Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Special Ed Survey – Spring 2010 (Part 1)

What do parents want for their kids in Special Education in Woodstock?

One way to find out, if you are school personnel, is to assume you know and then just force-feed it to the parents. This is how some school districts operate. I attended a meeting in Huntley of parents of special ed students, and I heard administrators say more than once, “We know what is best for your kid.”

Yeah, sure. How does a teacher or school staff member know what is best for a kid with autism or some other disability, without knowing all the ways in which that particular child reacts to changes in his environment?

“Just sit still.”
“Don’t talk.”
“Don’t move.”
“Don’t throw…”

Back in the Spring of 2010 I approached the Woodstock District 200 Special Ed Department to conduct a survey of parents. To its credit, it did. The Department even compiled the results of the survey. What it did with them after that, is anyone’s guess.

I tried to get a Parent Advisory Council formed and functioning before school let out. It didn’t happen.

I tried to get a Parent Advisory Council formed and functioning during the summer, because half the parents who responded wanted to meet during the summer. It didn’t happen.

I tried to get a Parent Advisory Council formed and functioning this fall. No luck.

In fact, now I’ve been told that I can visit certain programs, but I shouldn’t expect to be further involved. The reason? My stepson “aged out” of Special Ed when he reached his 22nd birthday last July, and now I no longer have a child in the District’s schools.

Many of us special ed parents have learned a great deal about special education laws, the Illinois State Board of Education,, advocacy, accommodations and programs that will help kids in special ed and help their parents to navigate the system. Should other parents have to fight all the battles all over again, or can they learn from the experiences of others? They can, if those parents are included and permitted to share their experiences.

Obviously, learning from others is the fastest way. But some school districts discourage that by separating and isolating the parents. What they fail to acknowledge is the “Team” approach to educating the special ed kid. The parent is a valuable, and equal, member of the Team.

Most parents don’t feel part of any team, when it comes to their kids’ education.

A Parent Advisory Council is an important step for a school district, and it shouldn’t be feared by a school district. Yet it is. Well, parents are tired of being kept in the dark.

Some of us are ready to turn up the lights! See Part 2 for what parents asked for in last spring’s survey.

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