According to facebook, it is Special Education week. Or it was last week. Or it was two months ago and I’ve only just received word. Whenever it is or was, it exists because facebook deems it so. With the bazillion users on facebook, consciousness can be raised, and that is a good thing. Even though I did not put the bizarre message in my facebook status about special ed kids not being contagious (what!?!) and only seeking acceptance, I applaud the attempt acknowledge this population.
It is not just the special education students who should be acknowledged, but also the whole special ed world. It is teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, administrators, therapists and the bus drivers. It really “takes a village,” and when it works, special ed is that village.
I know many parents have terrible experiences in the special education world because there are not enough resources to give every child they program they should have. Many parents end up fighting school districts to get the services their child needs. Unbelievable amounts of time, effort and money are wasted in these fights. If those resources could be directed into the education programs instead of to the fighting, a lot of the issues would be resolved. There are unreasonable parties on both sides. Some districts simply refuse to make even the slightest attempt to comply with the letter or spirit of the law. Some parents are wrapped up in the fight and forget what their fighting for. This is not the majority of districts or parents, but many perceptions are based on this minority. This is not to say things don’t need improving – they do. There are huge issues with unfunded federal mandates regarding education. It school districts are required to do things, they have to get the funding to do it. Funding or not, though. districts need to embrace the concepts and ideals of special education if it is going to work. It can work and it can work well. Maggie is a perfect example of that.
Obviously, we are big supporters of Special Education in this house. Maggie would not have the success she does without it. I could have instructed my boys in arithmetic, English, spelling etc. They would not be as thoroughly trained as they were by going to school, of course, but we could have muddled through. I could not have done that with Maggie, though, no way. I would not have had any idea where to start.
Maggie’s education started when she was about six months old. Her first teacher was Jeri Hart, from the Blind Babies foundation. She saw Maggie potential immediately and showed me what to look for. Vision is a huge part of early learning for babies and when vision is impaired, as it is with Maggie, some of the developmental markers will appear to be missing when in fact those markers are dependent on vision. I learned to advocate that point for Maggie immediately. That prevented Maggie from being mis labeled early on, and kept the door open for learning.
Maggie started an infant program including physical, occupational and speech therapy. All of those disciplines worked together to lay the foundation for the building blocks of education yet to come. I did everything they said to do, but I had no idea what was going on or why any of it mattered. Frankly, I went to all these appointments to ease the isolation of this new life I found myself living. I did not know that learning to reach for switch toys was a crucial first step in her communication.
Maggie started pre-school when she was three. I was supposed to put my medically fragile three-year-old child on a school bus. Right. That just was not going to happen. As fate would have it, just before school started, I participated in a parent panel presenting to the bus drivers at the bus company. The other parents had complaints about busses being late etc. Maggie had not started yet and I told them I was scared to death. I learned then that the bus drivers take a great interest in the special ed kids they drive and worry about their well-being. I met the guy who would be picking up Maggie and many of my fears melted away (Ok, I did ride the bus with her for a while until they put a nurse on the bus.)
From the infant program to high school, Maggie has had great teachers, great classes, and great staff and has achieved tremendous success because of the entire village.
Tomorrow I will show you some of the “Village People”