Phoebe is very sensitive and her feelings can get hurt easily which can lead to her misunderstanding some things, so I reached out to her teacher for clarification on the matter. When the teacher responded to my email, her reply was "I am sorry if anything I have said has upset Phoebe. This summer, in addition to academics, the class has been working on speaking in an appropriate manner...I will commonly say to the class to...speak like a first grader. Moving forward, we will be mindful of this. Again, I apologize if what I have said has upset Phoebe".
I was shocked and didn't know how to take her reply. So we contacted the head of the special education department who is working this summer and requested she look into this matter further. Her initial response was that while she has sat in on the classroom and has heard the teacher address the whole class in say to not talk like a baby and to talk like a first grader (which did not sit well with us), that she wanted a copy of the exchanged emails and she would definitely look into it further.
When I forwarded her the emails last night, I also included the following note....
"My husband told me he spoke to you today and that you requested I forward the email I sent to (Phoebe's teacher) as well as her response. All of the emails should be below, including my initial email at the beginning of ESY explaining information about Phoebe, her symptoms and the systems affected, and a power point (her school nurse) made for an in-service for the staff at (her elementary school).
When I spoke to my husband during my dinner break at work, he told me that you sat in the classroom when (the teacher) said "we want you to start talking like first graders.".
I struggled for years about the thought of sending Phoebe to public school, concerned if she could physically handle it with her health and mobility issues, along with wondering how she would fit in, if the other children would accept her for how/who she is, and how she would handle facing her limitations and differences to other children her age. As she has gone through Kindergarten, she has become even more aware of how different she is to other children her age, along with her limitations compared to what other 6 year olds can do and handle. She has always known she is different from her sisters (two older and one younger), unable to fully keep up and do things they can do. But it has been hard for her seeing other children her age and realizing just how different she is.
While a small part of me understands wanting a child to stop "talking like a baby" as that child gets older going through elementary school, it is important to remember that every single child is different. And when it comes to children who experience learning disabilities, developmental delays, and other situations that can affect their education and daily lives, you cannot expect them to progress the same way a child who isn't facing those issues would.
I absolutely do not agree with someone, especially a teacher, even more so in extended school year program, telling either a whole class or an individual child they talk like a baby and need to start talking like what grade they are going in to. These children are in this program because they need the extra help so they do not fall behind when the new school year begins. What if these children cannot help the way they talk? What if that is how they, as first graders, talk? There could be any number of reasons for a child to be behind on their speech, and I do not think pointing that out by calling them a baby is any way to encourage or support a child in their attempt at as normal of an academic life as possible.
Phoebe has global developmental delay (among all of her other health issues). Her younger sister, who will be 5 on September 3, and has always progressed at a pace similar to my two oldest daughters. She speaks and understands at a higher level than Phoebe does, and has for years. I would never think to point out to Phoebe how she is talking "like a baby". That, to me, would only hurt her because it is pointing out and emphasizing the differences between her and her younger sister.
If there is a concern for the way Phoebe speaks, why would a recommendation not be made by (her teacher) for speech therapy rather than comments like that? (Phoebe was getting speech therapy through her IEP) I would think, if it was noticed that her speech is not where a first graders would/should be, a better way to approach the situation would be to reach out to the parent and request the services that would be most beneficial to be put in to place."
We are still waiting to hear back regarding this matter. But as much as I wold like to say this situation has not confirmed some of my fears about Phoebe attending public school I would be lying. Though this is the first situation we have experienced like this in her two years as a student of our towns school district, it most likely will not be the last.
This will, however, most definitely be something that I bring to the attention of her case manager, school nurse, guidance counselor, teacher and principles of her elementary school when we all meet to discuss our options and finalize our plan for her school year as a first grader.