For the past week I've been doing some interesting experiments with my students. Along with one of the resource specialists at my school, I've been designing some cognitive tests for my special needs students. We're trying to assess where the gaps in processing skills are, and then trying to figure out what types of intervention activities can help build skills.
In doing all of this I've been speaking with several different people about the fundamental assumptions of special education. One of the school psychologists told me that these kids have certain disabilities, and it's not a matter of trying to fix their brains. My kids' brains are how they are, and that's all there is to it. Our challenge is to find a way to help them find strategies to overcome their disabilities (calculators for example...).
I'm not so sure I can accept that though. My friend (the resource specialist with whom I've been doing all of this) and I believe that our students can overcome their disabilities. Yes, it is incredibly difficult for them, and yes, it will take some inventive strategies. But, the brain is an amazing organ. It has the capacity to rewire itself, to create new pathways. We just have to figure out how to generate those connections. Will it be the same as normally functioning students? No. Absolutely not. But can it be done? I have to believe it.