As a leader in the special education, we know and understand the needs of students with cognitive, learning and behavioral disabilities. However, their attempts to be “normal” often turn out to be unsuccessful, painful, and difficult. For instance, what would happen if a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder decided to sit for one of the “normal” exams? Some might be able to pass with flying colors, some might struggle but succeed, and some, might fail. The Mighty has recently published an article, written by Jordan Davidson, telling the story of a boy with Autism who tried to pass a standardized test, and his teacher, who definitely “saved the day.”
Brave 11-year-old Ben Twist at Lansbury Bridge School and Sports College decided to take a standardized test for a high school placement. Unfortunately, Ben, who is an autistic child, did not pass the exam. In Ben’s defense, these tests are really tough, even without Autism. What happened afterward is much more interesting. His teacher, Mrs Clarkson, wrote a special letter to congratulate the boy on his achievements. Clarkson, who is indeed amazing, also listed Ben’s qualities, skills and talents because, according to her, “these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities.” She couldn’t be more right.
“I am writing to you to congratulate you on your attitude and success in completing your end of key stage SATs.
Gil, Lynn, Angela, Steph and Anne have worked so well with you this year and you have made some fabulous progress. I have written to you and your parents to tell you the results of the tests.
A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.
Other talents you have that these test do not measure include:
• Your artistic talents
• Your ability to work in a team
• Your growing independence
• Your kindness
• Your ability to express your opinion
• Your abilities in sport
• Your ability to make and keep friends
• Your ability to discuss and evaluate your own progress
• Your design and building talents
• Your musical ability
We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man.
Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.
It’s wonderful to see that some teachers appreciate and value skills other than the “typical” ones: kindness, ability to make friends, musical and artistic ability, are incredibly important in life and may benefit Ben more than arithmetic. This attitude is crucial especially if you work with students with special needs. The education system in general should focus more on the individual approach rather than treat all students as a whole. This is the only way a teacher can find the “special” thing in a student and therefore spur their willingness to develop this ability. Last but not least, teachers should inspire their students. If knowledge is the seed, motivation is the soil, the water and the sun. As for Mrs Clarkson, we can surely nominate her as a Teacher of the Year, with the hope to have more nominees in the remaining months of the year.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.