Friday, April 9, 2010


We were sitting in a restaurant at lunch today, two of my coworkers and I, when we were approached by a woman.  She asked if she could sit with us, and she offered to buy us lunch if we let her.  We would have let her sit with us anyway, but okay.  She was a very nice lawyer from Austin, and we all had a nice meal, then strolled a bit on the Riverwalk before heading back to our conference.  Free lunch=good. 

Then there was the presentation from hell, which =bad.  Seriously.  This presenter was very obviously smarter than average--he was a lawyer who went back to school for a PhD to be a clinical psychologist.  He used many, many big words and cited all of his sources.  In other words, he talked over the heads of his audience--big no-no in PresentationLand.  Worse, he was talking about the DSM-IV, the 'bible' of mental disorders.  This is the kind of subject that gets my geek on, but not this time.  I was back there doing the head jerk every few seconds trying to stay awake.  I imagine that I probably looked like I was having a seizure.  People were cutting on themselves just to maintain consciousness(I'm kidding...I think).  It didn't help that this man sounded like Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller's Day Off...on valium. 

It was interesting to note the difference between this man and the other presenters, who were lawyers.  The first presenter spoke conversationally, putting some complex information into easy to understand snippets without dumbing anything down.  He was probably the best presenter.    That man is smarter than the clinical psychologist, in my opinion.  I think this because you don't really KNOW something until you can explain it clearly to someone else.   Book learning is one thing, translating that data into a manageable format that can be explained to a lay person is something else entirely.  I had to learn that the hard way--many of the parents I have to explain my testing to don't have the education I have, but they want to understand what is going on.  They have a right to that, I think--how else can they make informed decisions?

It is a matter of knowing your audience.  But a number of school personnel, as well as those in other fields, do not seem to understand this, and will talk over a parent's head.  The parent, being embarrassed that they don't understand, will say that they understand, when they really don't.  I have had several parents who were up in arms because they had no idea their child was in Special Education, even though they signed the consents and other form.  Someone did not clearly communicate what was happening throughout the process. While I do wish that parents would speak up if they don't understand instead of just signing, ultimately it is the school's responsibility to make sure that the parent is able to make informed decisions. 

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