Does the behavior of some boys automatically relegate them to being labeled as “special needs” and marginalized in the school setting?
My twin boys were born, after 39.5 weeks of pregnancy, weighing 6 pounds 10 ounces and 6 pounds, 3 ounces. They were healthy in every aspect, and we felt beyond blessed…
Then the infant milestones began…
I had read “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and the next book in the series, which dealt with the childhood range of birth to three years. I read and knew exactly when my sons were scheduled to perform every milestone. Except my sons, who are little geniuses now, experienced multiple developmental delays. They neither crawled “on time”, nor did they walk “on time”, and the delays were driving me crazy both in my maternal and in my educator capacities. I was beyond worried, and there was no amount of “boys often develop at a slower pace than girls” that provided consolation.
Turns out my boys were delayed with both their motor skills and their speech. I reached out to Elwyn, an organization that works with motor and cognitive delays as well as children who have special needs. While they provided excellent support and service, I was worried that my boys would be stigmatized for needing these services. I worried that they would be tracked as special needs students and would have to endure a marginalized educational experience. Why was I worried about this when they were only two years old? While my sons outgrew their delays, the educational experience endured by many boys who are deemed to be “special needs” is enough to convince me that my fears were not misplaced.
Why do boys outnumber girls in special education classes at a pace of 2 to 1? While there are no exact answers to this question, no one can deny that there is a gender disparity in special education. One school of thought expresses a need for more male educators in the classroom. Jennifer J. Haggerty, University of Missouri at Kansas City, School of Law, shares that more male educators are needed because currently there are many misguided educators, (and at this juncture, there are more female educators) that are often guilty of sending boys to the land of special education solely based on behavior issues, as opposed to academic issues. Haggerty feels that male teachers would better relate to the behavioral cycle of young men, and not label and thereby punish them forever for calling out, being fidgety, being tactile learners, and other behavioral traits that are most commonly associated with boys.
Some other numbers to consider in terms of boys and special education:
Boys’ account for 71 percent of all school suspensions. 59 percent of Black boys and 42 percent of Hispanic boys report being suspended. (U.S. Dept. of Ed and Schott Foundation Report)
Boys comprise 67 percent of all special education students. Almost 80 percent of these are Black and Hispanic males. (USDOE and Schott Foundation Report)
Boys are five times more likely than girls to be classified as hyperactive and are 30 percent more likely to flunk or drop out of school. (National Center for Education Statistics)
If we follow out the continuum of behavior, boys that are so labeled and who drop out of school often find themselves caught up in first the Juvenile Justice System, and then later the adult Criminal Justice System. When it comes to our young men, we have to stop acting as if these happenings are happenstance. We must as parents advocate for our children, and as citizens become change agents in the face of these undeniable statistics.
Boys are indeed special; however their unique qualities should not automatically relegate them to being labeled and marginalized in the school setting.