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Improving Education for Special Needs and the Disabled in Public High Schools
Petition Background (Preamble):
One problem is that children are being diagnosed too late, a good amount of time after they have already started school. Autism is hard to detect in its early stages, and its symptoms are not obvious until its victims have reached school-age. That is when there is a distinguishable difference between the child and its companions as well as the rate of learning and progress. Many studies prove that autism can be diagnosed by age 1. That is true. However, that is if parents take their children to doctors and specialists for evaluation. If there are no symptoms and no ways to look for early signs, about three-fourths of children will begin to appear to have the condition at age 9 years. This is according to a report in the June issue of archives of General Psychiatry. This means that before the child reaches the age of nine, he/she will be shuffled through his/her early years of school and then fall far behind other students upon diagnosis.
Another problem is that after these children have been diagnosed, they are placed in cramped environments labeled “Special Education”. Overcrowded classrooms and scarce teachers for the growing population of autistic students is one obvious aspect. These classes consist of teachers who work with a wide variety of disabled students from learning disabilities to speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, combined deafness and blindness, and traumatic brain injury. These classes are not much better in providing aid, the only difference is that the students with disabilities are removed from “normal” society and grouped together where teachers will attempt to educate the wide variety of disabilities similarly. According to executive director Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children of New York, only “a small number of special education teachers work with students with severe cases of mental retardation or autism, primarily teaching them life skills and basic literacy.”
A fourth problem is pointed out in an article by Thurlow, Sinclair and Johnson. Published in the Publication of National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, it states that “the dropout rate for students with disabilities is approximately twice that of general education students (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996)… and have been identified as being among the lowest performing students on current high-stakes tests… These scores have consequences for schools and often for students. Increasingly, high-stakes tests have significant consequences for students—they determine whether they are promoted from one grade to the next, or graduate from high school with a standard diploma (Thurlow & Johnson, 2000). Students who experience failure or who see little chance of passing these tests may decide not to stay in school—because either they will not be promoted or they will not graduate with a standard diploma… Accountability without the necessary opportunities and support for youth with disabilities to achieve high standards may increase the rate at which they drop out of school and fail to successfully complete school.”
In today’s state, helping students develop emotionally, feel comfortable in social situations, and be aware of socially acceptable behavior is not enough “general education” to equip them for the real world. The effects of general certifications versus advanced certifications to teach in private schools for autism are vastly different. The difference is that private schools receive enough funding (from parents) to effectively train students while public schools only have enough to get by. One example of an effective private school is the McCarton School. By the end of 2007, five of the 23 children in the school will be mainstreamed back into their districts into regular classes. Private schools use many tools that public schools can’t afford to use which include: intensive speech therapy, occupational therapy, sensory integration, etc. to “teach the children to function in their community and in their homes—in the places they actually live”, according to Feldman who is an instructor at the McCarton School holding a PhD. in psychology. The key is that their teachers have specialized training- something that many schools lack.
Does it make any sense at all that in a society where the rate of autism is steadily rising year after year, our school budgets continue to be cut more and more year after year? That is like withdrawing from a deposit in the bank while obliviously expecting to never run out even without making more deposits and at the same being shocked that the interest rate of return in our savings is decreasing. The more you put in, the greater the interest rate of return that our society will have. Children are the future. To take money from the future, is to set the nation up for doom. What kind of nation will it be in 20 years from today or even 30 years, when high school drop-outs are our voters and politicians while special needs adults join the growing number of homeless people? It will be a nation void of stable citizens producing stable incomes to support the social security system. Eventually, the system will crumble from the burden.
If governments need further proof that this crisis is real, let them look no further. Let them observe the increasing rate at which private schools are opening to make up for the obvious lack and inefficiency in public schools. Dr. Cecilia McCarton, Professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine founded the McCarton Center for Developmental Pediatrics in 1998. She founded the McCarton School based on the increasing number of parents searching hopelessly for a cure, for treatment, for improvement, a sign or anything to relieve. “The numbers of autistic children we began to see in our Center suddenly became an avalanche. We would be giving therapy to these children and there would be no schools for them, no places for them to go to after age five. Autism overtook us,” she writes.
Let governments observe the flooding of public schools with autism and the inability of small private schools to keep up with demand. Additional solutions for inadequate education involve the increase of funding so that the range of influence and therapy can expand and provide more benefit from the use of IEP’s rather than requiring the use of such plans and not providing tools to carry them out. Public schools can be slowly turned into similar replicas of private school systems.
A small but growing number of districts are modeled after private schools with their personalized environments and highly qualified teachers. Health coverage is often brought up as an alternative to private schools, except health coverage does everything but that…cover. The responsibility is left to the schools.
Today, under P.L.102-119, all schools must offer special educational services and, unfortunately, the government ensures that only the bare minimum is done.Public education is not broken, we just spend too little on our schools and waste too much on less important issues.
This can be done by creating more privatized environments, less overcrowded classrooms, and the raising of standards for hiring. Teachers who can diagnose autism at an early age and who are more specialized are better able to educate than those with general degrees. Students with various disabilities need to stop being clustered together and therapy services need to be more readily available and effective. IEP s simply are not sufficient. They are limited to the amount of funding allowed for improvement.
Lastly, to prepare students for life after graduation, they should be offered alternative diplomas. Simply because they cannot receive the general diploma, does not mean that they should be given something less. This only results in their not being able to get a job. They should have different criteria for which to receive this diploma.
The Improving Education for Special Needs and the Disabled in Public High Schools petition to The State of Oregon was written by Julia and is in the category Education at GoPetition. Contact author here. Petition tags: autism, funding, government, education, disabilities, disabled, parents, students, teachers, therapy, petition, program, diploma, graduation, future, children