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Friday, April 27, 2012

Misleading Knowledge

Last Saturday, we stepped outside to simply blow bubbles in the driveway. Then, one thing led to another, and soon Bubs 1 and I were washing cars. I should say that I was doing most of the washing. Bubs 1 was mostly playing with the hose and in a puddle. I helped him with the latter. I obliged by adding more water to it via a down stream of water, from the hose. "Yeah, good job daddy. A creek! That's a creek! Good job," said Bubs 1 as he pointed to the stream of water.

I tried to focus on the bubs' "car washing" escapades, but my mind kept replaying a response that I received from the Bubs' preschool's assistant director. A couple days prior, during a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting, I asked the school administrator how Bubs 1 can get extra services added to his IEP. More specifically, I asked for a one-on-one aide work alongside Bubs 1.

As I asked this question, I quietly heard other members at the PPT table make subtle acknowledgements. "Mmmmmm" was one that I recall (translated: "good question"). It turned out to be a question that costs lots of money. Students, in special education programs, apparently cost more money than an "average" student.

"Parent advocacy," was the response I was given, from the school administrator (translated: "The school may not openly suggest all available services for your child's learning disability"). This translation may sound negative towards the school, but that is not my intention. It just means that no one knows your child better than you and the school may not see the whole child from simply two hours per day. Advocating for your child is simply telling school admin/teachers how your child operates best. I don't have a problem "speaking up," so I look forward to these meetings. In fact, I tend to go overboard when it comes to social justice (just ask my Facebook friends). I learned more special education language, i.e. PPT, SDI, IEP etc., because this terminology can become language barriers, if you don't understand the code. Code switching occurs when special education is discussed. I'm even going to advocate for the term "learning abled" instead of "learning disabled," because the latter is socially misleading and educationally inaccurate.

I trust all the teachers and social workers, when it comes to listening to them on what they think Bubs 1 needs. It's the administration team that I focus on. They are the gate keepers of the school's budget. They will, by federal mandate, grant you your services. However, if it is an expensive service and the state is cutting school budgets (which is happening in most states nowadays), there will likely be some subtle push back. This is when the hidden power becomes deceptively visible. Part of their job is to maintain a school budget while your job is to get the services for your child.

It can be a cold-war, power struggle at the table. Big, little-understood words may be used as weapons - not to hurt - but to subtly sidestep costly services.

Parent advocacy is understanding that more power (federal law) is on their side, although the negotiations for your child's IEP occur under intimidating environments, i.e. in a school conference room (their turf) with directors, social workers and a district lawyer.

I disagree when it's said that it costs more to educate a student in a special education program. What costs more is this misleading knowledge, which perpetuates the idea that these students are a burden.

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