Yesterday we had our last meeting at Natural Friends. This one was attended by a psychologist from the local Intermediate Unit, one of her colleagues, the Natural Friends school psychologist, the first-grade teacher (Teacher 1), and the Head of School at Natural Friends (Teacher Cranium).
The Intermediate Unit psychologist observed YD in the classroom, and tested her reading abilities. Younger Daughter scored in the Average range. The psychologist said the scores were lower than they might have been, because of YD's resistant behavior. So the scores should really be used as a floor; we know that YD is at least average in her reading abilities. The good news is that no-one has found evidence of any cognitive problems or learning disabilities.
The bad news remains YD's difficult behavior. Teacher Cranium's proposed solution was that we should do a mountain of paperwork in the hopes of obtaining a 1:1 aide, or "shadow", to follow YD around all day and deal with her behavior. I see this as a solution for the school's problem, more than a solution for YD's problem.
What I'd like to know is how much of YD's difficult behavior is caused by the school itself. This is a question the school won't even ask, let alone answer. Some of her restlessness and refusal is probably caused by frustration and anxiety at being required to do things that she just can't do. Here's an example that came up at the meeting:
Teacher 1: She can add two numbers together, but when you ask her to explain how she did it, she can't explain!
What a ridiculous thing to ask a 7-year-old child to do, especially a 7-year-old child with known language delays. Unfortunately, it's a basic part of their ridiculous math curriculum, Trailblazers.
Teacher 1 also said that YD loved listening to stories read aloud, and had "astute" responses to them. On the other hand, if you ask YD to demonstrate her comprehension of the dull-as-dishwater leveled books that they teach reading with, she doesn't answer the teacher's questions correctly.
What's the mystery here? If YD is interested in the proceedings and has something to say, she can say it. If she's bored and frustrated, she refuses.
Near the end of the meeting, I said to Teacher Cranium: "Why should we spend (insert large number) dollars to send Younger Daughter here? You can't handle her behavior, and she's behind academically."
To my amazement, Teacher Cranium had no response to this. He nodded his head and said, "Uh-huh". I was expecting him at least to launch into praise of Natural Friends, but he had nothing to say.
I feel that Teacher 1 and Teacher Cranium are basically kind-hearted, well-intentioned people, but that's not enough. They're not effective. They're not willing to turn a cold appraising eye toward their own practices and ask themselves what's working, what's not working, and what they might do differently.
For next year, we're considering the local public school, or a private school that specializes in teaching kids with language delays and disorders.