This is a true story. It starts off like a too common of a story in the education system. A child with undiagnosed learning disabilities struggles in elementary school. I know. This is an old story that people are sick and tired of hearing about. Yeah yeah, undiagnosed learning disability…whatever!! It has become so common it’s like discussing the rain in BC. This story could easily end in tragedy, but this story has a twist. An anxiety diagnosis happens in kindergarten, epilepsy for four years-100 seizures a day, profound Executive Function, ADHD combined diagnosis is in grade five, and learning disability in written expression is confirmed by the end of grade seven. (Assessment paid for privately by parents, I might add.)
Support only really started in grade six and by then, the teacher and LSS teacher were playing catch up. Grade seven hit and the teacher had eight students with IEP’s in her room. Reality kicks in and the need was just too great. Reluctantly, due to no solution in sight, academic achievement in specific subjects were put on the back burner and social and emotional survival was taking the lead.
High school starts, and for the first time EA support that his mother advocated so hard for, are finally being offered. By now this child is refusing additional help and doesn’t want a scribe. He’s used to struggling on his own, he has delt with bullies, and doesn’t want to stand out. He wants to be like everyone else. Struggling academically for him is a well-worn walked path, one that is predictable, that allows him to hide. His mother and his case manager are discussing the upcoming English class in a zoom conversation. Mom fears that without the support, he will fail. Based on history, she predicts nothing will get onto the page and without alternatives there will be nothing for the teacher to even mark him on. Child is still refusing. Mom knows how strapped the system is for resources and EA time. She doesn’t want to use up an EA that isn’t going to be utilized and have someone else go without. She reluctantly takes a long pause and says to the case manager, “Maybe he needs to fail. Maybe he needs to fall in order for him to realize and accept support.”
His case manager goes ahead and makes the decision to put an EA in the class anyways. The EA and child hit it off. They were a great match and really connected. For the first time, the child is truly accessing his education and the outpour of work is stunning. The mother flips through a stack of pages bursting out of her son’s binder. Page after page they are filled with stories and reflections. The mother could hear her son’s strong voice shine through the writing, all while written in the EA’s hand writing. The upcoming report card revealed a B. The child, who over the years, was conditioned to avoid his painful report cards, now willingly leaned in closer to the computer to see his mark, and smiles…with surprise.
At the IEP review meeting, not only does the child for the first time accept that the EA-scribe support was very much needed, but he requested for it to continue in the future for all English classes. To top it all off, he acknowledges and accepts a scribe for all future assessments, for ALL of his courses and for this to be done in the learning center.
He now has a chance. Finally!
Turns out he didn’t need to fail in order to accept support. He was used to failing. He needed to feel what it was like to succeed.
**Not providing assessments for learning disabilities and proper support for equitable access to education is a systemic failure that punishes children for how their brain is wired and has repercussions for the rest of their life, their children’s life, their children after them, and for all of us as a society. Children don’t live in a silo. When children are struggling in school, it affects every single member of the family. When children succeed in school, it affects every single member of the family.