Be your child's biggest supporterJun 10, 2003 (Updated Jun 15, 2003) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Make sure your and your child's rights are enforced and maintain open and honest communication with your child's school and teacher.
While my bachelor's and master's are both in elementary education, I have been a special education teacher for the past 2 1/2 years. My area of special education is in emotionally handicapped. I taught at the high school level for 1 1/2 years and I currently teach at the middle school level.
As I discussed in another epinions review, if you feel your child is in need of special education servicing, you have the right as a parent to request that your child be tested for servicing. If the school tries to give you the run around, demand that they test your child or you will bring a lawsuit against them for violating your child's civil rights. There is no excuse for not testing your child upon your request. Furthermore, the school is responsible for paying for the testing.
There are several different categories of special education. Amongst these categories are MoMH (Moderately Mentally Handicapped), MiMh (Mildly Mentally Handicapped), LD (Learning Disabled), ED (Emotionally Disabled), VI (Visually Impaired), HI (Hearing Impaired), CD (Communication Disorder) and OHI (Other Health Impaired).
Moderately Mentally Handicapped children are those with an extremely low IQ. These are the children who are often referred to as "Mentally Retarded." These are the children who have difficulty functioning in daily life skills.
Mildly Mentally Handicapped children are those who have a low IQ, but it is higher than the Moderately Mentally Handicapped child's IQ. These children can function in day to day living, but may be extremely low learners. Depending upon the school system and the state in which you live, the IQ cut off for MiMH is generally 75 or lower.
Learning Disabled students are students who may have an average or above average IQ. Some may even be gifted. These students will generally be average to strong in one area, such as math, but struggle in another, such as reading. Generally, IQ tests for an LD student will show a strong discrepancy in between their verbal and performance IQ.
A student with an Emotional Disability may have a severe psychological problem, such as schizophrenia or bi-polar. These students are often also referred to as being Behaviorally Disabled, because most tend to act out in such a manner that they are, at times, uncontrollable in the general education classroom.
Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired are self-explanatory. Communication Disorder would be a child who has a speech problem or who suffers from selective mutism (a child who refuses to speak to everyone or to specific people or in specific situations).
Other Health Impaired is a somewhat blanket category. Usually students who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are placed in this category. The difference being that students with ADD tend to "zone off" and may be "sluggish" in school. ADHD students have difficulty being attentive to one thing because they are trying to pay attention to everything all at once. This student may fidget a lot and may have difficulty staying in his seat. Children with ADD or ADHD are often labeled as ED rather than OHI. OHI may also include any other disability that does not fit into any of the other mentioned categories, such as a student who suffers from a school phobia, but is otherwise emotionally and mentally stable. Other students in this category are those who suffer from chronic or life threatening illnesses that prevent them from attending school on a regular basis.
As a parent, it is important for you to not feel ashamed of your child for being placed in a special education classroom. Rather, feel confident that your child will now receive the support that he needs to succeed and find comfort in the fact that your child is now protected and receives many rights that even general education children do not receive. For more information about the rights and responsibilities of parents, schools and students, do an internet search for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Also, locate your state's Department of Education website to find specific rights within your state.
You have the right to input into your special education child's educational program. You have the right to agree or to disagree and to insist that the school does what you feel is necessary for your child to succeed.
You also have the responsibility of maintaining honest contact with your school and your child's teacher. Maintain an open line of communication with your child's teacher. Keep the teacher aware of any physical or mental changes that may be taking place with your child. Keep your teacher aware of any problems taking place at home that may affect your child's emotional stability. Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss this with your child's teacher. Chances are, the teacher has already learned a little about the problems at home through your child or "through the grapevine" anyway, and your honest discussion with the teacher will help the teacher to better service your child.
Remember, while you have certain rights, you also have responsibilities toward your child and your child's education. Be supportive of your school and try to work with them rather than against them. At the same time, make sure that you are always aware of your rights and that you and your child are receiving those rights.
ADDED JUNE 15: Anyone who is interested in learning more about the various categories of special education may be interested in reading the book "Fundamentals of Special Education: What Every Teacher Needs to Know." For more information about this book, read my review in the "books" section.
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