Following on from a scathing report into the failures that have been found in the special education system in New York City, officials have acknowledged that there are some flaws at various levels of the system and that they plan to address them.
The education department issued a statement explaining the systemic failures that were identified in the state review which was published in May and found that the initial evaluations for the special education services were often delayed or had not happened at all. Officials have promised to make a series of reforms which will tackle a range of issues. One thing that was highlighted was the fact that mandated service needs are not always met, and that the appeals process is currently overwhelmed, which means that students who are in need often find themselves in limbo.
Advocates Unimpressed With The Response
Advocates were unimpressed with the response. The city has promised that there will be better special education programs for preschoolers and that hundreds of new staff will be hired to help to conduct evaluations and to handle any disputes regarding services.
Chancellor Richard Carranza said that the education department is committed to taking steps to improve special education, however, there are many who fear that the reforms may not have a big enough impact on the ground. Currently, there are more than 220,000 students who have disabilities. That is a significant portion of the population. Those with special education needs, as a population, face worse academic outcomes than those of a similar age who do not have special needs.
The latest statistics indicate that almost one-quarter of students with disabilities are deprived of access to one or more required services. Thousands of students in the city are not given access to any of the mandated services at all. Those children face poorer outcomes and this could greatly impact their long-term prospects.
The city is proposing the addition of 200 new special education preschool seats, as well as thousands of 3-K seats. There is demand for far more than 200 seats at the pre-school level, however, so campaigners are disappointed with the lack of support at that level.
Critics call the department’s goals unambitious, noting that just 68% of requested evaluations for special services at the preschool level take place on time. The goal is to boost this by five percent, which is still viewed as being too low by many.
Finding out one of your kids is on the autism spectrum isn’t easy, especially because we’re still learning about how these kids can best be taught to interact as productive members of society. It can be a scary pill for parents to swallow. The good news is this: more and more information is available year by year. We’re learning. We’re growing. And we’re all helping one another up and over these challenging obstacles.
There are a lot of things many parents of a child on the spectrum wished they had known before diagnosis. Here are just a few:
Although those on the spectrum might be invisible before interaction takes place, it doesn’t mean that completely separate medical issues won’t impact your child in mysterious (and unwanted) ways. A bout of diarrhea or stomach bug can wreak havoc on someone who is on the spectrum, but the victim won’t always shout out his or her symptoms. You won’t always know what’s wrong, but you’ll know something is up. Many parents wish they’d known how to communicate during these scenarios ahead of time.
Doctors can be wrong, and often are. Parental instincts shouldn’t be ignored, and that means that sometimes it can be necessary to hunt down the second opinion you think will justify your concerns, which are often right on point. A proper diagnosis for someone on the spectrum means a lifetime worth of personalized, appropriate treatment and a real chance at living a “normal” life by the time adulthood comes around.
Many parents are misguided into thinking their child doesn’t have a normal range of emotions during the early stages after diagnosis. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Autistic kids and others who experience similar diagnoses feel just as much as anyone else. Sometimes they likely feel even more. The difference lies in how they learn to express it.
A child on the spectrum can mean change for the better. These struggles won’t just help parent and child learn to interact during the traditionally problematic years of adolescence, they will lead you to become that much closer. The entire family is more likely to learn patience, empathy, and compassion by having your child in their lives.
Those on the spectrum don’t require a cure, they require constant support, learning, and human interaction on a deeper level than most other kids, who are more independent. They’re different. They’re unique. They’re not broken.
When a baby cries, it means something: hunger, dirty diaper, no attention, etc. Kids on the spectrum don’t always use words to communicate even when they grow older, which can be a tremendous burden on parents. But the “enthusiastic” behavior always means something. It’s the parent’s job to figure out what that something is.
Section 619 of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Act) addresses creating a special education preschool program for children ages 3 to 5. Part B of Section 619 guarantees free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students who have developmental delays and/or disabilities after their third birthday.
Many parents are nervous to send their delayed or disabled kid to a public school. Although Section 619 can help those who decide to teach their kids at home, to maximize the effectiveness of the services, it is better for it to be done in traditional preschool settings with the help with a special education instructor. There are several benefits for using your services in conjunction with a regular preschool because children with disabilities need socialization with peers, to play, to hear language and gain other skills the same as other children. Also, exposing non-disabled children to children with disabilities early on will reduce the stigma that people with disabilities are bad. Children can learn that they are not so different and that everyone learns in their own unique way. Also, if your child is attending a public preschool, the school must also provide transportation.
If you are not sure if your child needs special education services, there are diagnostic screenings available to determine if your child has a delay or disability. Based on your child’s test results and reports, you might be eligible to apply for Section 619. The team will develop what is called an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and give recommendations for other services like speech therapy and physical therapy.
If you don’t know where to turn, every state has a Section 619 coordinator. You can find your state’s coordinator at this website: http://ectacenter.org/contact/619coord.asp
Between early intervention and preschool special education programs, there’s a chance that the child might not need special education as they progress throughout their school years depending on the delay or disability. Everyone has the right to FAPE.
Soyoung Park, an assistant professor in equity and diversity in special education at the University of Texas at Austin, recently wrote in a piece that our Special Education system was an example of our country’s unhealthy obsession with conformity. She argues
Our education system is an enterprise designed to “fix” children who do not fit the norms of school. These norms are based on a white, middle class, able-bodied culture. Children learn from a very young age that if they are different — in their behavior, way of thinking, language, etc. — they will fail.
However, other leading experts in the field of Special Education counter her argument. In an article written by three special education professors: Andrew Wiley, an associate professor of special education at Kent State University; Dimitris Anastasiou, an associate professor of special education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; and Jim Kauffman, professor emeritus in special education at the University of Virginia.
In their article, they argue that Park mispresents the purpose and function of special need education. The main purpose of special education, which is mandated through the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA Act) is to maximize learning for students with disabilities. The three experts go on to say that learning to read from left to right does not mean that they are forcing students to conform or that they do not believe in diversity.
They continue to argue that special education does promote diversity because it promotes instruction and other services catered to the individuals learning differences. They continue
he idea that special education is “designed” to punish or stigmatize difference. Such a claim does a major disservice to generations of stakeholders who have fought for the civil rights of students with disabilities. Pointing out instances of special education practiced badly is one thing; condemning the whole endeavor is quite another.
As people who suppose Free Appropriate Public Education, do you agree with Parks or Wiley, Anastasiou, and Kauffman? It doesn’t take a Houston criminal defense law firm to understand that without special education that many students would not get the services and programs that they need in order to get a proper education. As presented on this site, there are so many different kinds of disabilities that making the disables an already diverse group of people. In our opinion, is no way teaching them to read and write forcing them to conform to society.
A number of studies have tried to find a definitive link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and early childhood vaccination, and each has failed. The old conspiracy theory has been properly debunked time and time again, but it seems that skeptics just won’t let it die. Of course, part of the problem are the unanswered questions that must then continue to be asked. If vaccination has nothing to do with rising ASD rates, then what gives?
Part of the reason lies in the way we collect and categorize information. The definition of ASD has changed a great deal over the last few decades, and the ability to diagnose the disorder has increased in proportion to the new information. One of the biggest reasons that people believe that cases of autism are on the rise is their confusion between actual cases and diagnosed cases.
Whereas autism is nothing new, the ability of medical professionals to better diagnose the disorder leads to “new” cases. The children had autism before; it’s just that now we know they do.
Certain demographics and populations of patients are often underrepresented because they lack proper healthcare resources. As the access these communities might enjoy starts to grow, so too do the statistics for the disorders and diseases that might affect them. A decade ago, white children were far more likely to be diagnosed by ASD than other less-represented ethnicities. The numbers have been playing catch-up for a long time, but we’re finally getting there.
Another part of the puzzle is proximity to the diagnostic centers. There aren’t enough of them in more rural areas where people are less likely to travel far distances for medical care, so one region’s diagnosed individuals can differ greatly from another’s. For example, there are more reported cases of ASD in New Jersey than Arkansas, simply because New Jersey residents are closer to help.
Beyond that, medical professionals are placed under a great deal of pressure to diagnose children with potential behavioral or developmental disorders as early as possible in order to avoid less desirable outcomes. Most children aren’t diagnosed until between age four and five, which is a “late” diagnosis of a disorder for which the signs are readily noticeable by the age of two.
The conclusion that should be drawn by the laymen? There is no real reason to worry about “increasing” rates of ASD diagnosis.
The number of children who grow up with autism is increasing, and it’s important to know when your child might be at risk so you can effectively combat the developmental disorder as quickly as possible. Most early warning signs become apparent before your child hits the age of two, so it’s never too early to start watching! Here are the earliest warning signs you might notice if your child is on the autism spectrum!
It might be autism…
If your child seems unusually sensitive to certain sounds, images, textures, or other sensory activities.
If your child speaks with an unusual voice or tone.
If your child cannot play with toys as you might expect.
If your child cannot let go of objects.
If your child makes awkward or unusual hand gestures.
If your child does not react to stimuli in the same way that other children might. This might include ignoring the sound of your voice when you try to be soothing.
If your child seems less enthusiastic than other children of the same age.
If your child does not make eye contact with you.
If your child does not smile when you do.
If your child does not point at objects. It is normal for children to become curious about their surrounding environment.
If your child does not start to respond to certain sound stimuli, such as his or her name.
If your child does not like physical affection.
If your child has yet to speak his or her first word by age two.
If your child seems to have fewer facial expressions than other children.
If you cannot gain your child’s attention or direct it.
By age two, your child should become more interactive with both the environment and its people. If trouble arises in communication or repeated behaviors which seem unusual, it might be time to have a specialist try to diagnose your child. If your child is already older and seems unable to fit in at school or with peers in other social situations, then there might be a problem.
It’s important to know that autism presents differently and symptoms are often dependent on the individual. Some kids who grow up with autism will learn to interact normally by the time they reach adulthood, while others will not. This is why it’s extremely important to talk to an estate planning attorney about special needs planning. This way you can ensure that your special needs child will have the financial security they need when you are no longer around to take care of them.
There are a number of challenges associated with children who are on the spectrum or struggle with other special needs of a wide variety, but sometimes the biggest is external. Children with behavioral disorders require rigid structure in order to grow and learn to fit into society as a whole. When the environments–people included–are more likely to shift and change around these children than any others, the difficulties can become exacerbated.
Special education as a profession suffers from a high attrition rate. It’s not hard to understand why. In addition to the difficult nature of the job, teachers in general aren’t paid enough to make the headache worth the time and effort they put in each and every day. Parents don’t have a choice, but teachers do. That’s why they burn out so much faster. Around half of special education teachers will quit within five years. A quarter of the initial group will start looking for other career options after ten years.
Those rates are unacceptable, especially when it means change for the children.
There are things we can do to help the situation. Stress management is key. Teachers can prepare to interact with children who have special needs, but also they must prepare to take some alone time when a particularly challenging day presents itself. It’s not easy to have your own capabilities questioned every single day, and it reduces self-esteem. Teachers are human beings who could benefit from therapy just as much as anyone else. They must learn to eat and exercise properly, and find hobbies that extend past sedentary activities like the television.
Many of these children require more one-on-one time, and it can be hard to provide when other children act out or try to grab attention. The children should be routinely interviewed in order to document progress–or even after new issues that arrive from changing environments, if that’s the case. Teachers should strive to increase parental involvement both in and out of the classroom. It’s necessary to maintain a relationship with child and parent to achieve a measure of success.
This profession is not for the faint of heart or the unhealthy. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
With more and more inclusion in the classroom, children with disabilities such as Autism and Down Syndrome will be in the same classroom setting as those who do not have any form of disability. And while it’s important to ensure that your child gets everything that they need from government services, therapies, IEPs, teachers, etc, it’s important to consider what the other children in the classroom need. Not all of them are going to understand what makes your child different. They just know that they are different.
Ava L. Siegler, Ph.D. wrote in Child Magazine that when explaining disabilities to a child it’s important to be compassionate (that it’s hard to have a disability), communicative (explain as much as you can within reason), comprehensive (that’s it’s not the child’s fault they are disabled) and competent (just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do things).
Here are some other things to keep in mind when bringing out disability awareness with your children.
Kids with special needs are different but that’s OK! – Kids with down syndrome might have almond shaped eyes.
Kids with special needs are also the same as other kids! – All kids have eyes.
Kids with special needs or disabilities are not necessarily sick. – A disability is not something you can catch.
Kids with special needs shouldn’t be compared to normal kids – A better word to use would be typically rather than normally.
If your special needs child is eager to share with their classmates about their disability there are tons of fabulous resources online. Hopefully one of the side benefits from inclusion in the classroom will be to help spread disability awareness.
In the 2016 to 2017 school year, 63% of children in the classroom was considered a student with disabilities. Despite more and more students being included in the classroom, their performance evaluation remains poor. Allison Gilmour, assistant professor of Special Education at Temple University, published an editorial in Education Next called “Has Inclusion Gone Too Far” that addresses this issue.
Location isn’t the same thing as services. We need to shift our focus from where students are educated, to how they’re actually educated.
In her editorial, Gilmour points out some of the positives that inclusion has done for students with disabilities including a study that found some improved academics. But she concludes that while some students who might have disabilities are not the same as students who have special needs. For example, technically a student who needs glasses has a disability but not necessarily special needs. The editorial also points out how teachers who deal with behavioral disabilities spend less time on instruction.
However as pointed out by a criminal defense law firm, current state and federal policy is to try to push for more inclusion in the classroom. Gilmour writes,
Decisions regarding placement in a general-education classroom, special-education classroom, or a mixture of settings should be determined by students’ individual needs. If a student is not making progress in an educational setting, the student is not accessing the curriculum. Oftentimes, students may need intensive and individualized instruction to make progress and gain access to the general-education curriculum. This level of instruction might not be possible if a student is taught exclusively in a general-education setting.
Gilmour is pro-teacher and believes that general education teachers are not getting the support or training they need to best instruct children with disabilities in their classroom.
One of the most important steps in early childhood development is the introduction of reading skills. Once the road to mastering this has begun, the entirety of their future education and social success will be unlocked. It can’t be overstated or exaggerated just how integral the ability to read truly is. With that in mind, here are some essential tips to teach your child to read:
1 – Start With The Alphabet And Its Sounds
Simply learning the alphabet and how each letter sounds is the first block upon which full reading comprehension can be built. Introduce all of the letters in order, but individually. The old song that teaches the alphabet may be useful, but the manner in which it strings the L, M, N, O, and P together can be confusing. Go over this every single day until your child can recognize every letter and its basic sounds without any help.
2 – Introduce The Left to Right Concept
Once the letters and how they relate to sounds has become familiar, it’s time to start introducing actual words and how they are arranged together. You can’t overlook the simple left to right concept, however. It’s important to break down the process into its simplest parts. A child looking at a paragraph for the first time might not know where to start; illustrating the usefulness of simply starting from the top left and working their way across the page can be a huge turning point.
3 – Have Them Follow Along With You
After all of these early steps have been established, you should be sure to read to your child and actually have them follow along word by word. You can point to every single word in the sentence together as you work on each page. Go as slowly as you need to and work your way up to a more natural pace. Early familiarity with a lot of essential words can be absorbed this way.
4 – Illustrate How Words Relate To One Another
Finally, that familiarity can then be used as a jumping point for other words as well. Teach your child about consonants and vowels and how words that rhyme often relates. Examples include simple words like “box” and “fox”. After accumulating enough words that seem to connect to one another in basic ways, reading alone will soon be much easier. Teaching your child synonyms will help expand their vocabulary. For example, another word for a lawyer is an attorney. It will all start to fall into place from there!