Category Archives: Learning Differences
Jumping into a New Pool
You know that whole sink or swim thing? Well, we couldn’t stand by any longer and watch them let our 2E daughter drown. Lily was attending a middle school we’ll just call CYA Academy. The turning point was an IEP meeting in which the teachers and staff took turns explaining to a crowded room why Lily’s poor grades were her own fault. If she would study harder and turn in her work, she wouldn’t have D’s & F’s. Lily shrank in her chair, her head bowed, humiliated. I felt sick to my stomach.
After the meeting, our advocate admitted this school was a lost cause. They had no intention of really helping her… it was time to find another swimming pool, so we packed up our pool toys and left.
After much searching, we found another pool, one that really seems to understand twice-exceptional students, and so far, Lily is floating along just fine. In fact, more than fine, she’s swimming a flippin’ 400IM with the weight of her learning challenges still strapped to her.
Funny how that happens when you find a pool that welcomes all learners and lifeguards who want to save lives and have the skills & strategies to pull it off. Lily knows that at her new school the teachers are there to support her when she gets tired or feels weak, but they’re also there to encourage her to swim as far and as fast as she can.
After just 4 weeks at her new school, the transition IEP meeting was like visiting Opposite Land. Lily smiled, participated, giggled and added her suggestions and thoughts. She could see that her teachers and the staff liked her, enjoyed her personality and ‘got’ her. Every concern was met with agreeable and thoughtful discussion. It was a partnership, everyone working together to try to help her succeed. It was so weird, but wonderful!
Sink or Swim?
What would you do if you saw a child drowning? Jump in and save her? Call for extra help? Toss her a life preserver at least?
Or would you stand on the pool deck and shout to the child, “YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH– YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO SWIM BY NOW! IF YOU WOULD JUST KICK YOUR LEGS AND MOVE YOUR ARMS, YOU COULD SWIM TO SAFETY!”
What if you were told that the child whose head is starting to dip dangerously below the surface, had something wrong with her that prevented her from learning to swim as quickly as other children her age? The support of a life jacket could help her stay afloat long enough for an experienced adult to teach her to swim.
But at this pool, the use of life jackets or any other flotation device is discouraged. In fact, this pool would prefer that only children who can swim well jump into the water. They hope that the kids who need help swimming find a different pool somewhere else.
The drowning child, who is actually a very good athlete, is using all her strength to keep from sinking, but she becomes more and more distressed as she grows tired of the effort it takes to stay above water.
When her worried parent sees the situation and tries to alert the lifeguards, the guards don’t seem alarmed that the child is drowning. In fact, they point out to the mother, “See, if only your child would learn to swim. We told her she should learn how to swim. If she would just try harder she could save herself.” They shrug. “She must not want to save herself.”
The more the mother urges the lifeguards to help, the more reluctant they are to rescue the child. Finally, fed up with the insistent mother and the lazy child, the lifeguards turn their backs, knowing that they’ve done everything they could.
What’s that I hear? Is that the sound of little girls crying? Why yes!
It must have been the first day of school in the Brainhugger household.
Why, do you ask, would two girls, grades 4 & 7, both gifted, come home from school and cry?
Perhaps because they are Twice Exceptional students and have learning differences that make them anxious and scared to go to school and wary of the classroom, where they’re afraid their deficits will be revealed.
Yes, that must be it… 2E– the reason for the crying that gives me a knot in my stomach and the reason that the next 9 months of the school year will be fraught with ickiness at our house.