Viewpoint of a mother of a child with special needs
I was talking to a friend today and some things came to mind. Many people want to know why I fight with the school district and the State. I have earned quite a reputation as a crazy mom. There are many people that are happy with the education that their children are getting and wonder why I am not. Well, let me explain it to you.
I have known that my son has autism since he was three years old. I lived in a very small town in Illinois and the district felt that he "wasn't right" and put him into school. They didn't know what the problem was, but they were determined to find out and give the best that they had.
This was a town of 1,200 people. Their resources were very limited. I didn't even know that my child had an issue. I was blind. Something that would affect my judgment for the next ten years.
These wonderful people put my son into a classroom of six students and two teachers. They gave him OT and ST. They worked on his social skills. They worked on any issue that came up. Not because they had to. He didn't even have an IEP yet. They did it because they saw a child that needed help to be successful in life. They treated him like a human being that needed guidance and support. He was not another drain on their budget. They had practically no budget. It didn't matter. HE mattered.
When my son was five we moved back to Kansas City. This is where my husband and I were raised. We carefully called and interviewed every school district on both sides of the state line. We wanted to make sure that Jake would get the best that Kansas City had to offer.
After several phone calls and interviews we chose Lee's Summit. I went and told the personnel here that the district in Illinois felt that Jake wasn't ready for regular kindergarten. They felt that he needed 1 on 1 or small group instruction for at least one more year. It stated it in his IEP. Lee's Summit assured me that they were a big district that could handle all of his needs and issues and that the best thing for Jake was going to kindergarten. Once again, I was blind.
Jake went to Prairie View from kindergarten through sixth grade. He had some amazing teachers there. They were kind, supportive, and made accommodations that his IEP didn't call for. We had no issues there. I truly felt that we had picked the best school district that we could have. I volunteered in his classroom every week for at least 2-3 hours. I helped with the school carnival. I helped with health fair. I wrote to the Kansas City Star and told them what an amazing job they were doing with my son.
I didn't know much about autism and I felt like the district was doing all that Jake needed. Little did I know that when he got into high school my only hope for him would be living in a group home. That is where we are now.
WHY? Because the district never addressed his autism. They didn't address his dysgraphia. They didn't address his social issues. They didn't address his written language issues. Why didn't they? I didn't demand it. In seventh grade the only goal he had on his IEP was to be able to write a paragraph. This is a child with autism, dysgraphia, and a written language deficit.
I thought that you had to believe in the experts and trust them. That blindness has caused the loss of my son's independence. If I had educated myself and fought for him, he would have a different future. His future was stolen and I stood back and let it happen.
I gave the school district a five year old with potential. They have given back a child that will never leave home. I let them do this to my child. My silence and acceptance granted them permission to destroy my son's future. He could have been an independent tax paying citizen. Now he will be a burden on tax payers. Not to worry, Lee's Summit. You have no group homes here, so he won't burden your city.
Your children still have a chance. Your children still have a future. I pray that none of you ever have to read the following and have it apply to your child. But, if you continue to sit back and do nothing, you will face the same situation that I face today. I let the State of Missouri and the Lee's Summit School District steal my son's future. I will live with that until the day that I die because Jake will be living with me until the day I die. What will happen to him after that, only God knows. I pray that you never have to go to bed at night and think about that.