Crisis Schooling Lessons: Different Isn't Less & Less Can Be More

There are always debates happening in special education and with the current pandemic, the arguments are getting louder and louder.

I'm going to skip over the obvious frustration of what's going to happen when we get back into school. Compensatory education? ESY? We will have plenty of time to tackle those issues when the time comes.

Right now we have to really think about what is happening today, in your house, in your virtual classroom. 

I've posted several times the recommended minutes of "school at home" from the IL State Board of Ed on my blog and social media sites. It's important for people to see that successful school is not sitting at a kitchen table for 6 hours, crying your way through worksheets.

Today somebody called me out and stated that I am sharing dangerous information. She thinks it's irresponsible that I let people know it's okay if we, as a special education TEAM, decide to do less than the recommended minutes. She thinks I'm promoting LESS learning for children in special education.

First, let me clarify, I would NEVER suggest that a child who learns differently needs LESS than someone who thrives in general education. Nope. Never going to happen.

However, I absolutely will stand by a child needing DIFFERENT learning strategies to be successful.

We can't measure learning minutes for a child with Down syndrome or Autism or ADHD the same way we do for a child makes progress without any significant additional help.

Let me share a few examples... A second grader who thrives in general education needs a snack during the day. They go grab their juice box, open the straw, punch it through the top of the box. Then they go back to the cabinet, steal the box of Teddy Grahams, realize it hasn't been opened, but that's ok... they'll just tear through that plastic and start to enjoy.

Now let's go through that situation with a child who is still developing their communication to express what they want and need. After navigating through their approximated sounds, sign language, and maybe even their communication boards, FINALLY Mom figures out what her child wants for snack. Mom and child basically just finished an entire speech therapy session figuring out snack time.

Next, we get to the opening of containers. From straw wrappers to snack boxes, Mom (or Dad or Sibling!) spends time encouraging their child to pinch the plastic, squeeze the wrapper, pull the box lid, etc... Phew! We've just completed a whole occupational therapy session. 

How many graham crackers can the child have? 6? Ok, let's count those out. Welcome to math time!

Before we know it, the 10:30am Zoom check in meeting is beginning and our special education team wants us to fully engage through a screen, navigate technology, and complete a worksheet. These Zoom minutes are what the chart that I have been sharing are referring to and it's such a small scope of a child's day.

Our reality in our special needs community is that we don't take breaks from learning in the same way as others. 

Our "recommended minutes" for learning will never be less because we are always striving to reach that next milestone that our peers have probably already mastered.

Less minutes with a worksheet or working on official academic benchmarks can actually mean MORE time for reaching new milestones and generalizing our skills. 

Who cares if you can count to six on a worksheet! Real life skills means that we count out those 6 Teddy Grahams. Counting Teddy Grahams does not mean that we are doing less important work. We are working. We are reaching milestones. We are striving. We are always learning. 

We probably don't need recommended minutes as a Special Education community for crisis schooling. We have IEPs that determine minutes every minute of every day when school is in session. We know what learning minutes and therapy minutes look like in an average day.

At home, listen to your gut. You know learning is happening every minute of every day. Hint: Use those recommended minute charts as a helpful reminder that NO child should be sitting at their kitchen table sobbing over science.

So remember, different isn't less and less can be more. We are all working together to be the teachers, therapists and parents that our children with different learning needs are craving for stability. 

We're in this together. We are going to rise from this chaos stronger than ever. I'm so very proud to be part of the special needs community with you.

If you need further help, please join me in the IEP Masterclass & Special Education Inner Circle, HERE. I promise you'll be surrounded by people who fully understand the work that you're doing and we'll bring you the solutions you need to survive crisis schooling and beyond. See you on the inside!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Registration for the Master IEP Coach Mentorship is OPEN! Learn More Here