Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Brave New Education

Yesterday, the GAO Education Committee held a hearing on Examining the Abusive and Deadly Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Schools. I watched with bated breath. Our story was one of the hundreds that congress was hearing about for the first time. Thanks to grassroots efforts by a bunch of angry parents in a Yahoo Group someone was finally listening. COPAA, The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates created a document for the committee.
Our case is #C26
Between kindergarten and first grade, the student was regularly put in seclusion as a result of "behavior" issues, sometimes for hours. There was no positive behavior plan in place, and IEP accommodations were not implemented in classroom. In first grade, he was routinely restrained by 1-3 adults and placed in seclusion-- multiple times per month. At one time, when the seclusion room was occupied, the 6-year-old was pushed face first into a bean bag chair by the aide. Student was also restrained for not behaving in seclusion, coming home with bruises. School routinely ignored therapist's advice that child receive routine sensory breaks as part of a systematic behavior plan.
That's the really abbreviated version. Much much more abuse happened - both psychological and physical. And now nearly 3 years later, our son who has Asperger's Syndrome is starting to remember. The memories are Tsunamis in his brain.

The outcome of the hearing will have little direct effect on us. Our son now has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder added onto his seemingly endless list of medical and psychological diagnoses. But I push on to advocate for the thousands of children this is happening to right now - right here - in the great USA. Where animals and criminals are treated better than children.

Yet I do feel a small sense of validation. There are others. We are not alone. And perhaps that should help me feel better. But because the common bond we share is crisis, I am only saddened. There are thousands of children abused by the hands of those we "legally" must entrust our children to everyday. And despite the possibility of stricter laws, I critically question whether any legislation will prevent school abuse. There are already laws that make child abuse illegal. It's the lack of enforcement or consequences to public agencies that lets it continue behind closed doors.

These children have lost their innocence, childhood and lives in a system gone terribly wrong. I thank God he was not one of the many children who were murdered by the system.

But I keep on advocating. There is much much more work to be done.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sad State of Pennsylvania's Special Education

Should we be surprised that Pennsylvania's system for funding special education is completely broken? Not if you have a child currently receiving services in that system.

Families with children in PA special education are well aware of the deficits. Lack of trained staff and lack of resources plague our children.

However, for the first time, it appears that the study also makes some great points that should grab the attention of all parents - not just those with kids in special education.

From the study:
Key Points
The costs for special education were analyzed as part of the 2007 Costing‐out Study by the General Assembly.
  • The Study found that providing a basic, quality education for Pennsylvania students eligible for special education requires, on average, more than twice the costs of teaching students without any special needs.

  • Under‐funding special education has significant consequences for academic achievement and life‐time independence and employment for individuals with disabilities.

  • Inadequate resources for special education compromises teaching and learning for all students.
Yes folks, it's true.

If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.",
Buddhist saying

You see, helping these children become successful, independent, working adults is key to reducing poverty and our over dependence on the governmental welfare systems.

So here it is in simple terms for those "what's in it for me" people: Invest now and reap the savings later. It's really that simple.