Hello! This blog is about my daughter Hailey (currently 12 years old) and her experiences living with auditory processing disorder. Auditory Processing Disorder is Hailey's primary issue, however she has also been given the labels Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Visual Processing Disorder, Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder and Phonology Disorder at various points in her life.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's Have a Revolution! Schools Need to Radically Change

"Don't you know, they're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper"

A friend of mine wrote a post recently about dropping her daughter off at school and the feelings and thoughts that go through her mind every day.  Her hopes: "we drop them off in the morning and hope (beyond hope) that they survive the day, are happy, have friends and learn something along the way (in that order)." Her fears: "It wears our children out, the school yard has the power to break our children, and the teachers, they have the power to make or break our kids (not unlike my last blog - just hoping that the teacher will be the one to lift spirits and encourage our children to believe in themselves and their ability)." 1

This friend of mine has a child with auditory processing disorder, like my daughter, and so she has difficulty not only with academics, but also with socializing.  If you have trouble processing language and only hear and process 50-70% of what is being said, then of course socializing is harder.  The school yard can be a nightmare to navigate for children who hear and process 100% and let's face it, bullying occurs on school yards.  Children with disabilities, especially children with what are considered "hidden disabilities" (those that are not readily noticeable to peers), are more likely to be bullied than the typical child - which is high enough.

But I am not writing this post about bullying.  I am not even writing this post about learning disabilities.  This post is about the real need for our schools to radically change the way they function for ALL children.  I'm talkin' bout a revolution!

Children are more than their academic success.  Children are whole people with needs that are EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, SOCIAL, INTRAPERSONAL, INTELLECTUAL, and let's not forget the need for PERSONAL/CREATIVE EXPRESSION.  Schools focus only on intellectual. (They may touch on the others, but it isn't their objective.) Why is that?  Are we as a society saying the others aren't as important?  If a child learns to read but in the process loses all sense of self-esteem, what have we done?  Is that really a good idea?

Why do children go out onto a playground with hundreds of other children in a Lord of the Flies2
scenario: survive or die?  The teachers don't go out there with them to help them learn social skills.  The teachers don't monitor to make sure bullying is not occurring (one or two aids to supervise hundreds of children is just not enough). The teachers don't actively teach self-advocating skills, empathy for others, how to include everyone, and sharing and taking turns mostly stops being taught in kindergarten.(Sure teachers do their best to encourage these character building skills, but it's not their prime directive.)

Why aren't children encouraged to pursue their own interests?  Why are they not allowed to continue studying something they are interested in or take as much time as needed on things they find difficult?  Why are tests timed and if they do art, it must be completed in the 30 minutes allotted to art that day?

Why are children grouped according to age?  Are we saying all 9 year olds are the same?  Wouldn't it make sense to allow children to be taught in groups according to their learning style, aptitude for that particular skill, and even amount of interest?

Schools are not conducive to the development of the whole child.  Schools do not treat children like real people; children are being processed through a system that seems to think you can plug slot A into slot B and somehow get the wonderful, unique person that each child is meant to be.

And if you say they can develop their interests, learn all the emotional, social, and intrapersonal things in their free time, I ask you this:  How much free time does a child have when they spend 1 hour eating and getting ready for school, 7 hours in school, 2 hours doing homework, 1/2 hour eating dinner, 1/2 hour bathing and getting ready for bed,  and 10 hours sleeping each day?  That leaves 3 hours each day to do whatever chores their parents might want them to do, play with their friends, spend time with their family, and figure out what they want to pursue for their own interests and pursue them.  This doesn't even include the kids that are put in after school care programs or other extra-curricular activities like sports and clubs that have their own set of agendas.  Oh yeah, let's not forget down time!  All children need time to just relax and destress from their day.  When is that supposed to happen?

I am advocating for revolution!  I want a radical change in the way schools work with children.  Children are whole people with more needs and more value than simply forcing them through a systematic academic factory, hoping they'll survive.

1) Nancy Outten, "Auditory Processing Disorder: Holly's Story, coping with and learning about this disorder", March 29, 2012
2) Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize winning author William Golding publish in 1954 about a group of British boys trying to govern themselves on a deserted island.

Update:  Check out this link to a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson who expresses so amazingly well his ideas about a "learning revolution."  Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution!

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