Saturday, May 16, 2009
Let me float an idea for discussion. If a child is being served in a general education setting, and not under IEP, the general education establishment serves whatever needs that child may have when seeking education in the public formal education environment. Consider all the medical, emotional, intellectual, etc., continuum's public schools must consider in order to do what they have been charged to do: provide a free, appropriate, public, education. Most schools where I have worked try, for some sadomasochistic reasons, to use those resources designed to serve the general education population toward addressing the needs of students with disabilities receiving the majority of their comprehensive school site formal education as members of the special education population. This most often results from discipline and/or behavior problems loud enough for the school administrators or busy body general educators.The resources available to the school site and school district toward addressing even the seemingly worst discipline and behavior issues in members of the general education population are quite impressive; they have to be since the courts increasingly require school districts to directly teach all the children, at least children of the general education population. Yet, once a child is made a citizen of the special education population, all the issues, problems, suddenly fall into the domain of special education. The route from gen ed to spec ed is in reality a one way alley away from regular education, FAPE for all, and toward irregular education. The terms "regular" and "irregular" education raise the hair on the back of neck when the uniformed use them referring to general and special education. However, when considering the tendency of the public school system to progressively move identified emigrants from the truely free, appropriate, public, education that we expect for every child in neighborhood schools into a whole new realm of education where accountablility, in the really big picture, is seen as fundamentally different because the children being considered are too different, then the terms regular and irregular might be the intent.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Who started the rumor that parents of students with special needs had some right to determine the education provided? Parents of typical students have certain rights, via PTA pressure, morals monitoring groups, sometimes school community councils, when the subject of what and how those children are served. Almost all of the facets of the typical childs formal education are determined and set by the school. This is the same for parents of students with disabilities, although I have known few who used these opportunities. Federal law, and state law, both provide rights for individuals with disabilities related to access to a free, appropriate public education. Parents, as the legal guardians of the child, may argue toward assuring access to needs based services, and they have a right to participate in the decision making process. The applicable laws require the school to consider a parent's concerns when preparing an individual education program. My experience has been to always be educating parents related to what we, the student and I, are doing and why. This practice frequently allowed me to easily explain why some miracle cure might not be appropriate, and also resulted in parents being better informed when evaluating among the miriad of miracle cures hawked. I worked for an orthopedic surgeon as a recreational therapist operating his hand rehabilitation center. He used to to say that appearing as an expert witness, and making lots of money doing it, was easy because he always did what was right and always told the truth as he knew it. I certainly would only want to appear before a hearing officer if I knew I was representing what was best for the student, and could defend, and risk embarrassment arguing for something undefendable just because I represent what the parent wants.
The notion of student centered advocacy, as with student centered anything probably, is as natural as any organic, holistic, developmental, constructivist would seem to someone who has lived most of his professional life serving individuals whose needs demanded a person centered facilitation toward resolution. The university program I have just completed is looking to train individuals to be special education advocates. I became baffled as the course instructors each informed the class that advocates represented the desires of the parent, or parent surrogate, and not what the special education advocate saw as representing the best interests of the student toward successful in the formal education environment. Antiintellectual is a term that comes to mind when the argument is made that the parent best knows the needs of the child and therefore by representing the desires of the parent, the advocate is representing the educational "needs" of the student. Listening to the parents of students with disabilities tell the class about all the problems they encounter, and we listened to these stories ad nauseum, trying to get the services they say the child needs, without providing the same quality of peer reviewed evidence indicative of the efficacy of such services that these parents claim is automatically missing in solutions offered by school district professionals, makes the argument for not allowing parents to be the motivators for an advocates actions. When I accepted teaching credentials in the state of California, I swore to an ethical standard that puts student needs first.
I see many web mentions about "Do you hear me?" or "Are you listening?". I have many times wondered about the mental pleasures that might evolve when the severely handicapped emotive being knows that someone does hear, someone is listening. Facilitating community switch activities in the mornings provides an excellent opportunity to reestablish communition relationships. The students served by this classroom have much in common, and yet, of course, are each as individual will be found among any group of students. One common reality for each of this group of students relates to their general inability to demonstrate any functional awareness of cause and effect. More later.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I have just completed the Special Education Advocate Certificate Program at the University of San Diego (USD). The University billed the program as the first of its kind in the nation, as far as they knew anyway. The class was expected to draw about 9 or 10 individuals from across the spectrum of adults involved with special education. This group was expected to draw parents of individuals with disabilities, both special and general education teachers, education physical therapists and occupational therapists, speech therapists, vision therapists, school pyschologists, Regional Center workers, advocates, and maybe lawyers. I think 38 people showed up. All the desired participants were represented. We had a classroom of individuals with backgrounds ranging from an attorney with no experience in special education or with educational disability issues to mothers of multiple children with multiple disabilities and no experience with higher education settings and from paraprofessional tech aides to special education teachers with multiple credentials. Now, I'm ready to talk about the whole experience.