From Emotions to Advocacy
The Special Education Survival Guide by Pam & Pete Wright
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Year in Review Series
I wanted you to know that the voices of parents, kids, and teachers can make a difference in handling negative decisions by school administrators.
In our district,
for 6 years, there has been a High Potential Special Needs class (HPSN),
a cluster class of Grades 5-6-7.
It has taken
nearly 6 years, but the entire school has begun to accept the students
in this class.
We were shocked and devastated.
We began an enormous letter-writing and phone call campaign. We got the local press involved (town of approximately 15,000-16,000). We had a town meeeting in late June. (More than half of the board members attended because they had received so many phone calls!)
Simply Told Our Stories"
The father of one kid, a pharmacist, stood up and said that he knew from his experience how many gifted learners were on anti-depressants in elementary school - with significant increases in the last few years.
The grandfather of one of the kids, a doctor, talked about brain development. He advised that the theory that the brain is a static organ is a fallacy. He explained that we are damaging these kids by NOT providing them with enough stimulation to meet their needs.
Some parents spoke of problems their kids had because they were "double identified," and how government cuts in education caused their special needs to be unmet.
A woman who
worked in the system for 25 years, fighting for children with special
needs, spoke powerfully and emotionally. She explained that the proposal
to move the class to the junior high school, combined with years of government
cuts, would slowly strangle the stream of students eligible for the class
to the point where the class could justifiably be eliminated.
The school administrators and board members listened.
There was dancing, weeping, happy weeping. For once, our voices made a difference.
Curiously, I had coffee with one of the board members the following evening. This woman is very active (some just ride the bus of the position, you know?), has come to the Gifted Association Conference, has been a good listener.
She said: "You know, I've been a board member for 6 years. I didn't really understand the needs of these kids. There must be many other school districts where they don't understand. Perhaps some of the parents and teachers could speak about these needs at our next board training weekend."
I know many battles are lost. But I thought you'd like a story of success.
Maybe, at the grass roots level, we need to inform and educate the decision-makers - school administrators and board members. Maybe this is also a form of advocacy.
- Verb, transitive. To speak, plead or argue in favor of. Synonym is support.
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