I was so happy to find out.
I knew Shonique had a learning disability, I just didn’t know what it was. All the kids with disabilities have what is called an IEP, which stands for Individualized Educational Plan. Lots of kids have them and so does Shonique, but we don’t get copies of these plans, which are sometimes 40 or 50 pages long, we just are informed (sometimes) that they have one. Sometimes we’ll even get required accommodations to use with the kid like “should sit close to the teacher’s desk” or “should be given extra time on assignments”. But these are so very generic and don’t specify what condition the child has. Plus when you have 15 special ed kids in your class how can they all sit next to the teacher’s desk?
So I went to find out what Shonique’s disability was. I walked into the director’s office and asked her if I was privy to that information (sometimes as a teacher, you aren’t). She pulled out a huge drawer of files upon files. In fact an entire wall was filled with these long filing cabinets. There were files with computer printed labels and some done with marker, some, you could tell, had been labled and re-labled several times. They were thick.
Finally she found the file she was looking for and opened it on her desk. There was a photocopied paper that told her Shonique’s IQ and her accommodations, but not her specific disability. When she looked further in the file she realized it wasn’t Shonique’s at all, but another boy in the school. Somehow some of Shonique’s documents got into his file. “Oops” she said “I’ll need to correct that” and she did. I wondered how many other things were going missing.
When she found Shonique’s file she was missing her assessment from 2006, but did find the one done in 2003. “She was 11” she told me. On that report it said that Shonique had “language based reading disabilities”. “That’s a broad term” the director told me “but it basically means dyslexia, which is another broad term.” I nodded. “So what is it specifically?” I asked her. She didn’t know.
But it gave me a start. Finally I can try and get her some help.