Sunday, July 27, 2014

Just Because you are "Average", it Does Not Mean That You are Not Disabled.

I would like to raise awareness for the concept that yes, you can have a disability and still perform OK in school.

Now, let me be clear on this.  I'm not saying that you can outthink your problems and be cured.  What I am putting out there (for the less enlightened) is that there are bright individuals that could have been in the gifted and talented program, gone to a better university, obtained a better job than what they received but for the fact that they were lumped in with the "average" kids.

Normally, when schools decide to test children to see if they have a learning disability, it is usually because of poor grade or failing the state benchmark test.  That is it.  If that same student eeked out somewhat good IQ test scores or appeared to be on grade level, nobody gives a rat's turd because, in their mind, this means that a problem doesn't exist.  

Many things affect IQ test scores, and ADHD interferes with that child's ability to sustain the mental effort to take the test.  Therefore, the scores on that test tend to be lower than what they could have been. 

So, let's say, for example, the child's real IQ is 135.  However, because of untreated ADHD, the scores turned out to be a 110 because the kid could not sustain mental effort long enough to do well on the test?

Hey, that is still pretty good, right?  110 is a nice, somewhat above average IQ that you can write home about.  Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and goes on about their day.

Maybe if you attend a school that has a diagnostician that can read the tests, they might notice that there are discrepancies that might warrant further investigation, such as when reviewing their grades, but how often does that happen?

I think about this stuff because I have a friend that teaches special education, and while they didn't discuss much of this with me, it became apparent that nearly everyone that receives help is below their grade level.  Ok, they should be helped, but where is the help for the bright individuals that could have been going to a good university to eventually become an engineer or a doctor were it not for a learning disability or ADD?  

Despite what we purportedly know about disabilities, one can't help but notice that the people working in the front line on the matter including the teachers and counselors don't tend to apply reality to practice.  Maybe it is from the pressure of having a limited budget and fearing that a child will be stigmatized, but let me point out that ADHD is a treatable condition and has been so for many years.  ADHD has the rap of simply being a means of medicating children so that they become zombies in the classroom.  However, people should ask themselves if they felt that same way if they looked into the future and realized that taking a pill every day means the difference between a scholarship and being another also-ran in a regional school.  

I started reflecting upon this when I thought back to my high school.  I had never heard of "Indvidual Education Program" or diagnostician testing until I met my friend who teaches special education.  Here I was, for the longest time, thinking that this was a newfangled thing until I started doing some digging around and discovered that no, the concept had been around since the 1970s.  Yet, here my school was, well over 20 years after the idea was birthed, and they basically had classes in three speeds: slow, medium, and fast.  I don't ever remember anyone being pulled out of class or anything of the sort.  I recall there being a couple of obviously "slow" individuals in my class, but where were the people that had dyslexia?  ADD?  learning disabilities?  Didn't exist.  Not a single student that I can recall was given additional time on tests or any of these other measures that they use for ADHD.

Instead, even now, learning disabilities tend to be readily diagnosed in people attending schools that are on the shitlist because the school is underperforming.  In the end, the truth is that learning disabilities are seen as something those "poor" people have, and because the upper crust tends to be filled with knee-jerk individuals that think that people that need twice as long on tests are cheaters that don't need help, as well as the cost of having to hire someone other than a babysitter for the self-contained class, one can see where they would studiously avoid such things.