September 17, 2013

Editorial: Learning begins in the home


---- — Parents of students with disabilities are being encouraged to take a more proactive role these days to address the inequalities in learning that their children are going to encounter. There could scarcely be better advice.

In effect, when students attend their first day of preschool or kindergarten, they are heading off to encounter a very real competition that will last more than a decade.

Every day of their school life, they will be competing with all the other students in their grade to accumulate a record they will show to college admission officers, military recruiters or potential employers in hopes that that record will secure a place in that organization.

How a student performs isn’t judged in a vacuum. The performance is compared against all the other students in terms of grades, test scores, activities, sociability, athletic achievement and a myriad of other criteria. The student could conceivably do well enough in terms of sheer numbers but fall behind if enough colleagues were doing even better.

So the efforts of people such as SUNY Plattsburgh psychology professor Dr. Gary Brannigan, who co-authored the e-book, “Reading and Learning Disabilities: Five Ways to Help Your Child,” should be of paramount interest to parents of children with impairments.

Parents must scour every corner to prepare their children with disabilities for life beyond the 12th grade. Many of these parents learn to be excellent advocates as they pressure the system to respond fully and fairly to their child’s needs.

But involvement should go beyond the child with special needs: Every parent of every student, no matter how gifted or ungifted the child is, must think the same way.

We all know parents who take scant interest in their children’s performance in school. Some don’t attend school events, including even those nights that are scheduled to meet the teachers and discuss students’ progress.

They undoubtedly don’t take time at night or on weekends to read to their children or find out what’s going on in school. They don’t take the kids on educational outings. They may have never seen the inside of a museum.

Yet their children will be required to perform academically and be compared with students whose parents are constantly challenging them at home to think and to learn.

The simple act of reading to a child can not only have a positive effect on the child’s information and imagination, it can instill a love of books and inquiry that will build and last over a lifetime.

Do you want your child to have to succeed in life without any help or encouragement from home?

Every child deserves a better chance than that.