mixes of classes change each time a new student enters the classroom mid-year. This disturbs special needs students, as the majority of them are reliant on constancy, and defined structure.

    When new students enter the classroom, this upsets the dynamic, and there are problems. Changes ususally disturb special needs students, causing escalating behaviors that can go on for weeks. Other children in such a classroom also behave in the same way, but don't brew over it as long.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  9. Re discipline: we've seen "teachers" act inappropriately at public meetings by disrupting the functioning of the meeting. We've seen "teachers" behave poorly at demonstrations. And they want to tell us that the parents are responsible for student behavior problems?

  10. Years gone by, teachers and school counselors took time to do interactive lessons about inclusion of students with special needs. Now, much of that instruction is "embedded" into stories and lessons, that are not reliant on time consuming interactive role playing or creative activities. With the focus on tests, standards, and increased achievement, behaviors took a back seat in our educational institutions, and now we are shocked over all the violence we have experienced or witnessed in the recent years. All too often, found in courts of law, the defendant brings out that they were special needs in school. The public and infrastructure has been slow connecting the dots, and changing the ways it deals with children.

    Now, more than ever, we must provide mental health care access to students and their families at school. Assistance will be swift, proactive, rather than reactive. Both academic and social success would increase significantly. What we have been doing, over and over, is NOT getting the results we hoped for. Time to think out of the box, shake things up, and shift our time, money, energy, and resources to something that will have an immediate positive impact, on many levels, providing a superb "return on investment".

    Missing in the "special needs kids are misunderstood" article is a wealth of background that sets the stage for student behaviors and outcomes. It is true, as Commenter Shiela Catherine states, that instead of properly transitioning special needs students into classrooms, they are placed in there, to sink or swim, with whatever supports that may or may not be available to support that child's IEP. An Office Clerk will bring the student and parent to the new classroom and teacher, introduce them, possibly take the teacher aside and inform them that the student has an IEP (most cases, the IEP is NOT available unless the classroom teacher makes the effort to secure the information through a Resource teacher. So they are exposed to unknowns until needed information is obtained. In some cases, it is an incident waiting to happen... With the drastic budget cuts, it may take weeks before some children with IEPs that require a qualified Aide, gets one. In the meantime, their Teacher is on a slippery slope, walking on eggshells to keep the whole class going as best as possible.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  11. For Commenter Roberta Anderson: Wouldn't you agree that human beings will act out of character when they are extremely frustrated, or sick? The focus of the article and subsequent letters and articles focuses on the "special needs kids". Every person on this planet is surrounded by fellow human beings, environments, and other factors that impact their state. In our world, respect starts with the individual...then with the individual leading at the top as it "trickles down" the hierachy ladder.

    Continuing...
    Years gone by, teachers and school counselors took time to do interactive lessons about inclusion of students with special needs. Now, much of that instruction is "embedded" into stories and lessons, that are not reliant on time consuming interactive role playing or creative activities. With the focus on tests, standards, and increased achievement, behaviors took a back seat in our educational institutions, and now we are shocked over all the violence we have experienced or witnessed in the recent years. All too often, found in courts of law, the defendant brings out that they were special needs in school. The public and infrastructure has been slow connecting the dots, and changing the ways it deals with children.

    Many Teachers will attest to times when, as Commenter Teacher Shiela Catherine, that "neither the child nor peers are benefiting. I will always look back on that year as a massive failure for the child, for his peers, and for myself." This is all too common. Confirming this fact is as easy as going to a professional development event, mingling, and chatting with the educators that are there. You will get an earful.

    Special need kids are still kids, growing up and learning, just as the others. It's just they have challenges that make living and doing a bit more difficult. Technology has many supports to assist them. Mountains of research provides professionals information that is vital in working with challenged individuals. Special needs kids have the United States Government on their side, advocating on their behalves to a "free and appropriate education," that is "least restrictive". How that all is interpretted and carried out depends primarily on Administrators.

    The classroom Teacher, is simply the instrument, facilitator, or tool, that carries out the mandates and wishes of the established law and Administrative interpretation thereof.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star