My Special Education

 Last Friday I attended a graduation at a school for gifted children who happen to be dyslexic. All children are gifted in some way but sometimes we adults don’t know how to nurture the gift to blooming.

As it’s allergy season, I had plenty of tissues with me and went through them all as student speaker after student speaker shared their life experiences pre-diagnosis. The bullies weren’t just their peers, but their teachers, and sadly, their parents and siblings who hadn’t a clue that they had learning differences.

“We studied this yesterday. Why don’t you remember? You must not have paid attention.”

“Try harder. Concentrate.”

“You shouldn’t be having any difficulty with this.”

Time after time after time they were made to feel they were not as good as everyone else, that there was something wrong with them and it was their fault.

A few of the speakers were diagnosed in first or second grade and their parents enrolled them at Charles Armstrong School.Tuition is high but at least they have some scholarships.

The student who I was there to witness graduate was diagnosed in sixth grade after many tests and consultations. She is now full of confidence, creative, and tough. she was the first girl on the school football team and plays goalie in soccer.

I have a very limited idea of their world of seeing and in some cases hearing, words. My understanding is that the English language looks like hieroglyphics. so just as one could learn hieroglyphics, at  Charles Armstrong School, students learn to read and write English.  They must all be smart! How many English speakers learned hieroglyphics?

The graduates – they were 8th graders – are off to some of the best high schools in the bay area next year. Another expensive proposition. Hopefully those who need assistance get scholarships.

The stories that the student speakers shared made me cry but I cried for more than them. I cried for my classmates from years ago. the ones who were stuck off in that corner classroom. The room that was designated for “special education.” I don’t think anyone in the Ohio community where I lived knew about dyslexia back then, or how to teach those with learning differences tools for success. Were all those students dyslexic? Probably not. Were some of them? Most likely.

The rest of us, it seemed like all of us, thought the kids in that classroom were dumb. Slow learners or no learners. Those kids were probably mocked  by the bullies while the rest of us giggled behind their backs. I wonder if they learned anything in that corner classroom. No one knew the tools to teach them. They probably all got jobs after high school. Probably all manage a roof over their head and food in the fridge. But I wonder what could have been for them.

That graduation turned out to be my special education classroom.


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