I am an individual. I have certain gifts to bring forward on this earth. These gifts were naturally given to me by a creator from above who knew I am capable of using these gifts to help others. I believe each person around me living, thriving on this earth also has gifts. I look at my own child who came from somewhere beyond who naturally knew how to speak well to vocalize his opinions. He can tell stories beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. He has gifts for others to appreciate. Yet….it seems as if his individuality is not appreciated as it should be today in fact it is almost as if it is seen as problematic.
In schools the children are asked to be kept at the same level as their peers, if they are unable to keep up the student could possibly suffer for his or her entire educational career. For example, children in LA are facing issues with keeping up and the district is not holding students back even if they are falling behind, “Fewer than 4 in 10 LA Unified students are at grade level in math. But parents can’t hold their children back if the school disagrees. And district policy is to almost always move elementary and middle school kids to the next grade level regardless of performance.” (LA School Report. 2018) The problem then moves to the next phase which is what is the student’s learning issue. A label. An excuse. It is to say something is wrong with you not the system. The child who may day dream in class because they are thinking of another way of researching a project may be deemed a child with attention concerns. The child who may not understand how to follow directions when given verbally yet is not shown another way may be seen as having a learning disability. Yet were they shown another way? Were they given another tool?
We all learn differently, is this so wrong? A bit of my own personal history shows that indeed we all have our own way of growing up and we all must be patient and kind to ourselves as we go through our own process.
In the 1980s schools were not overcrowded. Children played outside with their friends until dusk. If a child had an issue with reading or writing the schools would look at the child for who they were as an individual. They would give help through the newly established Individualized Education Plan, otherwise known as an IEP, which meant children had a plan drawn up for them protecting them from being ignored or seen as a lost cause by educators. I had an IEP when I was in the 1st grade. The process began in kindergarten my mother noticed I was not thriving. At first she was not sure if it was the teacher so she had me attend a different school. The kindergarten teacher at the new school encouraged my mother to push me ahead to first grade the following year. I went into first grade and I have to say I even remember the difficulties of being in the classroom. I could not keep my attention focused, I wanted to play not understanding why the other students did not want to do the same. Eventually, the teacher moved me next to her desk. At the parent teacher conference it was suggested I be held back. I was deemed immature and need time to blossom. My mother, who I have so much more respect for after my own experiences with my son, went with the plan. It worked!
The IEP was created at this time to help with my reading skills. I was having a difficult time so the school felt I needed more one on one guidance. I remember being pulled out during reading and taken to a reading resource room. I remember the teacher and the room, the resource teacher was Mrs. Globerson. She had a page boy cut with glasses. The room was inviting with books everywhere. She sat me down and guided me through each page of the books we read. This is where the flood gates opened. After the resource help I was in love with reading! The library days were by far my favorite as I searched the spines of books for the perfect title. The gift of reading helped me to escape this world, especially on bleak days. It saved me during my turbulent teen years, the characters in my books pulled me in. I would become lost in their stories and forget my own problems. The stories sometimes made me realize how great my life was and would lift my spirits.
The IEP plan soon was eliminated as I progressed with my studies and became confident with my reading and writing abilities. I needed the wall to be torn down in order to discover my new found passion for reading. The teachers knew I needed help yet there was not a label attached to my name in a file. It was a temporary path of help to place me on a permanent road of success.
I do realize not all plans go quite as smoothly, in fact there are very real learning disabilities which are life long. I do believe these children do need help to place a foundation of tools to help them for the future. I do believe though kids are being over diagnosed with disabilities and are not being appreciated for who they are as individuals. In an article written by The Secret Teacher they discuss the issue with not accepting our children for being the individuals they are and the problem with labeling, “We should teach them it is normal to be different, not that every version of “different” needs a label and prescription.” (The Guardian.2015) We need to celebrate our gifts of who we are as individuals and stop the we are all the same and if not then there is a problem.
I am now on the mission to helping my own child break down the barriers but I am also reminding him there is NOTHING wrong with him. He is a wonderful asset to our home, community, and he has so much worth. Unfortunately, his story is quite different with how he is being helped. The schools today do not hold children back or push them up a level. There is still an IEP system in place but I feel there are permanent labels attached to weigh the child down. The help is there only at certain schools however, what public schools are required to offer a private school may not. As my child attends class each day, he struggles to keep up, the gap widening even with the help we have supplied for him. He is asked to keep up and is pushed towards the next grade level, yet his reading is a year behind. The gifts are there though, we see them as he explains to us ideas and is able to retain information read to him. He is bright, witty, can bring so much to the table but is unable to because the system is not allowing him to be well…him. What is the hurry? Why are we not celebrating him? Why are not celebrating each child individually?
The labels, the need to keep the child within their age group of learning, of saying there is a permanent issue our child has to contend with forever needs to be reevaluated. We need to slow down, look into the eyes of our children see them for who they are and celebrate them. In the end this will give the child confidence and not an excuse. It will bring also more acceptance socially for the children. I know that my faith always leads me and He gave us gifts to use not to squander. It states in the Bible, John 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.