By Kodey Toney
Meet In The Middle
We had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting for Konner last week, and although it was a review meeting, just to discuss with his teachers the goals and plans we already have in place, I felt like I needed to address the group about something I feel very strongly about. Call it my philosophy on helping students with special needs, but I feel like I should share it here. I think it's important for all readers, whether you're a parent, administrator, teacher, advocate, or even a student.
While this is not verbatim, I'm going to try and explain it as close to what I said as I can remember.
There always tends to be an "us-against-them" mentality in the room. This is amplified when we look at things that may be happening with the child at school. All of that needs to be put to the side in the IEP meeting. My philosophy is simple; let's do what's best for the child. The parents should have this goal anyway, but sometimes they don't, or they lose track of that because they are trying too hard to fight with the school and win a battle. The school should be doing this, but they have money problems that they have to deal with.
I advocate for lots of families who attend lots of schools in the area. I never ask for anything for my child that I wouldn't ask for any other child. I also never ask for anything that isn't within my child's rights.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) actually got its start in 1973 with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. However, it opened the door to many other great laws and regulations to help our children with special needs. One of these of course is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which states that my son, and others with disabilities, are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This means that Konner can, and will, get a public education in a classroom with his peers. Now, it's a little more complicated than that, but honestly not much.
I think what happens is that teachers, after years of teaching, do a couple things. The get into a routine that is comfortable and they don't want to change the way they do things. I don't blame them. As I've said before, we're all creatures of habit. However, when you have a child in your classroom, which by law they are entitled to be in your classroom, then you have to try to help them as much as possible.
I also think that teachers get burnt out. They forget why the went into the teaching field. We know it's not for the money. They wanted to help children learn. That's what they should be doing. Working with children to learn things that they need to succeed.
What I think some teachers either forget, or just don't know, is that, again by law, they are to be helping children succeed later on in life. It's not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic. They have to work to help the child with social skills. They have to help them cope with and tolerate issues in the classroom. You can't forget that the goal for a child like Konner is to one day be independent. In ten years he will hopefully graduate and be out in the real world. That's what we 're working toward. That is, believe it or not, according to law, part of the school and the teacher's duty.
I hope that every teacher, every parent, and every person that works with children, with or without disabilities, remembers that what they are doing should be about the child, that should be the focus.