Guest Author - Diane Miller
One of the most significant aspects of a childís IEP success is attitude and understanding. Unfortunately it is also one of the most difficult to implement.
It is easy to make the assumption that a child is lazy when he fails to complete work. It is even more common for children with learning difficulties. This can be a dangerous, false conclusion, resulting in a terrible disservice to the child.
We need to learn to look for answers, beyond the obvious based on our own comprehension, to determine the real issues. Children do not have the same capacity for dealing with difficult situations as adults, so it stands to reason that they will not react to them in the same ways. For children with certain deficits, the problems are multiplied. It is not uncommon for children to respond to adverse situations in inappropriate, ineffective or immature ways.
For example, many children cope with problems by making them ďdisappearĒ. It doesnít matter whether the solution is long term, as long as it provides them with gratification right now.
As toddlerís, children will react to negative situations by squeezing their eyes closed. They make it go away so they donít have to deal with it. Based on their immature skill level, this is a very effective solution. As adults, we know that the problem will still be there whether we can physically see it or not, and have developed more sophisticated methods of coping.
Now consider Tim, a 3rd grade boy with ADHD, whose long division homework seems to disappear every day on top of other challenging behaviors. When his teacher finds them, they are crumpled up in the back of his desk. She grades them, only to discover that they are all wrong anyway.
Too often, this story ends here: But not this time.
This teacher looked closely at the crumpled papers. She noticed that the multiplication and subtraction were perfect, yet the final answer was always wrong. Quickly, she identified that the problem was in the way he was lining up his columns. Within minutes, she showed him how to properly shift the columns to get the correct answer, and the papers stopped disappearing.
Was it a case of lazy, lack of effort or something else? By drawing the wrong conclusion, we have missed several important teaching opportunities. He would have lost the obvious math skill that he will need for future skills, a lesson in problem solving, and an opportunity to improve self-esteem.
For children with learning difficulties, the lack of understanding extends even farther. These children may exhibit behaviors that are disruptive, argumentative or aggressive with little regard to consequence. These types of conduct are all recognized symptoms of real disorders. The traditional strategies are often ineffective for these children. In order to provide them with an effective education, we need to understand and know how to react with strategies that are positive, and effective.
As educators, you have the ability to touch a childís life in ways that are immeasurable. It is up to you to determine if that impact will be negative or positive.