What to advocate for

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My son with autism, with my daughter and I

What a child needs.  Advocacy needs to be based on the individual student, not a “prescription of services” for a diagnosis.

Something special education advocates get accused by certain administrators of is *only* wanting to take children out of public schools, “without need”, and put them in “fancy” private day schools at unreasonable cost to the taxpayer. It’s a patently false blanket statement.  Advocates should be working with the team to obtain the appropriate outcome for a student and educational placement “types” (as listed on the IEP Placement Form) are not one-size-fits-all, by disability or anything else.  Placement needs are dictated by what the student needs to access learning and make effective progress.

Consider this.

In one day, I observed a student with Down Syndrome in an inclusion program.  I had a dynamic, friendly conversation with the administrator about how to increase supports in their program; we were in near total agreement.

That same day, I spent hours working with one of the most caring (for my student) teams I have ever had the pleasure of encountering, all of us finally coming to consensus that the district and team had done an exceptional job implementing a rich program in this lovely elementary school, but that this student with multiple learning and emotional needs required an extended evaluation as he is SO complex and is not making progress or accessing curriculum.

Two wants, both in the best interest of the child, both advocated with integrity and professionalism. At the second meeting, lots of team members had tears in their eyes- me included. Special education working, whether it’s creating a student-driven and comprehensive in-district program or identifying the need for a more specialized placement, is what is truly beautiful to see. Kids’ lives, families’ lives…  changing because of the hard work of the team.

Today, I want to say to the administrators who say “people only hire you to get un-needed expensive outplacements, that’s what you are known for doing”- I support what a child needs, as evidenced by data, progress, and presentation.  As often as the appropriate remedy is an out-of-district placement, in my current work, there is a near equal need to improve community programs so the student can remain in their town, preferably their local school, with their neighbors and/or typically developing peers.

What every student deserves is a team who is dedicated to them. Seeing that in my work, especially this week, has been inspiring and affirming that my *little* job can truly make a difference in the life of a child.

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