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Friday, June 02, 2006

And I Cry

I'm not usually a big crier. Not that I have a problem with crying. I just don't do it much. Certainly not in public. It's the whole "composure" thing.

So, we'll rewind a bit:

Today I participated in the IEP for my son, Alex (middle child). IEP, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, means Individual Education Plan. It's a requisite of IDEA, a piece of legislation that was recently renewed that helps to give children with special needs access to appropriate free education (another buzz phrase in the world of special needs).

Anyway, so these meetings consist of a team of people who are involved in my sons' educations. Each child has their own team and their own meetings, though there's a lot of cross-over. *sigh* Or, there was.

At this meeting we were supposed to determine two things. 1) What my son needed to succeed within his education. 2) Where that successful education would take place.

Now, I'm not saying this because I'm mad at the other people on the IEP team. Many of them have been there for my family since this whole "special needs" thing got started. However, I'm truly very disappointed...just without the blame thing.

Okay. This is what happened:

We determined that Alex would need extensive support to get an education. Um, duh. He's almost completely non-verbal, i.e. he doesn't talk and doesn't use language to communicate very often or very well. He's seems cognitively delayed, but we can't tell if that's because it's not there or because we cannot access it. The "it" being his knowledge.

*sigh* So, we acknowledged that he'd need a lot of help and academic modifications. Then, we had to decide where?

My husband and I wanted Roosevelt. That's where our other two sons currently attend school. That's where Alex currently attends school. That's where he'd be integrated with his peers in school.

That's not what we got. Roosevelt doesn't have the resources, the personnel, or the ability to adjust that it would need to accommodate Alex's needs after he passes out of the Early Childhood program which he currently attends. As much as they would love to have Alex at Roosevelt, they can't.

Instead, Alex is going to Kennedy. It's a good school. For what it is. But... It's a segregated school. Alex will visit the regular Kindergarten class, but that will not be his primary classroom. He will be segregated in a special education classroom. And, right now, there's just nothing I can do about it, except deny him any peer interactions by homeschooling him, which would be even worse.

When they made it perfectly clear that there was no way they could accommodate Alex's educational needs at Roosevelt, I bowed my head and I cried. Right there. And, honestly, right now.

It is so hard knowing what could be, what should be and being totally unable to do anything to make it what is for you're own child. How many times does America need to learn that segregation is wrong? What will it take to make our government and our people realize that "separate but appropriate" is the same b.s. that "separate but equal" was?

Children with special needs can be accommodated within a regular education classroom. All the children benefit from the experience, including the reduced child to staff ratio that makes it work. It's possible. And, it's right. And, I can't tell you what I hate more: That I'm so naive as to think that knowing it is possible, right and beneficial would be enough to make it happen; or that the reality is that it is not enough to make it happen. But I can tell you what I hate the most: I have betrayed my son by not preventing it from happening to him and it breaks my heart that there are thousands of children all across America being treated as second-class citizens because they are different. It's still happening. And I hate it. And I cry.


At 6/02/2006 7:51 AM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

Stephanie, I am so sorry...not that it will be any consolation but when I read that? I started to cry too. Alex should be able to attend school with his brothers. He should have choices. He should have options.

The real truth is we all have betrayed Alex because we don't make education enough of a priority for every school to have the resources they need.

At 6/03/2006 6:31 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Well, it's good to know that my message touches some people. Perhaps, we I refine and continue to share... Perhaps change will happen.

At 6/03/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

The hope that one day things will change is about all we have at times. I have my days where it's hard to find anything to be hopeful about yet our family motto is "It could be worse". We have the ability to figure out how it could be worse rather well.


At 6/03/2006 10:15 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Yes, it could be worse. We could be living in the days when institutionalize people with disabilities was the norm and there was no educational opportunities for them.

At 6/04/2006 3:55 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

Stephanie, Your taking this better than I would have. I'm really glad that we no longer have school age children. Seeing what goes on with our Grand Children in the public schools is bad enough. The teachers, staff and students at Roosevelt will be missing out on a chance to learn from Alex while teaching him. I wish there was something I could do or say. I'm sure this happens in this area to. You have given me something to ask the President of the School Board about the next time he ask what it would take to get me to vote yes on a bond issue.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 6/05/2006 3:01 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

I don't know that I'm taking this all that well, David, but I can tell you that I definitely intend to do something about it.

I hate, loath and fear public speaking...but the school board's going to get a piece of my mind, and that's only the first step.


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