Learning Disabilities and Public Schools Are Not Friends
When you look at trends over the last decade, you will see that a lot of parents who have children with learning disabilities are choosing to homeschool, but why? It cannot be a coincidence that so many parents are making the decision to homeschool their children.
So what has made having our children with disabilities in public school so unbearable?
Public schools are given the power to educate large groups of children, so you would assume that each classroom would have a strict schedule, a smooth transition from one subject to the next, and control would be maintained at all times throughout the day.
Unfortunately, this is not the case and for children with learning disabilities, this description is a dream come true. Instead, they are forced to suffer through overstimulation, both visual and auditory, that is unbearable. After spending a significant amount of time in a public school as a classroom volunteer, I was forced to realize the sad truth that learning disabilities and public schools are not friends.
Public School Classes
Public school classrooms are primarily a chaotic mess, with small periods of control throughout the day. So how does a general education environment respond the individual differences of a child with disabilities who cannot handle this commotion? Can a teacher provide enough organization for a child with disabilities to be successful in a general education classroom? Can a classroom teacher readily modify their approach to teaching the children in class with disabilities and provide them with the high-quality education they are entitled to by law?
Public schools are simply not set up in a way that would allow teachers accommodate a child with learning disabilities and actually meet their educational needs.
Public Schools, Learning Disabilities, and Success
When you think of a standard elementary school classroom, you initially think of a structured, well-organized environment with a well laid out plan for the activities that are carried out each day. The truth is, this concept no longer exists in the public education system. Instead, you have a noisy, chaotic group of children moving through the classroom.
There are moments of control throughout the day, but due to changes in education laws, there is not as much control as you would expect. Considering there are between 25 to 30 children in a classroom, you could imagine how quickly things can get out of control.
A child with learning disabilities can rarely function in a general education classroom, even though the law mandates them to be in this setting. Is sending a child with learning disabilities to a public school setting them up to fail? No one wants to think that sending their child to a public school is causing irreversible damage. However, when we take an honest look at the situation, sending a child with learning disabilities to a public school could cause serious long-term damage to their self-esteem, even though it isn't intentional.
What a Public School Classroom is Like for a Child with a Learning Disability?
Some children with learning disabilities can react negatively to being placed in a public school classroom. Over time some children adjust, but not all of them. Many of these students feel vulnerable when they are in a large classroom that is constantly buzzing with activity.
Children with learning disabilities are at a very high risk of not learning in this type of environment because they are too distressed by what is going on around them. They are also at a greater risk for developing long-term academic problems, and they can even develop life-long debilitating side effects from being forced to stay in a general education classroom. They are also at risk for developing long-term behavioral problems due to the stress they experience in the classroom.
Children who live in poverty, those who are not native English speakers, and especially children with ADHD, report the same feeling when they are in a crowded class.
Learning Disabilities Translate to Behavioral Problems
Children with learning disabilities are usually classified by their school as having behavioral problems. Unfortunately, these behavioral problems usually do not exist. The behavioral problem experienced by staff members at the school are caused by the child's inability to handle the classroom set up and the inability to process the visual and auditory stimuli they are tormented by inside the classroom.
Other Problems Being in a Public School Can Cause
Children with learning disabilities can have a great deal of difficulty adjusting to a public school setting. Some children never do adjust, and just remain secretly miserable until behavioral problems develop. Typically behavioral problems develop because of additional stress associated with the way a public school classroom is run. Depending on the cause, there may be a transition into the behavioral problem, or it could appear out of nowhere, without warning. Here are some of the factors that have been known to trigger behavioral problems.
Shining Light on Failures Instead of Success
Teachers check student performance frequently, but the duration of time between checking is not predictable. The teacher's goal is to spontaneously test their students understanding of the material they have worked on. After the student's understanding of classroom material is tested, the teacher provides them with feedback.
Unfortunately, many teachers do not have time to monitor each student' progress, even though many students who have learning disabilities should be provided with helpful feedback once per week. Teachers also tend to focus on what a child got wrong, instead of what was accomplished.
Grading, for example, is typically done by marking how many answers a student did not get right on a paper. This is a very controversial topic, mostly because the child is rarely told by their teacher what they got right and rarely get praise for their work. However, their teacher is ready to mark the number of answers they got wrong in red marker on the front of their paper.
Teachers are Rarely Observed Interacting with Students
In a school, a teacher's classroom is their private space. Other teachers and administrators tend to avoid entering each other's classroom. When they do enter each other's classroom, it is very rare, and only for a few minutes. Because of this, the classroom is rarely observed by another adult authority figure.
Unfortunately, this is one of the qualities that parents do not like about public schools. Since teachers are not regularly observed by a superior, they regularly develop a bias toward certain groups of children.
Activity-Focused Learning Modules
The majority of instruction in public school is considered activity based. The teacher has the final say about what is going well and what isn’t. When a teacher gets in a mood that involves students focusing on an activity based education standard, children with learning disabilities typically become overwhelmed. This is because teachers tend to cluster things like this together. If on any given day the teacher focuses on using worksheets for independent work, a child with a learning disability may become overwhelmed by the amount of work and fall behind.
Teachers Talk but Rarely Listen
In the classroom, the primary person who speaks is the teacher. This is usually during the point in class where they are intentionally teaching a lesson.
Students, on the other hand, must remain quiet, and keep talking to a minimum. While some children learn by listening or reading the material, many children with learning disabilities learn better by reading to you or telling you about the topic. When they are in class and the teacher is verbally teaching a lesson, the student misses out on valuable information they will need for a later assignment.
Inadequate Attention Given to Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities do not get the attention they need in a public school setting, especially in a general education classroom. One of the most problematic issues in the classroom of a child with learning disabilities is the lack of attention they get versus what they need to be successful in their education.
Children who have learning disabilities require a different approach, a different amount of attention, and sometimes, a different method to learn. With the amount of time needed to modify lessons to suit the needs of children with learning disabilities, it is not realistic to assume that there is enough time in a day for this to occur. The reality creates the need for parents and teachers to see that public schools aren’t always the best answer for educating children with learning disabilities.