Diagnosis=accommodations… hmmm… Amen of the Day goes to…Ira Socol

image from dmote on flickr, inserted via scribefire

The May 1st post on SpeEd Change begins in this way:

Start here: If your school, university, business, government requires “proof of disability” – that is, diagnosis – before providing accommodations, it is discriminating, and it is not committed to social justice, not committed to equality of opportunity, not committed to the success of every student.

It is as simple as that.

I do not know of many, if any, schools that do not attach accommodations to diagnosis. Of course, I am thinking high schools. In Quebec.

Do you?

And what do you think of Ira’s statement?

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. This statement seems…well..absurd. To receive a disability check, should you need to demonstrate proof of disability? What about to receive a handicap parking pass?

    The discriminiation would be occuring were the application held in a non-accomodating/publicizing fashion. If you needed to publicly sign up for the disability benefits, where all could see your signature, that would be a serious issue. To suggest, however, that a reasonable level of paperwork accompanies the need to allocate (scarce) resources to any particular need seems to be bizarre.

  2. I’m still thinking about this. Let me do some thinking out loud here.

    I can think of students who do not receive accommodations at school because ‘there’s no IEP’ and the IEP isn’t created because there is no diagnosis. So, even though a student may thrive if he/she were allowed to listen to a test rather than read it silently to themselves, the opportunity isn’t given because there is no diagnosis.

    What this is getting at for me is the right of all students to receive an education. (and not the right of all drivers to find a parking spot.) What good is that right to me if I am forced to learn in the one way my teacher teaches?

    This points toward a changing perspective on what learning/teaching/education is. I see my duty as a teacher to ensure that all of my students can achieve academic and social success. In order to ensure this I need to recognize that they do not all learn in the way that I teach by default.

    I’m not going to wait for a diagnosis to provide accommodations for my learners – teaching is about accommodating. I call it differentiating. However, because diagnosis is the standard for accommodation in public schools in North America, many teachers do.

  3. I’m not familiar with the acronym IEP, but I think that I can figure out kind of organization is stands for *grin*.

    I guess I would (at least off the top of my head) want to say something like this: Perhaps the opportunity to receive a substantative education entails that an IEP be situated in each school/district (i.e. however these are best dispersed now), and that students (or their guardians) ought to be given a time to take an evaluation while retaining confidentiality and privacy surrounding the evaluation took place, should the student/guardians desire that. These evaluations will be used to determine if the student’s learning needs diverge from ‘traditional’ (i.e. popularly taught) models. I’m thinking, in particular of student who are in need of more direct and focused learning groups in order to perform, just because this seems the most evident group of students to ‘latch’ onto – this isn’t to say, of course, that divergent learning strategies shouldn’t be generally employed, but only that my thoughts at the moment are caught up with this particular group.

    I think that teachers can and should begin to address learning differences as they see them, regardless of a diagnosis from a ‘professional’, but that prior to being able to effectively allocate resources at a district or even school level that some kind of performance metric needs to be used. This is, unfortunately, because resources for education are finite (which isn’t necessarily a satisfactory reason to advocate for evaluations, but fair in the present Canadian situation as far as I can tell).

    I guess what I really want to stress is this: Students should be respected by their teachers and, as such, should be assisted in their learning processes. At the same time, however, before particular resources can be brought to bear, some kind of evaluation has to be done – such an evaluation could be seen as discriminatory if only particular groups were ever subjected to it (i.e. along racial/gender/familial/etc lines), or if there was a public norm of deviancy attached to the evaluation or allocation of resources. The actual suggestion that needing an evaluation of some sort is itself discriminatory seems weird, assuming that access to the evaluation process is fair across all groups and doesn’t entail a publicity that would subsequently bring about negative social consequences for the student.

  4. Sorry…IEP is Individualized Education Program….sheepish grin….

    Chris, the idea I’m gravitating towards is that monies shouldn’t be ‘allocated’ to ensure that each student gets what they need to learn – it should be a given that they receive that.

    In terms of your second paragraph…we can wait the months, sometimes years it takes for the diagnosis process to take place – Basically that is how it happens now and it is not a fair process. Many students either can’t afford the testing or are on waiting lists that extend years for subsidized testing or their parents don’t want the stigma of a test or they do get tested and they score 1% point away from the score that allows accommodation (that happened to a student I know this year)……or a good teacher or teaching team can figure out what will help a student learn and ensure that he or she is allowing that to happen in their classroom. Without the student and their families having to go through the ordeal.

    Instead of allocating resources specifically for students with a confirmed diagnosis – and that can be anywhere from ADHD (attention deficit disorder) to dyslexia to autism to low IQ to any other diagnosis – I say we give the money to the schools to spend on ensuring their classrooms are inclusive, that they embody the principles behind Universal Design for Learning (UBD), and that teachers receive adequate training for all of that to happen,

    Because a student learns in a different way than is traditionally taught does not mean that there is something wrong with them that needs to be diagnosed and fixed.

  5. I have a feeling that we’re talking along similar lines. What I am suggesting is that to have a *substantative right* (versus a right alone) to education, a school/board needs to be provided the funds to enable them to rapidly respond when a student should have an ‘educational evaluation. I think that, perhaps, the term ‘educational evaluation’ better (begins) to delineate what I think is needed – rather than casting a negative light on students for their particularities by testing them against particular normative standards, the focus should be on their particular learning needs. For interm, before the ‘formal’ evaluation, some kind of funding needs to be made available to assist the student(s) AND educator(s).

    I wasn’t aware of the massive wait times, though I can’t say that I’m surprised. Approaching it with the position of the reality as it is now, versus the (seemingly) more abstract association of evaluations with discrimination shifts my reaction concerning your blog post’s initial polarizing statement. Whereas I certainly think that the present system CAN be read as discriminatory, I think that differentiating between ‘the reality as is’ from ‘the reality as it is intended’ (i.e. that resource allocation needs to be performed in a system with limited resources) is important, unless I’m mistakenly seeing a differentiation where one shouldn’t be read.

  6. Our present way of learning assumes you are well, until such time as you are described as sick (having a diagnosis). Well means that you learn adequately in a “normal” learning environment when provided with teachers who have proven they can teach students the requsite material in substantially successful ways — as proven by successful scores on standardized tests. If you can’t be successful in this kind of environment, then you must be “sick” and need assistance. To treat everyone as “normal” but that some people need different requirements in order to learn “adequately” (as proven by said tests), means that the “conveyer belt” mentality driven by industry-driven requirements is flawed. And since industry and property-owning citizens have chosen quite literally to educate people (including those who don’t learn adequately in a “nromal” learning environment) at the lowest price, you get the Wal-mart of education, not the Nieman-Marcus of education. When we genuinely decide that all students can be given the best education according to their ability then schools will have a budget that doesn’t mean the library has to prostitute itself to book companies in order to “earn” a few more books each year because they can’t afford to buy more than a couple hundred books each year. It would mean that technology would be a genuine help in the classroom instead of a hinderance (It’s down; it’s up. Or only teachers have computers to take role, etc.). It would mean that students and parents wouldn’t settle for “normal” they would be demanding “exceptional’ (As opposed to parents who only come in to defend their student’s desrespectful or hooligan behavior, or to demand their child pass a class.). Having each student get the best possible educational experience would cost money, and right now the majority of communities are not willing to pay what it takes to provide the excellence in environment, technology, and resources that would genuinely allow educators (I haven’t met one anywhere that didn’t want to help students learn.) do the job they want to do. I want to teach with enthusiasm and communicate to students how nifty learning is, but many students can’t catch my enthusiasm because they are in high school but can’t yet read, are unable to concentrate because they are untreated for mental health issues (parental neglect), or I don’t have sufficient resources to do my job effectively (For instance an alternative setting that is not distracting. I don’t call reading a test in a hallway, to students who can’t concentrate well, an adequate alternative setting.). So, until education can progress from the Wal-mart mode to at a minimum the Sear’s paradigm, how can we expect students who learn differently, to not need a diagnosis. When we get to the Neiman-Marcus paradigm, we won’t need a diagnosis, but today…..the milage rate says Wal-mart in my school. In fact, my school, sadly, might be more represented by the Dollar Store model. Our paradigm after NCLB would encourage students who have different needs to quit so that our stats are not ruined by their continuous NEEDS. At least Wal-mart gives a nod to individuals with special needs by putting them on display at the door as greeters. Sad but true thoughts, as we get ready to go back next month and do another year of trying to teach young people to be as excited about learning as we are. (Special educator in a large Southern state of the US)

  7. Thanks for your comment, Joann. I can see this is a topic that you care very much about as well!

    You wrote:
    “Our paradigm after NCLB would encourage students who have different needs to quit so that our stats are not ruined by their continuous NEEDS.”

    Sadly that is true in some schools here as well – for example students who are not expected to do well on provincial exams are encouraged not to write them in some schools I know, or they are all placed into one class grouping so that their low marks do not affect the marks of others. All of this so as to place higher on the Fraser Report on Schools –> http://www.fraserinstitute.org/reportcards/schoolperformance/ .

    There are also many schools who do not – who work in the best interests of all of their students. These are generally the schools who are not guided by diagnosis but by a belief in the rights of all students to learn, any way possible.

    It is towards those schools I place my sights – if we focus on the positive we will see much more of it. Guaranteed.

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