Friday, October 17, 2008

The debate and special education

Admittedly it was the last question of the last debate, but finally there's some talk about education in the presidential debates. And they even talked about autism and special education! Maybe I already had my mind made up, but McCain said nothing to give me pause, while Obama continued to say what I wanted to hear.

I first got put off when McCain wanted to say his ticket was the one that could speak up for special needs kids because his running mate has a child with Downs Syndrome. Sorry, that's not enough to be given a blank check to speak for me or my autistic child. I find myself way-annoyed with quite a few autie-parents who feel like they can speak for me. We're not a uniform crowd. And to imply every parent of a special needs kid knows just what I'm going through is insulting. Pandering is the word that comes to mind.

And then he segued into autism and he really lost me. Another politician who thinks supporting autistics is all about a cure and wiping out autism while at the same time talking about the tragedy of our kids. Yuck! Just because you've read the 1 in 150 statistic about autism doesn't mean that you get my vote for mentioning autism while never showing any such concern when there were bills before you. I'm not sure what to make of "the American people opening up their wallets", but I can't imagine that means that autistic kids will be guaranteed meaningful, inclusive education.

Finally, holding up an infant at rally after rally, as Ms. Palin does, is dehumanizing to Trig and disturbing to me. I don't hide my kid's disability in shame, but I also don't use it as some sort of card that lets me get into a club. I have no idea why any parent of a Down's child feels energized by these displays. But, as I said, special needs parents are not a very uniform group.

And what did Obama say that gave me hope? He said that the federal government would need to provide funding for educational mandates. He said that he agreed with the idea that our schools must provide education for the disabled, but that without the funding this was an unfair burden for our schools. And he said he supported charter schools, but not vouchers for private education. Pretty much 100% in line with my feelings. I wish he could have had the time to talk about autism, but what he did say I liked. On his website, here, his position on disabilities is about respect, inclusion and support. Again, he's 100% in line with my feelings.

Can't ask for much more than that.

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