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Tag Archives: special ed

My daughter’s right to an education should not be dismissed or “confused”

18 Jan
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Maura on the first day of school, blending into Seattle society with her 12th Man jersey.

Weekday mornings in our household are much like any other household with teenagers. Waking teens, outfit planning, rushing around to gather laptops and to find shoes.

At 7 am, the bus pulls up. We walk our daughter onto her special education bus, make sure she’s seat belted in, and wave goodbye.

Each day, we sent her off to her public school, where she joins other students like herself in a specific program for students with cognitive/intellectual disabilities. Her classroom is bigger than the average classroom because it needs to contain things like a swing for sensory input, a cushioned platform for when they need to lay down, room for wheelchairs, plus desks and tables and cabinets. Peer tutors – students from the traditional classrooms of this school – come in and help tutor my daughter and her classmates, which in return, teaches the traditional students what life is like for my daughter, and give them insights they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

My daughter spends the majority of her school time in that room. She leaves to do gym, have lunch, help deliver stuff to the office or go to a pep rally. Otherwise, her day is spent learning the things she needs to learn, with teachers and paraprofessionals who have the knowledge on how to teach her the way she needs to be taught. Yet her public school balances all this well, and she is part of the school community, is known and liked by other students.

We have tried inclusion in the past. It did not suit her needs. We found that smaller classes designed specifically for children with her types of needs gives her the best chance of being successful and independent.

Who doesn’t want that chance for their child?

This is why when I heard about Betsy DeVos’s nomination for Secretary of Education, I paid close attention. For I knew that Donald Trump had been quoted in the past that he’d like to possibly get ride of the Department of Education and with it, all the laws.

One of those laws is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – better known as the IDEA. A federal law, mind you. A federal law that gives my child the right to a public education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.

Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C. Children and youth (ages 3-21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

This is Special Education 101. When your child qualifies for special ed services, you learn about the IDEA and you learn about FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973[1] and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under Section 504, FAPE is defined as “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual needs of handicapped persons as well as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met and based on adherence to procedural safeguards outlined in the law.” Under the IDEA, FAPE is defined as an educational program that is individualized to a specific child, designed to meet that child’s unique needs, provides access to the general curriculum, meets the grade-level standards established by the state, and from which the child receives educational benefit.[2] The United States Department of Education issues regulations that define[3] and govern[4] the provision of FAPE.

To provide FAPE to a child with a disability, schools must provide students with an education, including specialized instruction and related services, that prepares the child for further education, employment, and independent living.[5] (source: Wikipedia)

See, once upon a time, not so long ago, schools could deny children like mine an education for whatever reason they chose – too costly, too time consuming, not enough resources. This was also the time period where children like mine were often sent to institutions to live.

We no longer live in those times. And we shouldn’t have to go back to them.

So when I heard that during the confirmation hearing, that Betsy DeVos was “confused” by IDEA and unwilling to answer questions about if schools should meet the requirements of the IDEA. In fact, she said it should be left to the states.

What Betsy DeVos does not understand is that private and charter schools do not want students like my daughter. They are not equipped for students like my daughter. They have no place for students like my daughter.

I looked to see what schools there were in the Seattle area for children like my daughter. I found none. I also did this when we lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan – again, there were none.

Betsy DeVos supports voucher programs. But even if my daughter could attend the one private school in Seattle for children with mild learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, etc, a $5000 voucher wouldn’t pay one-fourth of the tuition. And yet, that’s a moot point as they won’t take my daughter – she’s too disabled.

I think I have a good reason to be worried and frustrated by this nominee for Secretary of Education. She does not support public schools, she does not understand basic federal laws protecting students with disabilities, and she does not understand that when it comes to education, students with disabilities have few options.

Betsy DeVos is about school of choice – yet we don’t get choices. When my daughter started kindergarten, I asked what our options were. I was told “We’ll make this work.”

“But what if it doesn’t work, what are our other options?”

“We’ll make this work.”

There were no other options.

The fate of my daughter’s education is now up for debate it seems. Not so much what kind of education she should have, but if she’s deserving of one. That the possible Secretary of Education wants to leave it up for discussion at some other time is not good enough.

My daughter has a right to a public education. My daughter is just as deserving of a public education as any of her siblings. If you can’t understand that, or feel that should be discussed later on, then you don’t deserve to be Secretary of Education.

 

 

 

 

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And they shall know us by how we treat our most vulnerable

6 Dec

Texas, sadly, at the rate you’re going, you’re headed into the toilet.

In case you’re not a special needs parent in the state of Texas, or know one, you may not have caught up to the news. It’s okay, there’s been a LOT of news lately. Let me catch you up on what’s going on in Texas.

The legislature in Texas has decided to trim a budget. Well, more importantly, the budget for Medicaid reimbursements for therapies for kids with special needs. And it starts next month.

“But schools provide therapies!” you may cry out.

Well, apparently Texas is also capping the percentage of kids who qualify for special ed services. To the point that the Houston Chronicle has a several-part series on how the state is failing kids with disabilities and mental health issues.

I could go on about how experts state that early therapies are critical in the treatment of so many issues kids with developmental issues have – speech, behaviors, fine motor skills. Things that are needed to succeed in education. But we all sort of know that, because that’s the first thing people jump on. I mean, if you’re hungry, do you think “Eh, I’ll wait another week before I eat, it’s okay.”? No. But the state of Texas apparently thinks it is okay to deny kids with developmental disabilities and mental health issues what is basically nutrition for their brains – therapies and education.

And this is something we should all be concerned about.

“Why? I don’t live in Texas.” you may say.

You may not, but if Texas is allowed to get away with this, then other states will go for it. Because nothing says “Caring for the Community” like denying services to a 4 yr old with low muscle tone who can’t talk. Yes, that’s sarcasm.

Also, keep in mind the different new appointees to the Trump Administration.

Betsy DeVos – a product of private schools, and a champion of charter schools. Donald Trump’s plan for education has been to shake up public education, to give more monies to states who promote charter schools and private schools. Betsy DeVos is actually the perfect choice for heading up the Dept. of Education with that in mind. Sure, she has never been a teacher, or a principal, nor does she hold a degree of any sort in education. But she likes charter schools and thinks they’re cool. So does Trump. What could go wrong?

Well,  DeVos’s state of Michigan, it has proven time and again in Detroit that charter schools and school of choice doesn’t work. Charter schools go unregulated. Schools of choice are only good if you can get to them. If you’re a billionaire, the transporting of your child to school is a no-brainer. If you’re a single working mom with two jobs, three kids, and no car, then it gets a bit more difficult.

“Oh, but that’s Detroit. I would love to have a school of choice or charter school option!” you reply.

Then you probably don’t have a child with special educational needs. Because, as those of us with children with special educational needs know, it’s hard to find a non-public school willing to take on your child. And if you do find one, it will cost you. It will cost you more than your yearly mortgage payments perhaps. It will be like sending your kid to college, but for 12 years instead of 4, and no Pell Grants involved. I tried to see if there was any sort of special school for a child with moderate cognitive disabilities in the greater Seattle area. There were none I could find.

“But it’s okay. Maura’s in school and doing well.” you state.

Yes, she is. We love her school, which is a public one. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be concerned for others who aren’t in as good of a space as we are – which are lots of kids and parents. It doesn’t mean that I can’t be concerned that the man up for Attorney General feels that laws like the IDEA were “designed to help disabled children were to blame for a “decline in civility and discipline” in classrooms.”

I also get to worry because in Donald Trump’s plan for education, he has said more than once about the possibility of getting rid of the Dept. of Education and hand over the running of schools to the state and locals. And we can see what Texas is already doing with that even though they’re breaking federal laws designed by the Dept. of Education to protect our vulnerable students.

I get to worry because Paul Ryan has his eye on Medicaid, and Maura may need that in a few years. And Texas is already cutting those benefits for children who need therapy as of next month.

I am allowed to worry that there is a case up in front of the Supreme Court next month to decide just how much educational benefits a student with special educational needs must be provided with.

 

Listen – I get it. Kids like mine don’t come cheaply. But things like therapy, education, early intervention – these are sound investments. Because investing in them now, while they are young and growing, means that we give them a better start at life, that those who teeter between independent or not, could become independent adults. Every new bit of independence Maura gains means a little more time she can live at home with Mom and Dad, which, in the future, will be cheaper for the state than her being moved into a nursing home environment because we are unable to care for her.

But more importantly – my daughter and those like her, should be considered worthy human beings by the governments, both state and federal. They should be seen as human beings worthy of getting the help they need just as much as their able-bodied peers – because they are just as worthy as their able-bodied peers.

The state legislators of Texas is treating children like my daughter as an unwanted burden, and for that they should feel shame. They think they can get away with it because no one is watching, that it’s such a small percentage of the population, not enough to make enough noise to be heard.

What they don’t understand is how we in the disability world feel – you take on one, you take on all of us.

And we have friends.

If you love one of us, spread this message. Let the people running Texas, let the Supreme Court, let Paul Ryan, our president-elect and his appointees know – we’re paying attention. And we will fight the good fight every step of the way.

 

Want to tell people how you feel? Oh look! Handy links!

You can contact the Texas Legislator office at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

Links to Texas’s House Committee on Public Education committee members can be found here

Links to Texas’s House Committee on Public Health committee members can be found here

Paul Ryan has a website with lots of ways to contact him about how you feel about Medicaid cuts

If you want to drop a note to the Supreme Court, contact info can be found here

Joe Straus – State Representative and Speaker of the Texas House – has a website and a Twitter account

Betsy DeVos has a contact page on her website if you want to chat with her, and can be found on Twitter

And Donald Trump…well…you know he likes his Twitter

 

I’m not THAT parent…I’m thaaaaaaat parent

8 Sep

The good news is, Maura has the same teacher as last year. So she is wise to my ways, no warning is needed.

However, I can admit, I am thaaaaaaat parent.

Which is different from THAT parent.

Let me explain…

THAT parent is a term in the special ed world for those parental units who come in with their heads slightly spinning, flames shooting out their ears, quoting educational laws while working very hard to refrain leaping over a table or saying “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I’ll admit, at one point in Maura’s educational career, I morphed into THAT parent. But I earned that title when the special ed director told me she didn’t need my signature on the IEP, I didn’t have to sign it…after a long year of this woman treating me like I was demanding unicorns and limousines for my daughter when I asked for seizure training for staff (who were like “Um, yes, please”) and a proper emergency health plan.

I know. I’m so unreasonable.

So yeah, I turned into THAT parent. It’s a bit like Bruce Banner going Hulk. It’s ugly and not fun for anyone involved, but sometimes, it’s necessary.

However, I’m really more thaaaaaaat parent.

Let me explain…

Thaaaaaaat parent is the one who has been in the world of IEPs and interrupted sleep and has watched the same episode of The Muppet Show, with very special guest star, Sandy Duncan, about 389 times that week.

You’re tired and maybe a bit socially awkward, and definitely hopped up on the caffeine of your choice. You’re not quite fit for human consumption, and you toy between realizing you’re in desperate need of getting out into more normal company and knowing you probably shouldn’t be allowed in polite company because you might talk about poop or your theory about Dora the Explorer.

After years of jumping through flaming hoops and having nonsensical arguments with your offspring over underwear, thaaaaaaat parent has definitely cracked up a bit. Add some natural sarcasm and lack of organization, and I’m sure I’m a joy to work with for some school staff. I mean, I’m the gal who at the last IEP meeting spilled an almost full grande latte across the table. I did manage to only get myself, and restrained myself from sucking the coffee out of my jeans.

And when presented with 193 school forms to fill out every year, I get ridiculous. I may also want to see who’s paying attention, or give them a laugh. Because if we can’t laugh at the sometimes ridiculousness of our lives, well, what’s the point.

That’s why, in filling out an information form for Maura, I did this –

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See? thaaaaaaat parent.

Meanwhile, as I was trying to organize my kitchen/dining room yesterday, I found a crumpled up sheet of paper with words on it. I smoothed it out and saw it was the “student technology equipment user agreement”. You know, the form I sign to allow the school to give my kid a laptop for the year, promising we won’t swim with it or eat the keys, and if we do eat the keys, we have to pay for the cost of new keys? The form I totally signed for one child?

I looked at it and thought “Hmm…I bet this is Maura’s.”

I checked my email later on that day and find a note from Maura’s teacher about how she sent home a new form, can I please sign it and return it so Maura can get her laptop?

I replied with “Hey, found a crumpled up one just today myself! Haha! I’ll send the form back in tomorrow.” Took the form out of Maura’s backpack, along with her student planner they give every student and we use for communication.

This morning, I go to sign the form…and can’t find it. I check around, and still can’t find it. I do find the crumpled copy though, and went “Well, it’ll do.”, signed it, stuck it in Maura’s folder, which I then put in Maura’s backpack…and wondered “Hmm…planner’s missing…”

But since we’re playing “guess how early the bus will be today?” this week (13 minutes from time we were told, four minutes earlier than yesterday) I threw the backpack at Maura and she ran to the bus. Emailed the teacher from my phone that she was getting the crumpled version back because I lost the new form.

Then sat down at my desk. Checked Facebook. Sipped on coffee. Moved my keyboard a little. And found the form and planner just there. Under my keyboard. Where I’d surely notice it.

So yeah. I’m thaaaaaaat parent. I warn the school I’m thaaaaaaat parent. Not that they couldn’t guess after I showed up at the IEP with green hair, spilling coffee everywhere.

It’s okay. Better to be thaaaaaaat parent than have to be THAT parent.

 

Post script – I love Maura’s school and the people who work with her. They are not only great with her, but great with me, lol! We’re very lucky to be in such a fantastic situation. 

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