Public School And Special Needs Students

Do you have a child with special needs? If you do, you may want to think about how your child will be served in a public school setting. Here are the caveats:

First, public schools (in California at least) were mandated by law to serve these kids. Not that passing the law was a bad idea, but abiding it is not easy. Remember Prohibition?

Second, depending on the severity of your child's needs, they are likely to be considered an item in a schedule rather than a child. See, when figuring out how to share resources, schools look at severity. If your child has a physical limitation, they are likely to get an aid, because a physical limitation is easy to see, easy to deal with, and easy to show compliance. But, if your child has a different issue, like, say, mild autism (they can communicate, serve themselves food, be sweet) they will likely be ignored, or passed from one aid to another (not the aid's fault). Resource teachers who coordinate aid schedules are under the gun, short-staffed, and often spread a bit thin. That's no excuse, however, for the shortfalls.

Third, money is scant, and that makes many of the problems intractable.

Fourth, when schools are charged with serving a student with certain issues, paperwork and meetings are mandatory. They are required for compliance. Rarely are the meetings to help the child--they are CYA sessions for the administrators and specialists (often to the specialist's chagrin). Teachers are given short shrift at these meetings, even though WE are the ones who will have 99% of the responsibility for your child, and we will get 99% of the credit, or blame, for any outcome regardless the percentage of responsibility the resource folks SHOULD have.

Now, I am not saying that you should not consider public school for your child with special needs. If you are available to be there to be your child's aid, things should be okay. But, if you are like most parents, and have a job, you won't be able to do that. And considering the shuiffling around of your child from one specialist to another, or from one aid to another, or from one situation with a grownup who doesn't know your child to another, your child will not get what s/he deserves. Okay, maybe I am saying you shouldn't consider public school for your child.

This issue looms very large in society, and again, schools have been given the mandate to deal with it. We can't. It's that simple.

Advocate for your child. Make your demands to the PRINCIPAL, and require the principal follow-up with you. The teacher has little to say about how your child will be served. Most teachers are heartbroken by their special-needs kids because we see them flounder and there is so little we can do for them. We do all we can while not ignoring the other 20 kids in our class.

The next time you have an IEP (or whatever letters your district uses to call these mettings) bring a picture of your child. Lay that picture on the table and remind everyone why you all are there. When they decide to read you their report(s), you know, the one(s) they just gave you a copy of, remind them you can read, and you would rather have gotten the report prior to the meeting so when you were at the meeting you could discuss the report, not have it reported!

Come prepared with questions; who is with my child at lunch; who is with my child on the yard; do these people change willy-nilly, or is there a schedule; who is in charge of documenting progress or lack of it; what are my rights; what is the reality; why isn't the classroom teacher in this meeting; why is the principal talking--she doesn't know my kid; how will this meeting help; who will this meeting help; does my kid eat his lunch; where is he right now; why do you sound like a robot; why is the resource room always empty and the resource teacher on lunch duty; you get the picture.

I hope this was helpful, enlightening, and pisses you off!

Update: An enlightening anecdote here.

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