How I Talked to My Son about His Special Ed Program (and What He Ended up Teaching Me)

Posted October 2, 2009 by

We knew our son needed some help in school, but I was nervous about how to tell him about it.

To prepare, I talked with a friend about the problems he was having in school. She recommended that I check into the ARD program at our school. In our state, an ARD program is a resource to help parents of students who may be eligible for special education supports and services, and it helps parents and teachers work together to take a more active part in planning the student’s educational program.

Our school is very small, so before checking into it I wanted to discuss it with my son, TJ, who was in 3rd grade at the time. I explained that my friend’s son had an ARD and that an ARD makes sure the parents, teachers, and school administration were doing the right things to help her son succeed. Then TJ asked the question I was dreading: “Why do I need this?”

I took a deep breath and explained that he and my friend’s son, Jonathon, were both very smart, but that the way they got so smart was in a different way from how other kids got smart and that it is a less common way — so the teachers didn’t always know how to teach them. Since there are so many ways that people learn, teachers are taught in college how to teach all the circle cookie cutter kids?. That was great since the majority of kids were circle cookies, but it didn’t work so well for the square cookie cutter kids like TJ and Jonathon. I went on to say that all the kids were the same (all are cookies) but they learned differently so the teachers (and parents, who mostly were circle cookies, too) needed to work on teaching square cookie cutter kids and using ARDs helped them to do that. After that he agreed that looking into the ARD program was a good idea and besides, then Jonathan wouldn’t have to be the only one. His consideration for others always makes my heart smile.

About a week or so after that conversation I was helping my son with math homework regarding symmetry. On graph paper there were several pictures made using the graph squares. To make the pictures the squares on the paper were either filled in completely, or there was a filled in triangle in any of four directions. I was teaching him very carefully how to count the squares over and how to make the mirror image of the triangles so they would be filled correctly. He kept getting ahead of me and not counting and I kept trying to slow him down to do it right. After 15 minutes or so of us butting heads he finally threw down his pencil and said, Mom! You are NOT a square cookie cutter! Wow. What a revelation. I was trying to get him to do it the right way instead of helping him do it his way to get the right answer. My eyes were opened wider than they had been in a long time and from that point forward I took a step back and helped when HE needed it, not when I needed to help him. It was such a revelation to realize that the method in which an answer is reached is not the important part; it’s reaching the correct answer that is important.

He did it his way and made a 94 on his symmetry assignment.


Greengirl11 is a mom of three and parent blogger for EP.

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