Is school the right place for Education? Today we discuss this age-old question with some interesting twists.

If you are the parent of a child with Autism / Down Syndrome / Cerebral Palsy / Other hidden disabilities, you might find that the questions about school are very different for you.

I provide an decision/question framework to help you decide for yourself.


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Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.

Audio Transcript


Is school the right place for education? Today we discuss this age-old question with some interesting twists.

Now, the discussion about whether education happens in school is an old one. Perhaps over hundreds of years, but especially over the last 50 years people have discussed whether children should be schooled, homeschooled, unschooled, or schooled in small groups schooled in different settings. schooled perhaps open to the elements outside or maybe in a building seated on the floor seated around the teacher, or seated on a table and chair. People have discussed educational philosophies and you know of many of these, these could be Montessori Waldorf. Or if you would look at a more fundamental level. There are philosophies like essentialism, romanticism, and so on.

People have talked about and continue to talk about whether the teaching should be subject-centered, matter science-centered, or teacher-centered, or student-centered. I have been part of these discussions where parents have seated themselves around fireplaces in the United States, cups of steaming chai in India, and discussed the validity of these approaches. Of course, all the while very firmly sure that they of course, had chosen just the best for their child. Still, it made for dinner conversations it made for gentle ribbing laughter and stirred the government and state society, and answered how the world isn’t moving fast enough for our kids who are just plagued by the system. And that’s capital S, Ys, t e n. All in fun. Except now I’m the mother of a child with not one but at least two disabilities. And these discussions are a luxury, private school or public school. Whichever school will take him in Montessori Waldorf.

Oh, here’s what happened. They were actually designed for children that learn differently, but now they don’t really take in children with disabilities. How about unschooling? You know, well, that’s my son’s default anyway. And that’s generally what the education systems hopes I will do is unschool my child or at least pull him out of their school system, right? And anyway, I’m not really sure how that works out unschooling works with kids with disabilities, I’m pretty sure it’s a privilege of the NTS.

Neurotypicals are those that have generalized communication skills at least. But you have schools that will take your son in? That’s what people say to me, the neurotypicals tell me you have schools that will take your son, and don’t public schools have special ed classrooms for kids like that. This is their educational privilege that firmly sets its foot on kids like that.

Right? You’ve heard that you’ve heard people say that to you without even getting into the whole story of segregated classrooms. And without even talking about this, and yes, that’s what we call it when kids with nothing in common except that they communicate in a certain way, or share a certain combination of diagnosis, when kids are put in one classroom, and it’s not based on skills, but based on perceived deficits. This is segregation in a classroom setting. Without even talking about that. We don’t even have to get into such nuance of discussions, a fundamental question often pops up for a mom or a dad of a child with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and so on.

When people ask you what schooling system you would prefer, you know, the only answer we often have is maybe one that allows my child to sit in the regular class, right? And did I say Allow? Oops, I’m sorry. Okay, but that’s how I’ve often thought about it. So the answer is that neither I nor any of the other parents, with kids with autism, Down syndrome with cerebral palsy, or other hidden disabilities, really know what schooling we would prefer for our children because we’ve not been given the choice of school. Most schools, in fact, behave as though enormous favors have been made, just because of the privilege of having our you know, they’ve given us or our children to be able to stay in that system.

So the question of whether schools can provide education is actually a very simple one. It no longer depends on educational philosophy, teacher-centered subjects centered students centered Montessori Waldorf environment tradition, or conservative-liberal outlooks, none of these matter the question is just one. Does the school believe my child is capable of learning? Or is the school providing glorified daycare? If this sounds harsh, just stay with me for a bit.

Let’s deal with this like in an algorithm or a payoff charter game theory set up whatever you want to think about it, as that’s the school believes my child is capable of learning. If the answer is no, well, school is not going to be able to give my child an education we’re done here. If the answer is yes, if the school believes my child is capable of learning, let’s go to the next question.

Does the school believe my child is capable of learning anything but the alphabet and numbers are primary poetry? In addition? Forget about poetry primary, what did they call it? Jack and Jane books or something like that is just basically big font baby books and addition? Does the school believe my child is capable of complex learning? If no, the school will not educate my child? If yes, if the school believes my child is capable of learning complex material. Let’s go on to the next question. Now, does the school believe that my child’s current communication skills represent their cognition? In other words, do they think that if my child cannot speak he cannot think? Do they think if my child struggles with alternate communication, he also struggles with thought?

Unfortunately, universally the question at this point becomes moot? The answer is always yes. And therefore the school cannot educate my child. presuming competence is a loaded word, it is impossible to presume competence without understanding the brain-body disconnect. In many children with disabilities. It’s impossible without understanding apraxia without understanding that communication is essentially at the end of the day.

A fine motor skill in many ways, and is no more representative of my child’s cognitive abilities than my ability to Tango is a representation of my cognition. In the absence of this understanding, special education classrooms are currently structured for teacher comfort teacher control, and for teacher stability, which makes it very hard for children to actively learn.

This is a complex scenario, which is very individualized and sits in I have navigated much of this from outside the school system. The few years that said was in school were enough to teach us at the time that the weight of perceived notions about Down syndrome and autism is huge. And that actual academic education happened outside school more often, actually, always. So let’s come back to some very practical basics.

What can you expect from school, I think everyone can expect a change from home a relief for both the child and the parent. Many people hope to expect peer interactions and respectful adult interactions. We also hope to get exposure to different subjects and clubs and interests, just a wide area of discussion topics. However, the latter two peer interactions and exposure to different topics are quite dependent on the special education culture in your school. Okay, but let’s hope for the best. Coming back to the basics. What you can not expect from school is often in fact, unfortunately, an actual progressive academic education.

The one non-negotiable in my mind has always been that as parents, we need to be able to figure out the learning and communication strengths of our children. This isn’t always easy or accessible, we might need to talk to experts follow other parents whose kids seem similarly skilled scour the web, pay attention to small details, there’s a lot of research and study that goes into it. And unfortunately, a lot of privilege ties into it as well. But once we know how our children communicate, when we know how they learn when we can choose then we can choose whether the school will work from a position of our position of strength and authority. When I say I’m including our children and us as parents, we can advocate for our children’s learning. And if that wasn’t clear, what I’m trying to say is that step one is that really understand our children’s communication and how they learn because this is so individual, okay, and school isn’t really working.

It’s a system with a huge amount of bias. And b It’s a system with a huge number of people, right? So once we know how our children communicate, when we know how they learn, then we are children and we can stand in this position of authority of strength. And then we can advocate on an ongoing basis for our children’s learning and access to communication and more. So remember that flowchart we cascaded through a few minutes ago with questions. We’re going to do that again. But now these questions are for you.

Do you, mom, dad I truly believe that your child is capable of learning. If not, why not? Do you believe your child is capable of learning complex math and complex language? If not, why not? And if yes, do you believe that your child’s current communication skills represent their cognition?

If this sentence is not clear, what I mean is that if your child is speaking, do you believe that how much they’re speaking is representative data of how much they understand, okay? Because I really want you to understand that speech and understanding gestures and understanding eye contact an understanding of very different things. If you do believe that your child’s communication represents how much they understand, please go and listen to my TEDx talk, you just need to go to YouTube and type in this phrase, who decides how smart you are? Do this right now pause this, go to YouTube turn on who decides how smart you are, and then come back to this talk. If you don’t believe that your child’s speech and gestures are a reflection of their intelligence, congratulations, this is step one of presuming competence, you will be fine and your child is already fine.

You may know that my course roadmap to attention and regulation, we call it roll or Oh AR launches on April 14. And here’s the thing without educational strategies, a nutritional intervention that I’m teaching in the role is like having one foot on a speeding train, and the other foot on the ground, you know what’s going to happen. And this is why I’ve been so particular about giving my other course nonlinear education for free withdrawals. So it is a free bonus. It’s an equally big and when I say big, heavy, and content course, okay.

This course includes for coaching calls also for free. Nonlinear education is my favorite thing to teach. And it’s my learning over so many years, and I continue to learn as I teach more neurodiverse students because I also teach them chemistry, I continue to learn more about how and when nonlinear education works.

This teaches you how to start teaching science and math and also language to your child with disabilities, how to presume competence how to understand their learning strengths, and how to move on with their education, to an age-appropriate place. This is the most important information that I could share with anyone and it has transformed my life and I know it will transform your life too. You can sign up at functionalnutritionforkids.com/roll.

I know today’s podcast was a change a shift from the discussion that we normally have. I hope it has opened some doors in your mind. Maybe close some doors to and I hope it’s I hope a different thinking process has set in I would love to hear from you. You can email me advice at functional nutrition for kids.com. Or hopping to my Instagram where I am known as Dr. Vaish Sarathy. That’s Dr. Vaish Sarathy. See you next week. Bye.