When I was in sixth grade, everything about my school was chaotic, except for Mrs. Ingersoll. She was loud, whether she was laughing or yelling, and she loved to read my poetry. I didn’t do much math that year, but I wrote a lot for my audience of one.
Sixth grade has changed since then. Many teachers and students are now pressed by standardized testing, which can ignore the importance of creative expression to young learners, undervaluing both its social-emotional and academic impact on children.
We tell young children to “use their words,” but we also silence them. Every adult who spends time with children has told them to be quiet, or wished they would stop telling their endless stories, or asking so many questions. Yet their chatter and wild wonderings have much purpose. Vivian Gussin Paley, teacher and early childhood educator, writes that dramatic play and storytelling are how children make sense of the world and learn to work with each other: “We learn to know what we are thinking about by the ways in which we play.” Creative writing is play-filled writing.
Later, as children grow, we complain that they don’t tell us anything. We ask them to write in school, but we are less interested in what they express than how they express it, responding by correcting spelling and grammar — which is, after all, what we are able to measure. We can’t easily measure empathy or the ability to work with others, but those skills come about through meaningful play and self-expression.
Before children can work well with others, they have to learn to communicate with themselves, to understand what they are feeling, and what they need and want. Poetry and personal narrative help children make sense of their lives by allowing them to talk to themselves through writing....
Midway through the school year is a good time to evaluate your child’s academic progress. You might be concerned about your child’s current school environment. Not all children can handle a typical education environment. Alternatively, you might be concerned about your child’s education plan.
Finding the right plan is complicated. Some learners need to have the curriculum re-taught. Other students need structured literacy methods like Orton-Gillingham or Wilson, or might need more hands-on methods of learning like touch math and/or access to graphic organizers. Students might need extended time for tests or require audiobooks to help them comprehend the material. You might question whether the school really understands your child’s needs. It can become apparent that despite all attempts to accommodate a student, nothing seems to work.
Are you feeling like your child’s academic needs are being met?
If your child has an IEP or a 504 Plan, your school is required to make accommodations specific to your child based on how he or she learns. Your child might be pulled out of class to receive proper instruction or integrated into a general education classroom. He or she might be eligible to receive related services such as speech therapy and/or occupational therapy. There is no one size fits all approach and the current plan may need to be reevaluated to better suit your child.
Are there other school options for students with learning disabilities?
Sometimes, no matter what you try, a parent should explore other options. We are lucky to have many special purpose schools in Northeast Ohio that can meet the needs of your child. Whether your child is dyslexic, ADHD, autistic or just needs academic respite, there might be a more suitable match for your child. Plus, the Jon Peterson grant offers scholarship money for those with an IEP in the state of Ohio.