Over a prolonged period of time the relationship between schools and parents of children with disabilities has become adversarial. I believe this continues because some parents pass along the negative history they experienced to others, convincing them the only way to get services is to fight for them. Actually that advice couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is working together collaboratively that produces the positive and lasting outcomes that we seek as parents.
When parents are meaningfully involved from the beginning everyone benefits. (Encouraging Parent Involvement) For that to happen parents need information and training, and herein lies the dilemma. School districts must want to become compliant and give parents all of the information not just bits and pieces. Districts are required to have parental involvement through indicator eight. (Indicator 8 – Parent Involvement) The only way to move beyond this quandary of conflict is for parents to get all the information at the time of the first evaluation from the school their child attends. I believe most parents feel that it is a partnership and want to work with their child’s school. It is more difficult if you are the parent of a child with a disability based on the prevalence of a two tier educational system of special segregated education and inclusive regular education rather than one system that teaches all. This creates additional conflict when not only do I feel my child is being treated to a complete different set of standards, but then consequently I also as a parent am treated differently. I too am excluded from full participation in school activities, planning, and advisories.
The initial reaction is hurtful but then the anger soon follows. Exclusionary practices not only effect children with disabilities but their parents as well. Truth be told, this is where the lingering animosity exists. Feeling that, for some reason, I am not as good or as important because my child has a disability. Why must I form a group with other parents that have “those kids” rather than being part of a group of parents who have children in the same school?
Why when disability is such a normal part of life do we need to segregate and isolate anything that is remotely different than what would be perceived as the norm?
This practice of being, different or special or any other label is wrong. I don’t want special, or segregated, or different. I want equal access to all things from the beginning and not as a last minute after thought. It has been my experience that when parents are provided the resources necessary to enable themselves to have a full understanding of procedural processes they will become collaborative partners. Without the access to information mistrust and confusion result in ongoing conflict. With knowledge comes acceptance and understanding. Having that knowledge available to all in the schools our children attend together, not only for the parents of children with disabilities but for the parents whose children do not have disabilities will help foster acceptance.
Including children in the least restrictive environment (Least Restrictive Environment Q&A) allows other children to interact with, understand and accept the differences Purposeful segregation does not foster this acceptance.
It does take effort to turn your swords into plowshares but it can be done as evidenced by what we have been able to accomplish in my own community. (Sharing the Commitment Mini Conference) We collaborate together, parents, schools and community with a focus on enhancing and expanding opportunities for children with disabilities.
People fear what they do not understand. Creating acceptance from the beginning increases the opportunities for acceptance as adults.