Today, I am hoping to finish this topic off by looking at the gap between what schools are mandated by law to teach ALL students…and what our #neurodivergent little humans actually need to learn.
As we talked about before, schools these days teach primary towards passing a standardized test. That does not matter if you are USA or UK. The test may be different, but the focus of education is not.
But what if you know you can NEVER pass that test?
I faced that with my older special needs son. California where we lived at the time had passed a new law…the high school exit exam. In order to receive a high school diploma, you had to pass a test. With NO allowances for special needs. Otherwise you did not get a diploma. Only a certificate of completion for high school. He was so demotivated he wanted to quit school. Disaster was averted when we moved and he finished high school in Texas.
But the point is…no test should be the only measure of learning.
The neurodivergent have what are called spiky profiles. In other words, unlike neurotypicals who score consistently the same across all the sections of cognitive assessments (IQ tests), the autistic score really high in some areas and really low in others. Making it hard for an accurate score.
That is what happened with PanKwake. But not even the neurodevelopmental ‘experts’ at CAMHS understand the significance of that finding. At seven, she had the vocabulary of a teen or young adult. But she did not understand simple directions like on, under, next to. And her visual memory…forget it. At almost twelve, she still struggles with Snap, a simple matching game.
That visual memory deficit is part of equation along with severe dyslexia that has held her back in terms of reading. She can still only recognize a handful of words. She almost has all her letters now though.
Yet this same child can watch a YouTube science video, explain it (in a somewhat rambling sort of way…but she is getting better and better with that), and give applications or challenges to it. She is a brilliant debater with logic that is better than most university students.
But if she were in schools none of those strengths would matter. The only thing they would measure is the reading. Because in their paradigm, you must read to pass that test. If she cannot read, then she cannot pass. If she does not pass, it will lower her class and school averages…and heads will roll…the teachers and perhaps the Head Teacher.
But the truth is…home education allows us to focus upon those strengths so that we can build up her self-esteem. Art…physical education…computers…those are her strengths. Oh, and people and animals too. Who is to say that PanKwake won’t become a photographer, an Xtreme sports star, a top gamer, or her favorite…a YouTuber.
The truth is that even reading is becoming an obsolete skill in this world of Audible. She has already been able to self-educate herself on many subjects without it. And everyday there are more and more adaptations available. The latest version of her beloved MineCraft even has text-to-voice. Fingers crossed for voice-to-text soon. Then our problems are solved.
If you look at the longer historical perspective, many people were able to successfully contribute to society without ever reading…blacksmiths, bakers, farmers, even sailors. Two hundred years ago, only the wealthy/educated could read. Eight hundred years ago only the priestess, not even kings. Yes, for a time we lived in a world were it was a more essential skills but that is changing once more.
Why should the strengths of the dyslexics be overlooked? Why musts schools focus solely on their challenge to the exclusion of other possible venues of educating them?
But it goes beyond just reading. Schools no longer teach any of our young people the things they need to live in the real world. Things like:
- How to take a bus/train
- Use a microwave
- Wash and dry a load of laundry
- Clean their room/house
- Change a tire
- Make and stick to a budget
- Sew on a button or mend a seam
These are just a few LIFESKILLS that are essential for all young people, but even more so for our neurodivergent little humans. Because you see some of those things are more complicated for our little humans.
Take the bus/train example. PanKwake can ride the fastest, scariest, craziest ride at any theme park (I told you Xtreme sports star), but she feels queasy in cars, on busses and trains. Not to mention her sensory issues. This past week alone we had to send one taxi back because the smoker driver had used a too-strong air freshener and she could NOT tolerate it. We waited almost another half an hour for the next one.
And she insisted on play her music loud on our train journey…without ear phones. She needed to cancel out the noise of others on the train with her music but cannot handle the sensation of anything on or in her ears.
In fact, one of my primary goals for this school year is simply to get PanKwake more comfortable with all modes of travel…car, bus, train, boat, and even plane.
That is the real world skill that she needs more than reading. She can teach herself anything she wants to learn…usually without our help, but sometimes with. But if she cannot travel beyond her small little world…that is much more limiting for her future than reading will be.
But no school, mandated by law to get students to pass a test, can focus on what my neurodivergent child REALLY needs to learn.
Only I can do that.
And yes, maybe you say…but surely you could do that and send her to school so they can teach her reading.
No, no, a parent cannot. First of all, a school has your child for the majority of a waking day…five out of seven days per week. And then has the audacity to send more work home with them…if a job did that, they would be breaking most labor laws. And secondly, school is so challenging for most of our neurodivergent little humans that when they get home…they just collapse, fall apart. Even on the weekends they spend all their time recovering from the week…and psyching themselves up to face it all again.
No, the truth is…
Schools focus only upon the challenges of our neurodivergent little humans…failing to recognize their tremendous strengths…at the expense of their self-worth…
And schools do not even teach them the things they need most in the real world…lifeskills.
A pretty bleak picture, right? Which is why I and thousands…tens of thousands…hundreds of thousands parents of neurodivergent little humans are choosing to accept full responsibility for educating them…at home…well, more like…in the REAL world.
If schools are failing your wonderfully, unique neurodivergent little human, I hope you will consider home education…and especially RadiCool Unschooling. It is a wonderful life choice. We call it that because it is fun, challenging, and just plain old…COOL!
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