Why You Shouldn’t Give Kids “Crutches”

My son was nineteen before I told him he had dyslexia and significant auditory processing problems. Of course, growing up, he knew something was different, that he had to work harder. That all those exercises I had him do weren’t the norm for most kids.

Do you know what he said?

“It’s a good thing you never told me that, Mom.”

“Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“Because I would have taken it and run with it. I would have used it as a crutch.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

The loneliness and isolation of Special Education can be overwhelming to a student.

I refused to put him in Special Education (IEP) because of this and a thousand other things I’d seen as an educator. A pull-out system that doesn’t work. Bullying. Watering down curriculum. A lack of preparedness. Not dealing with the underlying issues. Lip service. I could go on.

Special education is a slippery slope that gives kids crutches every day. Don’t get me wrong…I’m all for modifications and accommodations, especially for a child with significant issues.

My problem is this. When do they stop using these crutches…these modifications and accommodations?

When do they teach the student tools for success…not tools for failure?

Think about what we’re setting these kids up for.

Think about their first jobs. Are they going to get accommodations and modifications in the work force? Will their employer say, “Oh…I see. You only have to crank out five hamburgers today. Everyone else has to crank out one hundred.”?

Will they get assistive technology to make sales quotas? Will they be given the same pay for a job half done?

We’re too short-sighted in our efforts to help struggling learners. We’re too busy looking at what they can’t do that we can’t see what they can do.

I had a parent call me recently. He was upset. He’d allowed his child to be placed in Special Education as a young child. The years had passed, and his son hadn’t made much progress. By now he was in the eighth grade.

“I just found out he won’t get a real high school diploma…just a certificate of completion.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s the system.”

“But they never gave him the tools to pass his courses or pass tests. He can barely read.”

We need to change a system that isn’t working. We need to prepare these kids for life, for success. I don’t want any child struggling in school. I don’t want a child do suffer through forty math problems he doesn’t understand. I don’t want a student to die a slow death over a long spelling list she’ll struggle to master.

I want services that give kids tools to succeed…not a sure route to failure.

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