Monday, February 11, 2013

Self-diagnoses Woes

   I never had a problem with my daughter in school. I didn't even really have to work much with her. I have been reading to her since birth. Seriously, the first book I read to her was the first book in the Lord of the Ring; she was one month old, didn't care what I was reading, and was happy just for the sound of my voice and the cuddle time. When she started school, I continued to read to her, but she learned to read on her own because she wanted to read like a big girl. Math was the same. I did the flash cards with her, but she studied on her own as well, because my daughter is the type of person who likes to know shit.
   I don't really say this to brag, although I am super-duper proud, but instead to explain that I have never really had to deal with a child who is not doing well in school. I don't know what to do, or how to make them like school, or how to even figure if liking school is even the issue. But I do know that some kids have problems paying attention, and for the most part, I think this is a somewhat normal thing.
   My niece is currently going through this. Her teacher says she stares off into space, and while she does well in math, she is not where she should be in reading. She stayed back in Kindergarten, and the school may be considering non-promotion at this time, and even though No Child is Left Behind, it sure seems to me like the school is leaving my niece behind, and I don't know how to help my sister to help my niece. And what really boils my blood is the fact that the school says that they might not be able to help her or put her in the special tutoring class for reading, which is basically a tutor class that meets for a half-hour daily to help with problem areas, because they say those classes are really meant for the students who don't speak English as a first language. What? So you aren't going to give one child extra help in reading because we don't speak another language at home? I am not disparaging those who do not speak English as a first language, but this is a tutoring program that is supposed to help with reading. How is it fair that my niece may not get in because her first language is English? I am really glad that they are helping kids who don't speak English as a first language, but this help should not come at the exclusion of all the other, English-speaking kids who need help. My sister was also told that this class was for the kids in real trouble. Real trouble!? My niece may be held back for the second time, so how is she not in real trouble?
   To top off the infamy, my niece's teacher has suggested that my niece's problems may be ADD. Are you kidding me? So stop everything you are doing, and pull out your doctor's degree. Because I want to see how you are qualified to make that observation. Unbeknownst to the teacher, this concern has been addressed by the family doctor, who states that my niece does not have ADD. Why is this diagnoses the first thing that leaps into people's minds when there are attention problems? And why is this based off of one single symptom? And what makes a teacher so bold as to diagnose in the first place?
   I do not doubt that this teacher has some experience teaching kids with ADD, but she is not a doctor. She cannot diagnose. To have the education required to diagnose, you first get a Bachelor's in Biology of some sort, which is four years of higher education. Then that person takes the MCAT. After passing the MCAT with a high enough score to get accepted into a medical school, the person signs up for Medical School, which is another four years of higher education. Then the doctor takes a medical residency, or internship, which can take 3 to 7 years, depending on specialization. All of this training is based on the human body, how the body should function, illnesses, treatments, ect. A teacher's education? The minimum is a BA, which is four years, and is undoubtedly hard work, but does not focus on the well-being of the human body. A doctor has a lot more education, and that education is geared in a completely different direction.
   I am not saying anything against teachers; they are undervalued in my own opinion, but at no point -- NO POINT -- should they attempt to diagnose their students with mental illnesses or learning disabilities. My niece has been cleared for ADD, by her doctor, so who does this woman think she is? And why isn't the school offering the tutoring classes to all kids who are having trouble learning to read and not just those who don't speak English in the home? I never went through this with my daughter, so I have no advice to give my sister. I just keep trying to tempt my niece to read. And my sister is looking into alternatives, such as private schools with smaller class sizes, because she is getting no help from the school that she currently has her daughter in.
   My niece is a bright girl. She is smart, something that we observe daily. She even knows some of the stuff she is failing in testing. She can do some of this stuff at home, but fails on the tests. We don't know why, and we don't know how to make her pass tests that cover information that we know she knows, because she knows the info at home with no prompting. What do you do in this situation? 

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