By Alicia Balderrama
Most schools seem to have two classifications of students: students on the regular track and students on the special education track. But there is a rapidly growing number of students who don’t fit into either of those categories. Students with so-called minor mental disorders or learning impairments like attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia are not getting the help and assistance that they require to have the same opportunity for scholastic success as their peers.
I do not have ADHD or dyslexia, but I have witnessed firsthand the injustices that many diagnosed “and undiagnosed ” students encounter at school, not only from peers, but from teachers, counselors and administrative staff in lower education.
My brother has suffered from severe ADHD all of his life, and despite obtaining the “required” documents needed for his teachers to make special arrangements for him, nobody helped. One teacher on the last day of school said he didn’t even know my brother had ADHD.
My boyfriend also has ADHD and faced similar struggles during elementary, middle school and high school. His only option was to take special education classes with students who had severe mental disabilities and learning impairments.
Although I have not personally experienced the difficulties faced by students with dyslexia, I know that their plight is much the same as students with ADHD.
There is almost nothing available to students in California with minor learning impairments. A document called a 504 will allow qualified individuals to make special arrangements with their teachers to “remove barriers to learning.” The benefits provided by a 504 are almost entirely up to the school itself, with very little guidance or regulation by federal law. Generally, a 504 will provide a student with small exceptions to normal classroom rules, such as turning an assignment in a day late or having extra time to complete exams. Very often though, obtaining a 504 will do little to nothing to actually help students.
Our public education system lets these students drift away, calling them lazy slackers, when in reality they have a learning impairment that requires additional assistance just like any student with autism.
I believe the best way to educate students with ADHD and other disorders is to provide them with a personalized educational environment. They need to have a special classroom environment with one or two teachers teaching various subjects, much like an elementary school setting, so that students can receive the one-on-one attention they require and the ability to work at a pace that is comfortable and easy to handle.
Some critics would say that these types of students have the options of being home-schooled or hiring a private tutor to assist them on the personal level they require, but there are several reasons why these “solutions” are not viable.
Private tutoring and home-schooling can be extremely expensive, and there may not be an adult available at home every day to teach the student. Both of these options delete the social factor of going to an actual school, therefore making the eventual transition from student to employed adult that much more difficult.
In addition, special provisions are made in schools for students with physical disabilities and more severe mental disabilities, so why are students with “minor” mental disabilities not being accommodated in the same fashion?
Although these learning disorders are not visible or obvious, schools cannot continue to justify ignoring students and refusing to provide them with necessary resources. A school will not go bankrupt from hiring one or two more teachers who can provide these students with the personal touch they need to reach their full potential.
Monica Lopez / The Poly Post
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