There is a lot of discussions in the blogosphere and in education circles about at risk students and early intervention. At-risk students are students who are not experiencing success in school and are potential dropouts. Usually, they are low academic achievers who exhibit low self-esteem. They may be from low socioeconomic status families. At-risk students tend not to participate in school activities and have a minimal identification with the school. They may have disciplinary and truancy problems. They may exhibit impulsive behavior and their peer relationships are problematic. Family problems, drug addictions, pregnancies, and other problems may prevent them from participating successfully in school. As they experience failure and fall behind their peers, school becomes a negative environment that reinforces their low self-esteem.
On the other hand, early intervention is designed to identify and treat developmental disabilities as early as possible in order to prevent more serious disability, ensure the maximum growth and development of the child, and assist the family as they raise a developmentally disabled child.
I am very curious how this works. What makes these approaches anything different from what is happening today? A child is identified as having an issue and then what? What makes these approaches the magic wand for fixing public education?
As you may know I have a teenage son who has some learning disabilities. Until recently, we have been battling the public education system which all started when he was in kindergarten. Our story may shed the light on how well “early intervention” worked for us.
In November, when my son was in kindergarten, his teacher contacted me and said she believed he had some learning disabilities. This really wasn’t a surprise because our neurologist had indicated that this may be a possibility. Learning disabilities are sometimes a comobidity to having epilepsy. Comorbidity is either the presence of one or more disorders in addition to a primary disease or disorder, or the effect of such additional disorders or diseases.
My son’s kindergarten teacher proposed that we do some basic testing and then follow through with recommendations to get him the services he needed. My reaction to this was great. It was an example of early intervention. The educational system was doing what it should do. Little did I know that I was pretty naive.
Unfortunately at the time I was laid off from my job and we made the decision that we were going to move to a place closer to my family. I had obtained a job in the new location but had not yet found a place for us to live. Our original plan was that my husband would stay in Ohio with my son and finish school until winter break. By then I would have a place for us to live and they could join me. This meant about the family would have to endure four weeks of separation.
As the day approached for me to leave, I just couldn’t leave my son. I couldn’t imagine not seeing him for four weeks. We had never been apart. So after some discussions with my husband and my family, we decided that my son would come with me, at least partially. He would stay with my sister and go to school with her children. This gave me the ability to spend each weekend with my son until I had a house for us to live. This way I was only three hours away. A three-hour drive was insignificant compared to an eighteen hour drive, which would have been impossible. Once I got us a place to live, we could then transfer my son to his permanent school in our new home town.
Even though I was able to see my son every weekend it was still hard. Departing was awful. He was pretty brave on Sunday’s and Monday’s. By Tuesday I could tell he was missing me. By Wednesday he was miserable. Luckily my job was pretty understanding. They let me take Friday off. So on Thursday, after work, I would rush to my sister’s house and spend the three-day weekend with my son. Finally after three weeks, which was close to Christmas, the family was all together in our new home.
Once we got settled in I contacted the school to tell them that my son was going to be a new student at their elementary school. We filled out all the appropriate paper work for the school to have my son’s records transferred, which was the same process that we had to go through when my son attended the three weeks or so of school where my sister lived.
Keep in mind these transitions happened very quickly. My whole family was in survival mode. I had lost a job which is a major life experience. Plus we were moving, which is another life experience. As result of all this, my whole family had to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, my son’s sacrifices were more critical than I imagined and as a result had a huge impact on his education.
. . . To Be Continued