There’s Something Off There

This is my coworker’s (the head teacher) favorite saying.

She says it all the time. And every time she says it, it grates on my nerves. Because she cries wolf. Because she sees a disability in every child.

Today it was a child who is just 3 years old and just started at our school. She needed to be told instructions repeatedly. My coworker says her infamous “there’s something off there”.

But there’s not.

There’s a 3 year old child who has never been in school before and would rather do whatever she wants then what we want her to do. Nothing off about that.

She doesn’t have trouble “processing”. There is nothing “off” about her.

Here’s the thing that really bothers me:

She sees a disability in every child who is just a child, but the one child who does in fact have a diagnosed disability she doesn’t see it.

He’s 4. And he has high functioning Autism. And everything that comes with it.

So he makes loud noises sometimes. She yells at him to stop. He might eventually learn to stop, but he has Autism.

So he needs his spot to be his spot. She tells him to stop fussing. He might eventually learn to share his spot, but he has Autism.

So he needs everything to be in the right place, and notices when he’s not. She ignores it or again tells him to stop. But he notices things because he is bright, because new things are strange, because he has Autism.

So his language is delayed (he also has a speech disorder). She tells him he needs to talk better. And he will, and he has, but he has a disability.

And worse: in some areas he is brighter then other children, but she doesn’t see it. I point something out and she says “yeah, but…”

She tries to turn him into every other child. But he will never be like every other child (as if all children should be the same anyways). He will always be different. He may always be delayed in some areas. But seriously, you need to learn how to deal with it. All teachers have to learn to deal with it. And it is not dealing with it if you expect him to be at the same level as all the other children.

And after years of working with preschoolers (she’s in her 60s) shouldn’t you know how to deal with special needs? And shouldn’t you know the difference between an actual delay and and a child settling into a new place?

To me it seems like she doesn’t want to deal with children who might need extra help (whether because of an actual disorder or because they are young and need help).

She wants to work with the bright children and then rest don’t succeed because of them, not her. Because something is “off” about them. And she won’t see the success they do make. Which (not to sound self-absorbed) is largely because I spend time with them, teaching them, working on their language skills, helping them interact with their peers.

Because preschool teachers are the first line of defense. The first people who might see something and get support and services in early.

But to call wolf? That does nothing but hurt children, especially the ones with actual disabilities.

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