Federal law requires schools to accommodate children with learning disabilities, but many parents, advocates and lawyers say kids often have a hard time getting what they need in public schools. In fact, in January 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether schools must provide more than the "bare minimum" of services to students with special educational needs. There are proven techniques for children with learning disabilities, especially dyslexia, so parents who can afford it often send their kids to private schools that specialize in those techniques.
This week on the podcast, APM Reports senior correspondent Emily Hanford interviews Ben Shifrin, head of the Jemicy School in suburban Baltimore. Jemicy specializes in teaching children with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. Emily will be spending part of the next school year reporting at Jemicy, as part of a documentary that examines special education in the United States.
When Emily sat down with Ben Shifrin a couple of weeks ago, she learned that he was drawn to work in the field of special education because of his own experience: As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Shifrin had a very hard time learning to read. "I didn't understand how the letters came together, I couldn't write the letters down, I didn't know what was going on," he said. Today, Shifrin knows his problem was dyslexia, but his teacher told his mother he was "educable retarded." But Shifrin's mother knew that her son was intelligent. He had a great memory. He could repair the family television set without instructions. With the help of a caring tutor, Shifrin learned to read, and he went on to excel in school. He eventually graduated with high honors from Temple University.
Hear more of Ben Shifrin's story on the podcast.