Accommodations: SCHOOL ASSIGNS ‘DARK HUMOR’ – REFUSES ALTERNATE ASSIGNMENTS

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Sandy:  I am in search of methods that have worked to get an alternative assignment for my son who is not comfortable with reading dark humor literature to learn about inferences, in the classroom. We have requested an alternative assignment that allows him to learn the information and at this time are being told there is not an alternative assignment. My son is adamant that he will not work on an assignment that discusses a lady killing and stuffing people. The work is “the landlady” by Roald Dahl. any guidance or assistance would be helpful.

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Elizabeth

My son is going to into 4th grade next year. Teacher is doing a Harry Potter Themed classroom and he hates harry Potter. They will also be reading some books by Percy Jackson which my son does not like at all. He has ADHD and has a 504 plan that modifies his assignments but does not offer alternative assignments. Schools position is that he should suck it up and deal with it. I argue that his plan needs to be followed. Can I ask the teacher to change the theme of her room? What can I do to make sure that he gets an alternative assignment?

Peter

Elizabeth – Hating a particular theme or assigned book shouldn’t be a reason for a curriculum modification, which is what I think you are asking for. I’m sure there are other kids in the class that hate Harry Potter too, but wouldn’t be able to have a different assignment for that reason alone.

I understand where the person in the main post is coming from, and it’s quite different. When you assign “dark humor” (“The Landlady” is more a horror story than humor IMO), to a child that needs help learning inferences, you create a bigger problem for that child. Not only do you need to help explain the inferences in the story, you also have to explain why it’s not okay to poison and stuff (“taxidermize”) a human. To me, this would be a great reason for a curriculum modification.

Marcus

Sandy: Does your son have an IEP or 504 plan. If he does what does it say with regards to alternative assignments. If he does not have an IEP or 504 plan you may not be able to request for a different assignment. Kids have to realize that sometimes you have to read certain books that you just do not like for class. He can’t just say he won’t do the assignment. I remember when I was in 8th grade I had to read the Headless Horseman and I hated the book but i got through it. Even though I had an IEP my parents did not want me doing easier or alternative assignments. What is your son going to do when he gets to college? He can’t just decide not to read the material or he is going to fail that class. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I try to be real with advice.

Morning

Marcus, thanks for sharing your own story. My child from a young age advocated against modifications and some accommodations. . He had goals and plans for college. Sometimes, well-meaning teachers only see the IEP and not the potential. Parents need to realize that students socialize around assignments outside of the classroom in various ways. Children know when they are not learning the same content. If a child speaks up, give them a chance to grow beyond using modifications and accommodations, especially those who want to go to college. The student knows what works for them and if not, it is their journey especially if they are older and want to go to college. Many of them do figure it out without the parents. Thanks Marcus.

Marcus

Morning, you are so welcome. I am happy to share my story as i feel it can help others. I also love your advice because you have seen it all in your years as a para but also as parent. Students know when they are not on level and we should encourage them to advocate for themselves. As you put it most of them know exactly what they want and they know their dreams and goals. As parents we should push them towards their goals.

Jill G

Sandy –

I would suggest moving it up the district’s chain of command. I have found this a helpful way to deal with “general ed” concerns like issues with curriculum.

Start with any school-based personnel above the teacher, like a department head or principal, if you haven’t tried them yet. Next move on to whomever is in charge of curriculum for that grade or subject in your district. If that does not work, move on to the Superintendent, then the school committee/school board if need be.

It can take a while to get there but I find that by the time I reach these upper echelons, people are happy to see me go away happy (and out of their hair)!

Mari

As a reg ed teacher, my very first response is this: teachers are required to expose students to all types of lit. This story came from the fanciful mind of Roald Dahl. It didn’t really happen. The unit won’t last forever. He is supposed to do what is assigned. Every kid will have to slog through some type of lit that doesn’t suit them. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

I’m guessing this is 4th or 5th grade. If he is developmentally behind at a 1st grade level, then I certainly agree that dark humor is not for a six-year-old mind.

You have to pick your battles carefully. What you don’t want are teachers who are afraid to use any book that might be controversial in any way. School should not be a vanilla experience.