Find Places For Them All

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Dr.
James Dobson and Dr. Laura Schlessinger join many others in believing
that the time has come for parents to withdraw their children from
the government schools. There is no doubt that the public school
system, as a whole, is failing to provide our nation with an educated
and thoughtful citizenry. The news from special education classrooms
is even more dismal.

I
have been involved with special education since I was given my first
assignment, at age five, to teach color names to my young deaf brother.
I spent the years of my youth immersed in a world where parents
often had to pressure districts to provide services for the children.
That trend has only worsened, while the battles have become harsher,
and more legally complex.

With
alarm and frustration I have spent these fifty years watching every
educational ‘reform’ fail. Although some laws have made special
education placements more accessible, none have noticeably improved
education for anyone, let alone the disabled – not IDEA; not Section
504; not School-to-Work; not procedural safeguards; not Goals 2000;
not the Department of Education, not the division of Civil Rights,
not the IEP and three-year evaluation process. When I predict that
no reform, of any kind, costing any amount of money, led by any
political party, will improve the deplorable state of government
schooling, I probably speak for many others, as well.

All
students, special education children included, should receive support
in transitioning to a different model for schooling. Presently there
are two main routes for removing children from government schools
– into homeschooling, or into private/parochial schools. Both
avenues present serious obstacles for special needs children, and
those advocating an end to government education must consider these
problems and plan ways to provide the needed supports.

Those
who would encourage these families to homeschool must understand
that most parents of disabled children have no faith in their ability
to meet the educational needs of these children. These parents are
constantly reminded of their child’s deficiencies, and of their
child’s need for ‘special’ meetings to plan ‘special’ programs,
staffed by ‘special’ teachers with ‘special’ certifications. Since
diagnosis, these parents have been encouraged to believe that there
is no way they can do for their own child, and no way their child
will ever ‘make it’ without the support of government programs.

The
other exit from a special placement would entail enrollment in a
private or parochial school. However, few local non-state schools
have provisions in place for serving children with severe handicapping
conditions, and most parents will be like mine – unwilling to send
their child away from home to a boarding school – assuming they
would even have the means to pay for such a placement. Actually,
most families will lack the funding for any non-state school.

Our
son is homeschooled, but the decision was difficult and has involved
sacrifices – the loss of my husband’s income, cancellation of plans
to enlarge our small home; simpler vacations and fewer extras. Consider – if
it was worrisome for our family, with me a certified teacher, to
remove a normal third grader with an eleventh-grade reading level,
how might parents of – say an autistic, visually impaired child – feel
about taking this student home to provide multiple therapies and
classes that would meet the unique and often difficult needs of
such a child. To expect these parents to immediately have confidence
in their ability to do this, is to expect too much.

Most
families of special needs children will need: skilled mentoring,
if the decision is made to homeschool; financial support, if they
are to place a child in private or parochial school. The time to
begin developing these services and supports has come, for until
such safety nets are in place, these parents and children will be
held hostage by special education programming. ALL children have
the right to leave the government schools, but until help arrives,
parents of special needs children have no choice but to fight on
for quality interim services.

January
18, 2003

Linda
Schrock Taylor [send
her mail
] lives in northern-lower
Michigan, where she is a special education teacher; a free-lance
writer; and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading,
and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.


     

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