Sunday, February 6, 2011

Taking a Long View

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”   ~ Margaret Mead ~

I got into a little discussion with a friend of mine on Facebook.   I have known my friend for quite a while.  In fact, our friendship came about as a result our husbands are very good friends and colleagues.  One of the outstanding things we have in common is that we both have son’s around the same age who have an ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Basically, I responded to the video shown on my previous post that my friend placed on her page.  There is so much truth in the video, so much so, that to me, it lacks humor.  I know not every parent with a child with special needs is faced with the extreme example shown in the video but it not far off the mark for many parents.  I’ve been having similar exchanges since my son was a tot.

One of the things my friend mentioned is the amount of money she spent on having her son evaluated by numerous professionals and paying for a special education advocate.  She indicated an out of pocket sum totaling $1,000,000.00!  Exaggerated?  I think so; (I hope so)  I believe she clarified it in a subsequent post.   I don’t think anyone should exaggerate or make folly of the amount of money that is often required of parents to gain the attention of special education directors.  It is appalling to me that parents with resources tend to get the most appropriate services for their children.  It speaks volumes about how we approach educating children with special needs.  Those with the deepest pockets and resources gain the most for their children in public education.  Heck!  If I had a $1,000,000.00 my child(ren) would be in a private school with the best Para-professionals and educators money could buy.  However, that doesn’t address the bigger problem when it comes to special education in public schools.  It only shows that those who can afford it will get the most attention for their kids.

On the other side of the coin, getting thorough and expensive evaluations do not guarantee our children will be any better off.  Parents must work through the system and get the CSE team on board with the findings and sometimes it is not that easy.  Sometimes and perhaps more often then I’m aware, parents must go to due process.  Would it not be better to take the money school districts spend on due process legal fees, etc., and apply those funds to properly evaluating children and providing the needed services?  Would it not make better money sense as we’re investing in educating our children?  Every time, we go to CSE meetings to hash out our concerns and differences, teachers are pulled away from the classroom where they are needed the most.  That is a waste of time, money and limited resources.

My grievance is that parents are often forced to go into debt to get the evaluations so they can prove to the districts their child is in need.  This is completely wrong in my mind.  The burden should be on schools to have our children properly evaluated and provide the necessary services for each child to have the chance to succeed.  For example, If a parent receives a diagnosis of PDD-NOS from a developmental pediatrician  that should be good enough for districts to provide appropriate testing and evaluations to determine the educational need.  This is what I advocate for.  When I voice concerns for my child in effect, I’m adding a voice for all children in similar circumstances.

So I say, do not be complacent or celebrate our individual success at getting our kids needs met.  It’s important to push for change so all children are served appropriately in public schools.  If you have the financial resources to pay for appropriate evaluations, don’t stop there.  Be appalled that you had no other recourse but to pay big bucks and speak out against it for the sake of all children.  Don’t think it “doesn’t impact me” if the parents of Johnny who sits next to our kid in school can’t afford evaluations and is drifting through school as a result.  It impacts all of us because this is a societal problem; not an individual problem.

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