Objectivity, Parents, and Schooling: How to Work With The Teacher, not Against

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I, like most parents, believe my children are all little geniuses waiting for their opportunity to shine.  For every movement, I can find a rationale.  For every mood swing, I can see greatness.  And then, I meet with my son's teacher to go over his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

You see, my son has Autism, and goes to a special education class in a public elementary school.  And instead of viewing my son with the eyes of a parent, they see him with the more objective eyes of where he is and where he needs to be.  Like psychologists, they assess him through various tests to check his IQ, behavior development, social development, etc.  And his teacher will say he is extremely bright, particularly for his class.  She also doesn't believe he will be in her class for very long, as he is learning so quickly.  But he doesn't speak, doesn't write very well, and has a very, <i>very</i> short attention span.  These tend to hamper his learning, and as such hamper his ability to express what and how he has learned.

You see, with neurotypical children you can sit them down with a piece of paper and a pencil, ask them some questions, and they can give you some sort of written or verbal response.  My son can't do that.  In fact the school psychologist said that he seems to be very intelligent, but there is just no way to know for sure what his IQ is, as there is no concrete way to test a child with Autism.  So, they look at his abilities as he manifests them, using passive analysis, to determine what he is learning and how he is learning.

And, while I am sitting there, I find myself getting defensive.  I keep trying to tell myself, and I'm at the verge of telling both his teacher and the school psychologist, that I know that my son is a genius, that his IQ is bound to be at least 140 or above (128 is genius level), and that they just need to accept that and treat him as the genius that he is.  The problem is, I don't really know that, I just want to know that.  I haven't objectively tested my son for learning in a long time, being too focused on certain behaviors at the moment.  And even if I did, I would tend to be biased in his favor, because like any parent, I want my son to be smart, hard-working, and ready to take on the world.

So what is a parent to do?  Well, keep in mind that all teachers (believe it or not), really do have your child's best interests at heart.  Listen to them, ask questions, and find out what you can do at home to supplement your child's learning.  Don't treat learning as a day job, only to be administered by a teacher and stops at the end of the bell.  Homework needs to be done, questions need to be asked, answers need to be found, practice is critical.  Don't treat the teacher like the enemy, but as an ally in helping your child.  Your child's teacher will be grateful for that support, and your child (whether or not they are grateful at the time), will definitely improve in their learning.

So, as the parent of a very intelligent son with Autism, I stood back and listened to the teachers.  I looked at the testing assessments, to see what we needed to work on to improve his scores.  We compared notes, looked at the work ahead, and in the plan outlined the course we needed to take our son.  Both my wife and I are working on our end to provide the best possible learning environment at home, as our son's teacher is doing the same at school.  We volunteer in class periodically to see how the classroom is run to get a better idea of how things should be managed at home, and tell the teacher what we do at home to help her manage behaviors in school.  And the process is working!  Our son has already progressed incredibly quickly in her class to date, and continues to improve.  He is well advanced for a Kindergartener, and is very ready for first grade.

So, to all you teachers out there, whether special education or otherwise, know there is at least one parent that gets it!