Yesterday I got a letter from my child’s school asking to fill out a questionnaire to help determine classroom placement for next year. It’s nice to be ask to be heard but as the parent of a twice exceptional child (a child with a gifted IQ and a documented disability typically ADHD or Aspergers) the reality is you can’t really answer the way you want….you have to keep the peace, strive to have the school gain insight but don’t ask for too much or your requests will be summarily dismissed. Be happy with what you get because this is after all a public school, and you must realize that there is no funding for a rigorous gifted program. You feel greedy asking for differentiation because schools are under enormous pressure to catch up those who are behind. Your child is at or above grade level expectations so where is the need?
I was asked “Describe the type of classroom setting in which your child works best?” I know the answers they want, and many I gave them –“an organized teacher who are willing to help my child stay on task.” My child needs, “a teacher who can provide redirection in positive way, as to not embarrass my child in front of peers,” and few other short pieces of information.
How did I want to respond? I wanted to say buckle up… my child needs a lot.
My child needs differentiation across the board. He will be bored the majority of time in class, and that can produce outcomes ranging from bad behavior to disengaging in work. He will lose and forget things constantly and needs organizational assistance in every class, and multiple prompts about organization. He will zero in on one subject and that will be his entire world. So when his whole life is about super massive black holes he doesn’t even hear your awesome lesson on something else, his mind is building a space ship to the nearest black hole. Please understand he is still learning, not just on the curriculum you planned for an entire class. He rocks to his own drummer.
When my child is bored, which will be often he will go off task, seek out stimulation by disrupting your class and annoy nearby peers. He isn’t being bad; his brain -which is always in motion-, wants something interesting to happen. You say he doesn’t complete basic work and can’t go onto to harder tasks, I say don’t make him do 20 multiplication problems he could do since 3rd grade ask him to 5 or 10 then allow him to move onto harder tasks. I get it that one ask is a lot – you have to give him different rules than 25 other children in the room, different from the 74 other children in every section you teach, and then monitor his actions but that is what he needs.
My child will be painfully slow at reading response; it’s the one area where he falls at grade level expectation. To add to his written expression challenges the book you have given him to write about is at grade level. His vocabulary tested at the end of high school during the middle of 4thgrade, his reading level is well into high school. The book is boring to him so he has nothing he wants to write about it. I need you to help me find books that are age appropriate and yet the reading level is at least 3 grade levels ahead.
Asking my child to work with a partner and guess the outcomes before trying an experiment in science frustrate him. He can predict what will happen with a fair amount of accuracy and doesn’t understand how peers don’t know the answer. Other students won’t want to partner with him because he is inflexible.
You will hear from me a lot, I should define a lot but I don’t want to scare you yet. I will ask a lot of you as a teacher. I have clear expectations about reading the 39 page psychologist report in his file, and need you to follow both the spirit and intent of his 504 plan. We are on the same team, so I don’t mean to overwhelm you. Unfortunately past experience has taught me when I let this slide and that slip I end up with a child who is falling off the ledge and it’s much harder to bring him back from that. There have been a lot of great teachers in his life as well, so the bar has been set high for you. I cling to great teachers like a beacon in storm and feel grateful they have entered my child’s path.
I trust and respect your opinion, but please trust and respect mine. I have no choice but to be an expert in 2e children, in 504 plans, Wright’s Law, OCR memos of gifted education and disabled children, medication management and more. Homework has left us both in tears many a night. We provide outside assistance to my child, taking him to doctor appointments, therapy appointments, OT consults, activities for socialization and more. I plan, and plot, and chart and feel like most days it’s a crap shoot. It’s physically exhausting and financially draining.
Twice exceptional kids are complicated and neither a gifted only approach, nor a special needs only approach works. He’s a snowflake and everyday is different. I don’t know what makes a good day versus a bad. There is no rhythm no pattern, no singular right answer.
Lastly if you can do nothing else, love him for exactly who he is. I don’t want public education to whittle away year by year his spirit, his essence, his genius. You see at the end of the day he’s gonna change you the world and someday you and I will be grateful that we were part of teaching him how to soar.