Friday, July 18, 2008

Being a Special Parent

When you've got a special needs child I think the parenting you need to do, to advocate for that child, makes you pretty special too. So after some heavy-duty stress on that front, I have decided, I'm a special parent. Not necessarily better or worse, or even harder working. My job description is just different from the general population's parents.

So here's my special education rant. I'll work hard to keep it general and refrain from any attacks, but it's been frustrating.

We special parents (and I haven't been elected spokesperson, but I think these are generally held opinions) don't want anything all that different for our kids than what typical parents want. We want happy kids that are in learning environments, reaching towards their potential to become contributing members of society. We don't want our kids isolated from the world, but we want them to be safe and happy. Optimistically, we want our schools to show us that they will care for our kids academically, socially and emotionally in the least restrictive setting we can find.

Here comes the rant...Why when we go to this less restrictive setting are our kids penalized? When a child (and their parents) takes a risk to go to a less restrictive, more challenging setting, the government needs to give them extra support. What I see is an attitude on the order of "if you think you can make it in a less restrictive setting you don't need our support." It's an absolute Catch-22. In a restrictive setting we don't need extra services. The school day is filled with as much of that as can be tolerated. We could have supplemental services, but we didn't need them. In a less restrictive setting there aren't as many services during the day. To be able to make it in that situation we need to supplement services, but now that we need them we can't have them.

Let me try to state this more generally because I'm talking about a mindset and not a specific problem. Growth requires risks and the occasional failure. Special needs kids need to be encouraged to take these risks. If we set it up so that they are punished, by losing supports when they take a risk, the result is going to be stagnation.

1 comment:

  1. I get the feeling that you had a bad experience with an IEP team recently. Would you be comfortable sharing the details with me?

    I have another question of you that I'd rather not ask in comments. Please drop me a line.


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