I have 30 years of experience with special needs individuals. I was offered a job to work with these individuals through a school system in Tennessee in 2015. However, I had no experience working as a teacher. I had no idea how this experience would impact my life as well as show me how these children are denied education.
I was a special education teacher assistant from 2015 – 2016 for a Tennessee Highschool Votech Center. I was to help children understand the material better by reading to them. Most students had a rough time with comprehension. Although I have some mental disabilities of my own, I was able to show them tricks that help me with my everyday struggles. It was hard at first to get the students to open up to me on what they had trouble understanding. After I broke the barrier, they started to trust me & wanted my help with their studies. The majority of these students were very smart but were in the minority of absorbing information differently than others do.
It didn’t take me long to figure out why my students had trust & learning issues. After getting to know my students better, I discovered the majority were truly smart. Unfortunately, they were in the minority of absorbing information like most of us do. As I also have a learning disability & I have found ways to cope with it. Some of these tricks I taught my students to see if it helps them as it has helped me. Although my students were bright, I witnessed them being discouraged daily by their teachers that put their self-esteem low. The response I got when I asked them where they would like to attend college was always the same. “I’m not smart enough to go to college.” That breaks my heart.
The Ignored Example
One of my students suffered from ADHD as well as OCD. She was super intelligent & her memory was impeccable. Her health teacher would send her frequently to my room for “help” with her work. They were studying medical terms at the time. Some of the more difficult terms have 15 letters in them with intense definitions. This girl could spell these terms without having to memorize the spelling & could spat off the definition like an auctioneer. Why would her teacher feel she needed help? I later took a look at her Individual Education Plan (IEP) & discovered a written note from the health teacher. In summary, the teacher explained how she was failing, needed to be pulled out of this class & would not be able to take it again in the future. When I questioned her teacher, I was blown off & how dare I express my opinion.
My emotions from the shock took a toll on me. I remember being treated this way when I was a student, but I thought it had gotten better. When your child comes home saying “My grades are bad because my teacher hates me,” most of the time is an excuse for not completing their work in class. Unfortunately, I wish this was true. Now, it’s most likely true. Grades were purposely altered to fail children with learning disabilities. My boss had meetings with me on several occasions for “blowing my lid” over the unfair treatment of students. Needless to say, I was not invited back the following year to resume my position.
Quality education is not provided to our children with learning disabilities. They are tossed aside & forgotten because some of today’s teachers do not want the responsibility or are held accountable for their actions. Students who are not-verbal are being physically abused & are not able to speak out about their treatment. Teachers have been successful in making it the parents fault. School systems need to be punished for their unjust actions & negligence by failing to provide a quality education as well as to protect our children.
If you have a child with disabilities in a public school, be aware of the manner of education they are receiving. This article is not intending on bashing teachers or schools in any way. Bringing awareness to parents with special needs children who deserve a proper education is my first priority.