“Don’t Write Off My Child!”

When my son was in the 7th grade, I was told in May of that year that his teacher wanted to hold him back due to low test scores, lack of interest, and lack of effort. Although I immediately disagreed with the later two, I suggested having him tested for a learning disability. I was told that there was no way in which to get him tested before the end of the school year. Then I suggested summer school in which I was told that would be double jeopardy. Huh, I questioned. It was explained that they do not do both. They don’t hold a child back and send him to summer school too. This did not make sense to me. If a child is in jeopardy of failing I believe that child should have all available resources afforded to him but apparently I was alone on this issue and in my thinking. I refused to sign the form allowing them to hold him back.

I didn’t know what to do but what I did was two things. I immediately filed an appeal with the school district. Secondly, I remembered that I had a recent connection with someone who worked for the school district and in counseling testing department at that. I called this person and asked for a favor in which it was granted. My son had completed all testing within three weeks. As it turned out he did in fact have a learning disability. While attending the next meeting with two of his teachers, the principal, and a learning resource specialist, the principal announced that he would not be held back due to the appeal that I filed.

One teacher was visibly upset by this news and questioned why I was able to do this. Because I’m his mother and his advocate that’s why. I will never forget her response in which she said, “Allowing him to pass is a big mistake. We will all be right back here next year this time and he will never pass the state exit exams.” Then she went on to say that she was refusing to sign any forms in which stated that she was in agreement with this new decision.

I am happy to report that although my son was eligible for special resources, he only utilized them for two years. All he needed was a different style of teaching to match his different style of learning. I understand that teachers cannot cater to each and every student’s learning style due to the enormous class sizes. I also believe that as parents we need to speak up for our children and advocate on their behalf. Most students want to succeed and will believe in themselves more when they see others believing in them. Parents should not be afraid to stand up for their children in any circumstance.

Last but not least, my son made the honor roll almost every semester beginning with 8th grade. He is now a senior and will be graduating in June. He has passed both high school exit exams and has had his driver’s license for the past 1 ½ years. He just completed an application for the local community college and will start working on his Associates Degree in Graphic Design beginning this Fall. If you can’t tell by now, I am so proud of him for not giving in and giving up. We already have enough young men from single parent homes that meet that criteria, but not here!

Guest post by Cornelia Gibson of Surviving Broken Promises

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  1. Inspiring! Plus, not only should you be proud of your son for not giving up, you should be proud of yourself for not giving up and advocating for the best learning experience your child deserves!

    • Donna, thanks so much for your comment. Out of all of my roles in life I am most proud of and passionate of being a mother.

  2. Just goes to show WE are the experts on our children, not the “professionals”

  3. I am so thrilled with the positive outcome you experienced. It is a testament to your love, care, and concern as a mother who refuses to give up on her child. I find it interesting though you said first that your child had a learning “disability” and later said he was able to succeed when the teaching method matched his style of learning. Would it be safe to say then, he does not have a learning disability, but a learning difference? Doesn’t disability indicate dis-able to do something? Being on the honor roll would certainly indicate he is very able to learn.
    I maintain that a huge percentage of children who are laboring under the weight of a label like “learning disabled” are really just kids with a learning difference. That is not to say there are not some very severe and challenges disabilities out there. I believe too many kids, like your son, are being written off as disabled because the school system is too stressed to be able to provide alternative teaching methods to the kids who need them. Congratulations for not letting your son fall between the cracks in the system. He has a bright future ahead of him.

  4. Excellent work Mom! My daughter always struggled with math. Homework was met with tears and frustration and feelings of stupidity. We hired tutors to come to our home twice a week to help her grasp the concept. It was our tutors that finally got her to learn her basic math facts. I wasn’t much help as her math surpassed past my own level. My daughter told me of a “special” math class in her school where the kids don’t get homework. All work is done in the classroom under teacher supervision and is “Team Taught” by two teachers. When I called the school asking for her to be placed in that class, the teacher, counselor, and principal argued that she didn’t need it. They actually told me that F’s were acceptable!! They appealed to me to give them two more weeks to prove their point which they again failed to do. They accused us of wanting to take advantage of a class with no homework. I then demanded they move her or I would take it all the way to the Superintendent/school board. They finally agreed and my daughter went from a D to an A before the end of the semester! During conferences I expressed to the teachers my concern that because she was doing so well they would move her back out of this class. They assured me they wouldn’t and she stayed in for 2 years. My daughter actually told me that math was her favorite class!!! Now that she is in high school, it’s a little bit of a struggle again but she has the concept and is able to pull good grades in spite of it. If I had listened to the teachers, counselors, and principal, she would never have been able to grasp basic math let alone Algebra and other types coming her way. Parents MUST advocate for their children. Bless your heart that you get it.

  5. Jeanette says:

    Thanks for sharing this courageous story. Sometimes teachers forget that they are trained professionals who should be able to teach each concept at least three different ways. If a student is consistently not getting an audibly delivered concept, a good teacher will always cover it with a visual and tactile lesson. It usually only takes another 5 minutes to do that. I have trained my children to never let the teacher pass them by when teaching something new and to politely say, “I’m not sure I’m getting that could you show it to me another way?”. It can shift the responsibility back to the teacher and it is a good reminder to them that yes there are other ways to teach the same thing.

    • Hi Ellen,

      I’m so glad you stood up for your child. ONe thing I would like to address is that your mention of how teachers can’t accomodate children’s individual learning styles because of the large classroom sizes. Just as a note of encouragement, I recently graduated in Child and Adolescent Development and some special education and teaching courses. One message that came across loud and clear was that there is a movement coming in the new school of thought in how mainstream teachers and special education teachers are beginning to find ways to work together and educate one another, and in doing so mainstream teachers are learning that what might look like a child who struggles academically, or is known for bad behavior, etc… to them is actually due to learning disabilities, need of intervention at home, emotional or mental issues, social development issues, autism, downs syndrome, children of mothers who drank alcohol during pregnancy resulting in fetal alcohol syndrome in their children directly affecting many areas of their lives, including academics actually need special education intervention. I am not sure how many teachers have become educated in the issues of special education and all it can entail, but I do know that it is on the agenda to make it common practice in schools to bring these two areas of expertise together for the best interest of the children, which so importantly involves the participation of parents as the experts on , their children as Angela wrote. Right now, it seems that many children are falling through the cracks as Susan Scott wrote, but slowly, schools are utilizing these new methods of working together in order to provide the very best education experience for our children. In essence,in the future teachers will be required to teach their classes according to what each individual child’s leaning style and/or special educational needs might be. I look forward to this. It’s all about our children, and it looks like the educational system is heading definitely in that direction of thought. Oh, I wish it would happen more quickly! But thank God for the children that have been saved from falling into those lovely lonely,painful cracks. To our precious chldren…

  6. It is not a good idea to generalize. There are many teachers that are great experts. Also, there are many times in which teachers are literally alone when it comes to their students’ learning or emotional problems. Many parents are simply never involved, and when they are it is usually to disagree and complain about the result. It is great that parents can be advocates for their children, as long as they are capable enough to see the situation clearly and to make the right choices for their kids. Sometimes it is necessary for a child to be retained, but she/he should always have the chance to go to summer school. The decision should be made after all resources have failed to help the child master basic skills. And just for the record, I am a teacher and I only had three students in 12 years that could not be promoted to the next grade level. I am not in favor of retention, but sometimes it may be necessary.

    • Thank you so much for your reply. You are so right, there are many teachers that are great experts, I happen to be one of them. I am not only a teacher, but in instructor at a community college, and also a doctor. However, when I was speaking and meeting with my son’s teacher my most important role was that of his mother.

  7. Jeanette says:

    Thank you for your good work as a teacher, Daniela. I wish we were paying our teachers fat CEO salaries because I know it is hard work, and one of the most important jobs in the world. I have loved all of my kids teachers over the years and truly appreciate the work they do. I am teacher certified, but ended up working in the tech industry. My training has helped me navigate the parent path through school with my 4 children. I’ve never encountered a teacher/student situation that couldn’t be resolved positively within the classroom. There have not been major issues, but still I’ve entered every one with the belief that at the end of the day everybody wants what is best for the child.

  8. Way to go! I LOVE to hear these success stories. I have a 7th grader with severe dyslexia, diagnosed as “possible” the summer entering 1st grade then confirmed as “severe” in Jan. of (half-way thru) 1st grade. With a lot of prayers, struggles, and hard work, he is fully independent and on the honor roll. However, there are many children still struggling out there. When I talk to parents, I encourage them to follow their instincts and be persistent. example: I knew something was wrong with my child and that it was probably dyslexia, so I requested the school test him. The school psychometrist (has a masters) said my son was fine, I then talked to the peditrician who made a referral to Children’s Hospital and the psychologist (has a doctorate) said he had dyslexia. The thing about learning differences is it can show up at any point in time, not just elementary school!

  9. Ooops, I apologize, I accidentally wrote the word lovely toward the end of my comment just before lonely. I did not mean that the lonely, painful cracks that children have fallen into were lovely. Please forgive the typo.

  10. Nilesh Kumar says:

    Really nice!

  11. NevadaTeacher says:

    Thank you for telling your story and reminding everyone the importance of parental involvement! I am a teacher and a parent and I wish all my parents were as involved as you. Often times I find myself and the parents banning together to fight the administration and the school “protocol” so that the kids can benefit. (I’m not popular with administration.) There is a lot a parent can do and actually you can do more than the teachers, so remember that! Always let your voice be heard for the sake of your child because often times you are the ONLY one who can advocate for them. I often find myself frustrated and ashamed of the system I work for, but I keep trudging along trying my best to help every child I teach. I commend you and parents like you!
    -Nevada Teacher

  12. Vanessa McFaul says:

    Thank you. As parents fighting for our kids to be noticed and have their needs met, we tend to feel alone. It is always a comfort to know I’m not the only one. Our children are a beautiful box of crayons each special and colorful in their own way.