To Adapt or Not to Adapt…

Last night, I watched my husband stress over a written exam he had to take today to complete his Aerial Fire Truck Training. He’s been in course all week doing practical and theoretical work, calculations and all the necessary “stuff” in order to operate this machine. My husband has been a career firefighter for 13 years and he is still writing written exams. The difficulty with this is that my husband is also dyslexic. And so is my 10 year old son.

So here is my dilemma: My son gets all kinds of adaptations when it comes to written and reading work. He has learning resource teachers, he has computer programs and he has his workload adapted to meet his needs. My husband, who has the same disability, does not. He is expected to perform the same written and read tasks as the next Firefighter despite his diagnosis. So are we just setting up our newest generation to EXPECT adaptations from a workforce that still uses “equal” practices, or are we EXPECTING a workforce to begin more “fair” practices for those with learning disabilities?

My son would love to follow in his daddy’s footprints as a Firefighter, but I wonder what the future would hold for him. My husband certainly didn’t get the same resources my son is currently getting when he was in school. But my son knows that he can use programs like Kurzweil instead of writing out an assignment, and that during a test, he can do it orally with the teacher instead of relying on reading and written responses. But how far will this go? In High School, there are options for him to have some work adapted. In University, probably not as much. And is the workforce adapting for the needs of all these students with the various disabilities (ADD, ODD, Dyslexia, OCD, etc) or do they expect them to be the same as everyone else?

Who is the one that needs to change: education or the workforce? This is a question I simply cannot answer. I see the wonderful skills  my child is learning through all of the resources he has, but are they becoming a crutch? I see the difficulties and anxiety my husband has when he has to write a test that I know he could do “practically” in a situation, but ask him to put it to pen and paper and he folds.

To adapt, or not to adapt? That is my question.

Thanks for the ear!



4 thoughts on “To Adapt or Not to Adapt…

  1. Rochelle, this is such a valid point. I have even encountered situations in which students’ were met in elementary school and then left to figure it out on their own in high school as certain teachers don’t believe in adaptations. I look at differentiated instruction/ adaptations the same way I see medication. I wouldn’t deny someone their medication if that is what they needed to get through the day, therefore I would why deny them the tools they need to learn? I believe in time, most of society will come to an understanding and an acceptance that fair is not always equal.

  2. My hope is that the work force is able to make adaptations, especially in situations where there are alternate ways of accomplishing the actual goal. In reality? I think it will be slow. It will come more as the students who have experienced the value of accommodations and the adults who have them begin to push back harder, offering up alternate ways to accomplish goals. Some professions will be more open to this than others. Firefighters have been dealing with the issue of adapting for a while, beginning with the push for female firefighters. They have a history of being on the defensive and it’s going to make it tough for them to look at adaptations in an open way.

    When it comes to university, it depends on the university. I know that University of Regina has an excellent Centre for Accessibility. The staff there are wonderful advocates and it is actually policy that as long as you have registered with the Centre to have accommodations on record, your instructors and the Centre will ensure that the accommodations happen. Students have a say in whether or not they choose to take the accommodation in any given situation.

    • Thanks Kristen! I didn’t know about the U of R Centre for Accessibility! That will be a great help if my son chooses to attend University in the future! I agree, it will take a long time for the workforce to understand the need to adapt for everyone. I liked Amanda’s analogy with the medication, that really puts it more into perspective!

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