Elephants in Dresses

March 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Special Education feels like a specialized practice of “renaming” and “relabeling”. What was once called the resource room is now called “the learning center.” But really, it’s the same place and the people are doing the same job, we just try to put pretty labels on everything now to be politically correct. I am not saying it is a bad thing, it just forces us to spend more time reading between the lines.

Today I spent time in the first of many transition planning meetings for my daughter. She is getting ready to transition to middle school next year. All in all it was a good meeting and not adversarial in any way.

The school presented me with two of their special needs programs both with lovely titles. They were both described to me in broad terms and the term “average intelligence” was used to describe one and not the other. As you can imagine I was forced to begin to read between the lines about “the other” program and what that meant. I was grateful, as it pushed me to ask more pointed questions about the curriculum in each. I bet you can guess the answer! It was “they both follow the common core.” I am sure I made a face at this point, although it was hugely unintentional. I mean, really? Did they think I would be satisfied with that answer? I was able to press with a more focused question about literature read in each class and then that got me a little more understanding. Neither group uses the same literature as the general ed class. It was funny because they kept telling me “all the kids are fully included” so you can imagine why I was a bit confused. Then at one point they were using the words substantially separate and fully included in the same sentence.


I guess the school and I have different ideas of what inclusion means but at least I know that in advance and can account for it before we develop an IEP. A good quote was said to me this week. “You can put a dress on an elephant but it’s still an elephant.” I kind of feel like there is a dress on the inclusion program at the middle school.

Parents – it’s ok to read between the lines. It’s ok to asked pointed in depth focused questions. It’s ok to wonder if the “elephant” they are speaking of may be in a “dress”. Administrators – stop beating around the bush, parents need straight talk and detailed explanations. Stop dressing elephants!

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