Special education for special students

September 15, 2016

Thank the Universe that I nor my son or anyone else for which I have been in any way responsible has needed to enter the special education school ranks. My heart goes out to friends who struggle with this issue because their children are among those ranks.

Oh, as a psychic, I am special, all right, but whether there would have been anyone in the schools I attended who would have had the skills or confidence in nurturing me for the passion I have developed to guide people in their lives by offering them these readings, I find highly unlikely.

My memory is far from optimal nowadays but I seem the recall that I ground my teeth in agony before heading out to interview the teacher, in 1983, who provided the information to help navigate me through the writing of the following article:

Borderland Reporter

Wenesday, March 9, 1983

Special education for special students

by Tanya Lester

According to Linda Balysky, the special education at Coronach School, students needing special education cam be the trainable mentally handicapped, the severly learning disabled, the emmotionally and behaviourly disordered, the hearing impaired, the physically disabled, or the exceptionally intelligent.

But Ms. Balysky likes to explain special education in a much simpler way that using the above labels. “Special education, to me, is just anything where the student isn’t coping with the classroom or is above the norm of the classroom,” she said.

In 1978, the provincial Department of Edo ucation amended the Education Act to recognize the need for special education students to be mainstreamed into the school system.

Ms. Balysky said, in the past, children with severe learning handicaps were put into institutions. She explained the institutions were a closed situation for these children. They saw no one, except their teacher, who could be an example of a ‘normal’ person.

With the mainstreaming, which takes place at Coronach School as well as at several other schools across the province, the severly learning handicapped students, including the mentally retarded, often attend the regular classroom.

Ms. Balysky said these students have the opportunity to see how ‘normal’ students learn and can, to a certain extent, learn to behave as they do.

Of course, the learning handicapped students also have the advantage of getting the emotional support which comes with living with their families. This was not the case when they stayed in institutions. Studies have shown, Ms. Balysky said, handicapped children can learn more rapidly and develop further in a more regular school situation than they would in an institution.

The other students which Ms. Balysky teaches are those with remedial problems in reading or mathematics, and students with speech and language difficulties. In the past, these students would have “ended up being your high school dropouts.”

But the government does not provide special grants fo rer these students, who fall within the “low cost” category. Extra money is only provided for “high cost” students or the ones with severe learning handicaps.

As a stipulation for receiving the “high cost” grant money, Ms. Balysky must spend a minimum of 3 hours individually teaching each severely learning disabled student. Out of necessity, therefore, the “high cost” students, among the 22 children which Ms. Balysky works with, must take some priority.

But Ms. Balysky’s innovation has helped ensure that each student will get maximum benefit out of the sometimes limited time he or she spends with the special education teacher. The time may be only 30 to 45 minutes every second day with some students.

In her resource room, then, Ms. Balysky finds she has “to grab their interests.” The students might learn how to spell and read by making letters with paint, felt or clay. They may learn better vocabulary through playing games or listening to a tape recorder. Ms. Balysky said she is always reading resource books on how to use materials to more resourcefully help her students to learn.

However, in a town school such as Coronach’s, there may be only one student with a particular learning disability and a kit to help that student could cost $600. Ms. Balysky’s materials budget is about $1000 so she cannot justify buying a $600 kit that would aid merely one student.

But the board of the Guiding Light School, which was an institution for handicapped students, in Assiniboia has allotted the Shared Services program with $25,000 to order material aids for learning disabled students.

Subject to the Guiding Light board approvals, the Shared Seervices Program which takes in the Borderland, Assiniboia, Wood River, and Gravelbourg school divisions, will be able to ‘share’ the $25,000 worth of materials.

In other words, Mrs. Balysky could have access to a kiten that would be used in four school divisions and all these involved in special education could then  better justify the expense of buying it.

Ms. Balysky enjoys her work as a special education teacher for several reasons. Because she works with her students on an individual basis, she can get to know them better than a teacher who works in a classroom situation. “There’s just a more personal relationship,” she said.

Even when the student goes back to the classroom or for the hours that the special education student spends in regular classes, Ms.Balysky often  works with the class teacher to set up a special program for the student.

Ms. Balysky also observes the special education students, which are sent back to the classroom on a more permanent basis, to make sure they are coping. “If you notice they’re slipping, you pull them back in (to the special education resource room),” she said.

Ms. Balysky admits sometimes it gets frustrating repeating the same thing over and over again to a student for months until he or she learns it. Or fineaally teaching a concept on Friday and then finding out he or she has forgotten it by Monday.

But Ms. Balysky’s face lights up with a smile when she talks about how rewarding it is to see a student making progress from one year to the next. “You’ll find a way (to help the students learn),” she said.


For more on Tanya go to teareading.wordpress.com or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Her email is tealeaf.56@gmail.com. Her cell phone is 250-538-0086.







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