Thursday, September 22, 2011

Today Is The First Day...

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.   ~ Albert Einstein ~
Yesterday, the CSE chair agreed to a new placement for Aren.  He will go to a school with a focus working with children on the Autism Spectrum.  It was a good day and long overdue.  I left the meeting with a mix of emotions.  I hope this will be the most appropriate setting for my son giving him the opportunity to catch up to where he should be for a child of 9 years in the 4th grade.  My son has learning challenges and demonstrates he can learn and he does. It takes him longer where he needs lots of opportunities of practice. He gets easily overwhelmed.  Unless we can appropriately identify what works for him according to his learning style, he will be at risk of failing.  I have been touting this concern since the end of 1st grade.  I was told in a parent teacher meeting by the principal when my son was in 2nd grade that he would catch up in the 4th grade!  I was aghast to hear a principal make such an assertion.  That was the day I became very, very scared for my son.

On one level, everyone got what they wanted for Aren but not everyone had the best intentions.  What happened yesterday was a concession by the school district; basically their hand in large measure was forced.  The school district didn't advocate for the recommendation.  I did.  I fought for it long, hard and hope it's not 2 years, too late.  I have ongoing concerns that are real and valid.  My situation is unique because I am a white parent raising an African American male who has a learning disability.  There is still a great deal of injustices in our society regarding the education of young, black males.  Just recently, I was watching an documentary with Tavis Smiley, "Too Young to Fail".  It was disgustingly shocking and disturbing.  I pay attention because I must for my son's sake.  More people need to pay attention because it's morally correct to do so.  It's a huge problem that will not go away until prevailing, prejudiced attitudes are eradicated.

Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

Disproportionately, statistics are showing that we start to lose black, male students in 3rd and 4th grade.  In my mind this ties in to the fact that if children are not reading for understanding by this same time period, it's questionable if they will ultimately become lifetime readers.  Consequently, it leads to an undereducated, under served population in our society.  Ultimately, this under served population feeds prevailing attitudes and stereotypes among whites about young, black men.  With all of this being said, I have much to be concerned about regarding the education of my brown skinned child.  His skin color is the only difference.  By the way, my child has a budding awareness of the inequality although he doesn't fully understand it.  It makes me feel very sad when he tells me he wants to be "white".  I try to tell him that being white is overrated.  He wants to change a fundamental part of himself he has no control over.  None of us chooses our race.  We need to move away from this notion being born white is like winning some kind of lottery!

It has taken me over 2 years to get a seat for my son in the school for children on the spectrum.  I have often wondered if my child was white, would he had gotten a referral/placement sooner.  Would his educational needs been served sooner?  These are tough questions but they need to be asked.  I live in a homogeneous community so my concerns are valid.  Only this past summer at a birthday party for a classmate of my son did I learn, his 'white' friend was referred out of district because the special education teacher advocated for it.  This is the same special education teacher for my son.  The white boy has a diagnosis of ADHD while my son has a PDD-NOS diagnosis.  I asked the mother of the child, did they have to advocate for it?  Her reply was simply "no, it was the district's idea".  I wanted to know if her child was evaluated for an ASD but she said, it's something they've been thinking about doing.  It was alarming, disheartening and my fears were palpable.

There are some parents who would sooner pull their children out of school then fight against the system.  In my mind, it's the line of least resistance.  My child deserves and is entitled to a FAPE.  My child will be at a greater risk of being under served if I home schooled him.  I would be concerned of short changing my child on many levels if I use the home school approach.  If you live in a communal type community perhaps it works well for some kids.  I don't have it.  My resources on what I can give to Aren in the way of social interactions and intellectual stimulation are limited.  Plus, and most importantly, he absolutely deserves to be educated with his peers.  He deserves an equitable education.  If we want to see positive changes in our schools, it needs to begin with us.  Parents are the ground crew for change.  We simply can't give up.  Persistence pays off and we must hold those responsible for educating our children accountable.  I will monitor my son's education to ensure in all ways possible that his needs are being served to the fullest extent possible.

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