What parents do

I mentioned M. once before — it was her birthday and I forgot to check the calendar, and missed it.  And she is so non-verbal most of the time that she never mentioned it. 

M. is one of my special ed children, with developmental delays, speech difficulties, and possibly some sensory stuff going on.  Lately she seems to be worse than ever.  The special ed teacher, sp. ed. assistant teacher, and my assistant teacher and I have all noticed that she seems to be going backward.  This is unusual — I take pride in the fact that my special ed children thrive in my classroom and make huge strides.  Two of my students this year are moving into regular ed for kindergarten next year.  But somehow with M. we are not making progress.  Today we were doing insect math and she was unable to recognize the numbers 1, 2, and 3.  She could count to five, but if she counted to three and I asked, “what comes next?” she had no idea.

One problem is that maybe her needs are so great that my classroom is just too overstimulating for her.  My classroom might not be the right place for her at all.  Next year for K she’ll be in a small classroom with all developmentally-delayed children, and it should be perfect for her. 

The title of this post, though, is “what parents do,” and I wonder just what M.’s parents are doing for her.  Her parents are very young, and both M. and her baby brother were very premature.  Ali has been to the apartment and says that there have been many police calls there in the past year for drug dealing and other problems.  M.’s mom hasn’t come to any of her IEP meetings or her transition meeting, and she still hasn’t even registered her for kindergarten.  Usually when we call her the phone is disconnected, and when we send out the social worker, nobody answers the bell.

How would M.’s life be different if her parents were different?  If her mom had been able to carry her full-term?  If her parents talked to her more?  If they gave in to her less?  (M. cries a lot as her main method of problem-solving.  We are guessing that it gets her what she wants when she’s at home.)

Then I look at Miss L., who is perhaps our biggest challenge this year.  Miss. L.’s parents are older, college-educated professionals with financial stability.  They have an incredibly hard road to go down with their youngest, for whom every day is a struggle.  I cannot imagine what she’d be like if she had parents without resources, without parenting skills.

And I wonder what M. would be like if she DID.

3 thoughts on “What parents do

  1. Parents do make such a big difference. It is so sad when children don’t get the support and encouragement that they need in order to thrive and develop.

  2. Parents are a big part of a child’s education. Sometimes as a teacher those “what ifs” are very sad. Just remember without you, she would not have made some of the strides she did, no matter how small they might seem.

  3. I think being a parent with a special needs child would be extremely challenging. As a special educator, I have dealt with both the non-involved parents and the over-involved parents. When I taught in inner city Chicago I had many parents who were similar to M’s parents. Some were very young and several had dropped out of school themselves. The majority of them were single moms. I feel that the parents who were not involved may have felt intimidated by the school setting. Many of them had negative experiences as students growing up. Many of them couldn’t read past an elementary grade level. So, they coped by not being involved at all. There were parents I had never even met until the end of the school year.

    However, I did have success with some of those hard to reach parents. I found that when I called parents with positive information about their children, before I had to call them for a negative incident, they responded more often. I also learned that if I contacted them at the beginning of the year with positive comments about their child, I would get more support from them when a difficult situation came up with their student. Also, whenever a parent came up to the school to pick up his/her child I would make it a point to say “hello” and ask how they were doing and how the family was doing. These small connections that I made with my families made a huge difference. My first year I taught in that environment, I only had about three or four parents come to the parent/teacher conferences. My last year there (3rd year) I believe all but two of my parents showed up. I know there are some parents that you will never be able to reach. I guess all we can do is keep trying and hope they will come around.

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