This is a personal post, but it is also directly related to what I’m writing about autism and education. It has to do with sensory issues (specifically, auditory and visual processing disorders, both of which are quite common among people on the spectrum) and their impact on education. I have been working my way through education and special education journals, and have yet to see a single article on this subject. I would really appreciate any personal stories people might have about how they dealt with their own processing issues in school. I would also love to hear from teachers who know how to work with these issues. However, back to the personal part.
A, my amazing daughter on the spectrum, is now at university, where she is doing a fantastic job–except for being stuck in math limbo. She has switched her major from Special Education (which required one math course) to Psychology (which requires a different math course). Even though she is good at math (not a prodigy, but way better than average), she has not yet been able to complete either of these math courses, and this is holding her back from work in her major.
Math course #1 (for Special Ed), was math concepts for future teachers. It actually sounded really interesting. Unfortunately, it was taught entirely through group work, in a crowded room with poor acoustics. A has an auditory processing disorder (diagnosed early in life), which makes it very difficult for her to follow what’s going on under those circumstances. Because she couldn’t hear, she couldn’t finish the math course. This was one of the reasons she changed her major.
Math course #2 is the course her college requires before she can take the Psychology statistics course. Now, as it happens, she already took (and got an A) in statistics at our local community college while she was still in high school. The university gave her credit for that course, but the Psychology Department won’t accept it as THEIR statistics course for reasons that we still can’t figure out. So she needs to take their stats course. But before she’s allowed into that course, she needs to take a sort of fundamentals of math course.
It’s possible to place out of the course if you either get a high enough score on the ACT or SAT exam, or if you do well enough on the university’s own placement exam. This has proved impossible because of her visual processing disorder. We knew she was having visual issues for years, but she was only diagnosed fairly recently with Meares-Irlen syndrome, which makes words and numbers dance around on the page she’s trying to read. She has no problem reading text on her Kindle, because it allows her to increase the font size and the spacing between lines to limit the confusing movement. But the placement exam is given ONLY on the university’s computer, with no way to compensate for the visual problems. So–after three unsuccessful tries at the placement exam, she has been relegated to a remedial math course, which will allow her to take the fundamentals course, which will then finally allow her to take the statistics course that she already passed in community college two years ago.
See why we’re frustrated??!!