Having trouble with your special education department? Maybe this story can help a little bit.
I remember the first day of 6th grade when I was introduced to the woman
who would be my one-on-one aide for the entire year. She would be
responsible for all of my physical needs. That means, in the classroom she
would be taking notes, writing down my homework assignments, getting
out my books and such. In the past, my aides always introduced
themselves to me. This time the special education teacher introduced the aide to me. The aide did not even say hello to me. I didn’t want to read too much into it.
Perhaps I should have. Now, here I am sitting at my desk eagerly awaiting
the first instruction from my teacher. I asked my aide to please take my notebook out. Nothing.
She didn’t do a thing. She just stared at me blankly. I asked a second time,
thinking she may not have heard me. I do have a slight speech impediment
and I do like to give those people that aren’t aware of my speech pattern
time to adjust. Still absolutely nothing occurred. I started to get nervous. I
didn’t know what to do. This is not in the cerebral palsy handbook. Here I
am, 11 years old and I really don’t know how to talk to people in authority
in a situation like this. What was my 6th grade teacher going to do? He had
the whole class to worry about. So I waited – and waited until one of the
special education teachers came to check on me. I told her I was having a
problem. My aide wasn’t doing what I was requesting. She said, “Well Mike,, she
doesn’t speak English.” I had my answer, but that certainly didn’t solve my
problem. What am I supposed to do? I asked. “Ahhhh. You guys will figure
it out. She is a nice woman.” This was a direct quote! I toughed it out for
the rest of the day. Then I went home and I am not ashamed to tell you
that I lost it. I was tired and frustrated. My parents couldn’t believe what I
was telling them. They arranged a meeting the next day. They explained
that it was imperative that my aide understand and speak English. The
head of the special education department, who personally hired this
woman, seemed flabbergasted at this notion. It took a couple of weeks but
they found another woman and I am happy to say that she spoke English
and was great!
This experience taught me something. Always meet your aide before
school starts, if that is possible. I seriously think that when the special education
department pairs up an aide with a student, they are strictly looking at the
weaknesses of the student. “Oh, you use a wheelchair. You need
someone to push you.” or “Oh, you can’t open a book, so all you need is
someone to open the book for you.” It is not all about what we can’t do. It is also
about what we are able to do in spite of what we can’t do. In my case, it
was my ability to speak. Communication is key whether that is with your
aides, teachers or those in the special education department. It is important to
let others know what you need to help make your educational experience
as positive as possible.
How can this story help you?
If you are a parent in this situation, know what’s going on before the first
day of school. Ask questions, have an understanding with the special education
department about expectations and if you can, meet with the aide
If you are the student, speak up for yourself. If you have concerns prior to
the upcoming school year, address them to the appropriate people to
alleviate stress and create an open dialogue.
If you are a teacher in this situation, understand how important the one-on-
one aide relationship is. These aren’t just things you can slap together.
relationship. You must have an open dialogue. Do not assume anything!
Rollin’ to a town near you,