STORY BY JASON GREEN, STAFF WRITER
PHOTO BY GABI GARCIA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
There’s a geology exam in front of me and the other students picked up their pencils, filled in their scantrons, but I cannot remember how to do anything. My peers seem to be so far ahead of me, but as someone who spent most of their academic career in special education, that is common.
I have cerebral palsy and a brain malformation called agenesis of the corpus callosum that affects my ability to learn and understand subjects. Due to my disabilities, I was put into special education immediately starting public education.
Within the public school system, special education is a type of education that helps students with disabilities, and accommodates their learning. According to Special Education Rights and Responsibilities, “California law adds to the federal definition of special education by requiring that special education be provided to those students with disabilities whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the regular instructional program”. There are varying levels of this program from mild/moderate to moderate severe, which I was part of mild/moderate in high school.
I was part of special education from preschool to high school, but now I am in my second year of college at Cypress College, which is drastically different from what I have experienced in special education. The level of difficulty is higher, taxing and rigorous.
My first semester of Fall 2022 involved enrolling into Math 115, which is finite math. This class was not as hard or demanding compared to my friends’ calculus classes. Even though I am part of DSS (Disability Support Services), I did not use my accommodations because they would not have helped. The class was demanding and hard for me, leaving me exasperated throughout my first semester. I went to the Learning Resource Center to receive help, but tutoring was not effective for me.
I remember that one assignment took me over four hours to complete. With my hard working mindset, I passed the class slightly scathed, with a C.
I did not know how to study for math, and I still struggle with finding ways to study in my other classes. Constantly forgetting material or tasks does not help me when studying either, which makes it even more frustrating, leading to procrastination.
Studying was not fostered in special education because all my classes required very little studying due to teachers’ expectations. They were not demanding and did not want to make strenuous assignments. Their expectations were so low that in high school, we did not read novels in my english classes.
I will not blame my special education teachers for their expectations, as these teachers have to accommodate every student, affecting students at higher levels within the program by not assigning them harder assignments. Essentially, special education lets students pass by trying, which is not enough to pass a college class.
Being part of special education for the majority of my academic career causes me to be embarrassed while attending college. When I have to do group assignments, I feel like I am a burden to my peers because my abilities do not correspond with my group’s abilities.
For Fall 2023, I am taking two geology classes, where one is a lecture class and the other is a lab.
For the lab, my professor expected students to have taken algebra II, which I had never taken. There was a section that involved some math, but because the class requires someone to be in a group, they helped me. Usually, I sit with my group, unable to do much since it is incredibly difficult for me.
During one of the labs, one of my peers said that they wish I could understand the subject like my other partners. He expressed that he was exhausted from teaching me geology concepts. I feel virtually useless in that class.
While interviewing Quoc Trieu, a second year biology major and someone who was also part of special education, he said “I hide the fact I am a DSS student “. Trieu hides his status to blend with his classmates. In his first year, he was afraid of going to college because he was going to be judged.
Even with my strongest skills, writing and reading, I fall behind my fellow journalists, which makes me feel like a burden to my editors. I have constant worry of being a failure in the demanding field of journalism. Every time I have to do a news article, I get easily overwhelmed because I see different articles from my peers in the Cypress Chronicle that are elegantly written.
DSS students and those who were part of special education should not be constantly worrying and should not feel judged for their educational background. Also, professors, even colleges should expect that there will be students that are far behind the average student. Even with accommodations, classes can still be difficult.