Nearly every year since Cameron started school, I’ve written a letter to the teacher about what to expect from him. This is the first year that Cameron is starting the year with an IEP though, so I thought this year’s letter should be a bit different. As a teacher, I totally understand that it may be overwhelming if every child’s parent decided to write me a letter like this, but as a parent, I want my child to be somewhat understood. To match the “theme” of the past few entries here, I’m really trying to focus on positives. One of Cameron’s heroes is Dr. Temple Grandin (if you don’t know who that is, you should Google her right now), a Ph.D. who has autism. My favorite quote from her is the one you see above, “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” So this year’s letter is focused on that. I’m posting it because I’m sure there are other parents who are looking for some way to try to help your student succeed from afar this school year- without too much help, without too much drama, with a bit of teacher flexibility. We’ll see how my new approach works. Feel free to copy and change what you need to!
While I know that this is a crazy time of the school year, I think it’s important that I get in touch with you about Cameron before he shows up on the first day. I am well aware that the special education teacher who is assigned as his case manager will let you know of the accommodations listed on his IEP, as well as his strengths and areas of struggle. What an IEP can’t tell you, however, is who Cameron really is.
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out Cameron (Why does he argue with everything? Why is he so sensitive?), trying to make sure he receives the accommodations he deserves, and trying to help him fit in to a school day in which he struggles. This year, however, I am asking you to try to focus on what Cameron can do, which is a lot.
Cameron can read much better than his tests show. Yes, typically he reads better when it’s something that he is interested in, but I’m pretty sure all of us retain and comprehend better when we’re interested in something. Cameron loves to read and will spend hours reading and discussing his favorite books. He feels confident that he can read better than kids in the “highest” reading group, but he laughs it off and doesn’t really care that he’s in a lower group. When he reads, Cameron is incredible at learning facts; with some guidance and support, he is able to apply the facts in whatever way you are expecting.
Cameron is good at math- in his head. He may become overwhelmed by the number and/or size of math problems on a page because his handwriting prevents him from working out problems on paper, but he can do basic problems in his head more quickly than I can.
Cameron is a pleaser. He really does want to do well. He may become discouraged and frustrated easily, but with appropriate encouragement and trust in him, he will try his best to make you happy. He’s a rule-follower, and will take any job you assign him very seriously. He is a natural leader (perhaps “dictator” would be a more appropriate word), but does need to be reminded that he needs to worry about himself.
Cameron is an incredible self-advocate. He can tell you what he needs and how he needs it. While I don’t doubt he sometimes takes advantage of some of the accommodations we have in place for him, I feel like the fact that he struggles with things that others don’t warrants him a bit of understanding here. He needs breaks, he needs to move, he needs to be reminded to follow directions, and mostly he needs a teacher who understands this and who sees his capabilities.
My husband and I place high expectations on Cameron. However, I feel that many of his struggles are due to the fact that the way children are expected to learn isn’t necessarily how Cameron learns. With that said, I don’t expect special treatment of him, just accommodations for him so that he has a better chance of being a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
My hope for this school year is that Cameron continues to self-advocate and that you will do your best to see his strengths before his struggles, and use those to help him learn as much as he can this school year.
If problems arise, do not hesitate to call or email my husband or me.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate you taking your precious time to read through this!