Aspergers, Autism, ADHD Oh My!

Why are teachers afraid of IEPs?

Imagine if you will a symphony beginning to play a symphony by Beethoven, the conductor comes up to the stage with a score in hand to guide all the instruments on what to play and when. However, when he pulls out the score the Timpani part is highlighted in the black marker for the timpani not to play, “Who marked out the timpani player’s part?” he asks the orchestra and an audience member says, “I did because the timpani is too loud for me!”. This audience member has a problem with timpani players for some reason and took it out on Beethoven’s 5th Symphony because it has timpani. This audience member’s attitude towards the timpani player is no different than how some teachers who claim to help special needs people interpret an IEP and the parents who work hard to get the paperwork done.

Photo by Dimitri Karastelev on Unsplash

An IEP or Individual Education Plan is a document that is a guidebook for teachers on how to properly help all special needs people properly and safely so people and property are not harmed. Parents, Psychiatrists, and Psychologists fill them out so that a teacher has a playbook at hand for when there is a medication to be taken, what a child’s emotional needs are, and how to meet those needs for a particular child. However, not all teachers follow the playbook when it comes to dealing with special needs children including myself a high-functioning Asperger’s woman who is now thirty years old and with an Associate of General Studies. My rough years were in Middle School and High School because I and several of my peers in fifth and sixth grade were the first waves of academically high Asperger and Autistic teens to enter High School. My Mom fought for us to have a special ed room and a para pro later on because of those papers teachers fear most.

In my state of Michigan, it is illegal for a teacher to not follow an IEP something a lot of teachers swept under the rug until my mom would hear it from me, one time she even found a lawyer who dealt with such cases. Our special ed room was nothing more than a broom closet like Harry Potter living under the stairs only it’s the school that did this and not your family. I was very talented yet it was hard to make friends and relationships separate from my parents which made me feel a wave of anger I had a hard time expressing with words.

It made me angry that my peers could do things I could not do yet, especially in the band where we had a director who hated the concert band but loved his symphonic band because of his elitist glory days. Our school also had a television program and I was an editorialist for it who won my first MIPPA award for a piece about Dr. Seuss Estates’ handling of his works by Audrey Geisel and how it would be dangerous later on in Seussian verse. Mind this is in 2009 before Illumination’s The Lorax came out selling baby diapers and SUVs. However, some children and teens are not as lucky as I was to graduate with honors despite all of my struggles.

Some schools have officers who do not know how to handle special needs people often ending in tragedy. Schools looking into mental health development turn to persudo science and self-help books rather than Psychologists and Therapists who can do the work to help students and teachers. Even worse are cases of special needs children and teens being dumped into charter schools that have no accountability for what happens to teens and children. Just like a score to a symphony IEP is a guidebook for not only how teachers can help special needs people but also students have a responsibility too for when teachers disrespect a student’s needs.

In Canada and the US, a movement was created by students called Pink Shirt Day to bring awareness to bullying, an epidemic that is targeted toward special ed teens and children as seen in the documentary Bully. The term Inspiration Porn was coined by a student journalist who was in a wheelchair for people who say inspiring messages using special needs people but choose to do nothing to help make their lives better which is what teachers are supposed to do. Part of that process begins with listening to special needs students and parents first.

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Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra

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Christina Bishop

Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra

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