Special education

cheloneNovember 2, 2002

Tell me about this, please! It seems to me that virtually every child now, "qualifies" for this sort of education and it is costing me a lot of money.

Who, and why, qualifies?

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I don't know where you live, but we have a hard time getting kids qualified for special services at our school. Generally, very generally, a child must be two years behind grade to begin to qualify. Then there's lots of specialty issues. Why is this costing you money?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2002 at 4:35PM
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There are all sorts of speacial needs that qualify. In our state and in our school district, about 10% of the school population qualify. Some get special assistance in reading and or math, and are pulled out of class for some one-on- one tutoring. Others may be blind or deaf. Still others may have special situations like autism or be severely handicapped.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2002 at 12:06AM
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Special education is a very broad term that only those who deal with it on a daily basis can completely understand the intricacy of it.

As for who qualifies, it is mostly children with developmental or speech delays, physical disabilities (such as being blind, deaf or some other physical impairment) and occasionally those with behavioral problems. Also, those with health problems such as asthma and bad allergies are considered as being under special education.

Why they qualify differs from child to child. Those with behavioral problems usually recieve special education in the form of an aide who will help them control their outbursts.

Those with developmental and speech delays qualify because they are delayed by so much from those in their age group. In Minnesota, this is a -2.0 deviation for developmental delays and a -2.5 deviation for speech delays. They figure out these deviations through a ton of tests, which differs for each age group because each age group has a different set of goals that they are supposed to have reached in order to be "normal" (which can almost be considered a dirty word in special education circles). For example, a three year old will be expected to have certain sounds mastered that a 2 year old isn't. The children who qualify under this must have the delay in two or more areas - such as fine motor, large motor, self-help, social, and of course speech.

While they may not seem to be so crucial, the last three actually are. Self-help skills include dressing, not running into the street, things like that. Social includes being able to share, and knowing to use words instead of actions (like hitting or biting). Speech is extremely crucial. Without speech, a child can't say "That is mine." or "I'm hungry". No speech makes for a very difficult time in a child's life, as well as the parent's. The child doesn't have the ability to say what is upsetting him, and so he'll throw temper tantrums or lash out in other ways because of frustration.

For those with physical disabilities, I think the reasons are quite obvious. The blind need teachers to help them learn how to read braille, to use a cane and to be able to get around on their own without having to rely on everyone else as they go through life. The deaf need people to teach them sign language, how to speak (which as you hopefully can imagine can be quite difficult when you can't hear) and how to use the technology available to them such at TDD machines.

Those children with autism or other developmental disorders are more difficult to explain. Their development is so unusual. Take the autistic child (although some autistics are not so impaired that they are obvious - not all autistics are of the "rain man" type). While they seem to be completely unaware of what is going on around them, the truth is that they are over-aware of the world around them. These children need help in learning how to process the over-abundance of stimulation that they take in.

For those with health problems such as asthma, they are considered for special education because they require special considerations. Those with acute asthma can't participate in strenuous phy ed activities. Even those with mild asthma need to have an inhaler or puffer on hand - although most schools try to make them keep it in the nurses office, many parents of older children fight for them to be allowed to carry it on them. For those with allergies, they need special considerations as well. Those who are allergic to milk need to have juice at lunch. Those who are allergic to insect bites need to have special medication available in the nurses office. This is even more crucial for those who are anaphylaxic - who could die if treatment is not available immediately, and I'm highly stressing the immediately. Other health problems would be considered diabetes or those with a heart defect. While seemingly "normal" they are far from it.

While some of these may require more financial aide than others, they are all very much needed. EVERY child has a right to an education. If these problems are detected early enough, it will take less time and therefore less money for them to catch up to others of their age.

One last statement before I step down from my soap-box. While I can understand your reluctance to help these children through your taxes since it is costing you money, I hope you can now see why these programs are very much needed. I have two children who are recieving help in special education. The oldest has been progressing rapidly and we feel that soon she will no longer need the help. However, the younger of the two is not making much progress, if any, and there are concerns about autism or other such disorders. Special education is making it possible for us to find out what that is. I also have a third child who may possibly have asthma when she is older. Special education is helping to keep an eye on her, even unofficially, since the teachers and therapists who work with my son occasionally check her development as well during their visits.

Sorry this got so long, but it is something that I feel very passionate about. Not only because of my own children but because I am currently in school to become a special education teacher.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 1:10AM
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Special education is a good investment for the future. Most students in special education classes will become productive members of society. Eventually, they will grow up, get jobs, and contribute to the economy. Without special ed, many of these kids would be severly undereducated and/or drop out of school. They would likly then become a burden to the state for the rest of their lives.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 6:39AM
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When I was in school in the 70's, not much special education was avialable in my rural, hillbilly district. Kids were just considred "slow" and "held back". Well, most of the "slow" kids I went to school with dropped out as soon as they were old enough (16 in my state).

Fast forward 20 years. I have 2 sons in school. The oldest has a mild disability as a result of being born prematuraly. He does not qualify for "special ed" per sey, because he's not far enough off "normal", but he does qualify for speech therapy and last year he had a one-on-one reading tutor every day. This year, he is scoring 100% in reading and math, and the only subject he's not doing at least 90% in is spelling. If he had been born when I was in school, he would have just been called slow, been set in the back of the room, held back, and just pushed through the system until he was old enough to drop out. Instead, he got the early intervention he needed (in 1st grade) and now, in 2nd grade, he's doing exceptional. He will always have a little harder time than most other kids, but with the help and encouragement he'll use his natural intelligence to do well.

Do you think that's a waste of your money? Wouldn't it cost you more money in the long run to cover criminal costs, jails, remedial programs, welfare, etc for drop-outs?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 8:59AM
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Valancy, my best wishes to you. You are training to do the work of the angels! And at home, as a mom, you are already doing the work of angels. We are in such desperate need of special education teachers with skills in all the areas of special ed. I just hope more talented, dedicated special ed teachers are coming down the teacher training pipeline.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2002 at 4:13PM
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As a parent of a Downs child, I can tell you dealing with the school and sp ed is no picnic. Valancy, thank you for wanting to work with sp ed. Last year, our school pulled a teacher to work sp ed (so she would not be cut) and we got nothing. Nate's aide did more than the teacher, yet the teacher got the big paycheck. Our district does not have what we call a sp ed program. We are finding out many special needs children are going elswhere.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2002 at 10:21PM
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Thank you Valancy.Very well stated.My son is 5 but was born with heart complications that resulted in him going into heart failure, then cardiac arrest twice then suffering a stroke.All this has caused him to have delays in speech,fine motor,physical abilities that we are still trying to get to the bottom of.They don't even label children as spec. ed. anymore.They refer to them as special needs.And that covers such a wide spectrum it is unbelievable due to all the childhood illness that we now know about.My son began the special needs program at age 3 and at that time his abilities ranged from 12 mths to 18 mths. He now is 5 and 1/2 and has made tremendous progress even though he will always need extra help in school.He will overcome or at least manage some delays but he will never be normal.In his class at school there is a very complex group of needs.We have been very blessed to have excellent teachers and aides.The thought of these children not being allowed to have the best possible education is frightening.They deserve it and should be blessed with it.God Bless all the families that have children with special needs for they are one of a kind.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2002 at 8:53PM
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Yes, Sheila points out one element in our special education enrollment boom. Medical science is so advanced, that babies with great difficulties who would have died in previous decades now survive. But they may quite possibly have some learning or developmental problems. Therefore, we see more special education students today than many years ago. And then there is the mystery with the huge increase in autism, and those kids need special education too.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2002 at 10:40PM
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Ok my turn to vent. I'm sure I'll ruffle some feathers. I drive school bus. Drove special ed for a couple years and quit becuase I would come home so upset that we did the things we did for these kids.

I am NOT talking about children that have physical conditions or mental limitations. I am talking specifically about the behavior problems. The general public would assume that special needs mean handicap (not politically correct, but I'll use that so you know what I'm saying). That is a wrong assumption. Yes, they do have to go through quite a process to end up on a special needs bus, but many of the parents know how to work the system. Lots of them manage to get additonal kids on them. After all they don't have to wait for the bus like most kids and be on time. The special needs bus honks and waits 3-5 minutes. I have even had to go back and pick up kids because they said the bus wasn't there or we didn't honk. Do your kids have to be ready for the bus when it gets there? mine do.

My district had 13 special needs busses (a small district) and a large percentages of these kids did not fall into the "special needs" category. We also had a large teritory so that meant that we have to travel many miles to pick up these kids.

I had several behavior problems, but one example was a kid that was smart and capable in every way. This kid was kicked out of school for drugs. We had to drive 23 miles to pick him up at a particular time (which was not the same time as the majority of the other kids got picked up). So, we picked him up, then we came back to town another 23 miles so he could meet his personal tutor at the library in town where he was dropped off (which our taxes also pay for). Then we had to pick him up from the library two hours later and transport him home again and return back to town. He was the only child on the bus both ways. Half the time we went to pick him up he didn't even bother to call us and tell us he decided not to go. They would tell them he needed to call, after all he was a high school kid. He'd loose the privelage for a short time and then the same thing would start all over again. This kids family had a nice home, and the parents didn't have to pay a dime for the taxi or the tutor. He got special services because he was a troublemaker. It would seem to me it would be his parents responsibility to pay for a taxi or transport him to and from his tutor, but we got to pay instead. After all that was his right. We even used taxi services to some of the kids because it was more cost effective to pay a taxi than to transport on a bus.

Another kid supposedly had an anger problem. He had to be transported to the other side of town, a 45 minute drive to go to a school for behavior problems like his. This kid could however go and work out every morning with the other kids in the gym before school started (the regular public high school). Now, how is it that a kid with anger issues and a lack of self control can go to the gym with other kids where there are heavy weights? Guess what, we picked him up at home, and transproted him to the workout. Then we came back and picked him up and proceeded to his school. Then we had to make another 11/2 hour round trip to pick him up again that afternoon. There was a total of three kids that all went to different places on the bus when he went to school. They try and put the behavior problems on seperate busses than the truly "needy" kids as they are usually mean to them.

Other kids were dropped off where their parents wanted them to be dropped off. One was regularly taxied to the doctor, and the Dad's office. This was a shuttle service for these people and they expected it and got angry when they didn't get their way. I worked for a contractor. They don't want to make waves so they accomodate.

Yes, some of these kids have behavior, suicide, anger, babies and other problems. So is that my problem as a tax payer? I am angry my fedral and state dollars are paying for this. I want to know why the parents of these kids aren't required to work for the district doing something or paying the fees to get their kids the help they need. Why can't they garnish the wages just like they do deadbeat dads. My observation is that the majority of the behavior problems originated in their homes. It isn't because they have anything wrong with them other than a crudy life. I feel bad for them and yes, many need help. However,I go back to the parents, charge them not me. Some of the kids live in bad circumstances but in truth the majority of my kids were from well-to-do homes with dual incomes.

I could go on and on with this. The general public doesn't have a clue what kind of money goes into special needs and programs for minorities. I work hard for my money and I gave up a lot to send my kids to private schools. It really rattles my cage that I am forced to pay for things I don't believe my money should be paying for.

I loved many of these kids and I've given money out of my own pocket to help some of them, but I have no tolerence for the others that drain the system. At our public high school the kids can't even take home some of their books because their aren't enough of them. Our teachers are underpaid, and they keep closing more programs because there isn't any money. There would be plenty of money if they do some changing around. Fedral taxes pay for most of it. They also pay for all those school lunches for the needy. Did you know that many school don't even check to see if the kids are needy? you know why? they get money per kid for the district. The more kids that eat with fedral money the more money for the local school. Lots of kids in my district eat, and I've seen wher they live. They aren't hurting.

There is a place for special needs programs and busses, but there needs to be accountablility too. For those of you with special needs children my hat is off to you, I know you have a tough job. I have a special needs person in my life as well, so don't think I don't have empathy for what you go through. However, there needs to be some reorganizing of the system to be fair for all involved.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2002 at 10:54PM
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Ponderin--one correction. The federal government pays just a little towards the cost of special education, and the local school district (and the state) pay the rest. When the federal government first developed laws requiring a free and appropriate education for all special needs children from birth till age 22, they promised, as part of the new and expensive requirements, to pay 40% of the cost. They have never lived up to that promise. The amount they pay varies from year to year. I have seen that amount vary from 7% to 13% of the cost of educating special needs children. The rest of the cost comes from the state but mostly from the local school district's general fund--in other words, the funding for the regular ed kids. Special ed kids get first call on the school district's general fund, and anything left over becomes what the district usus to educate the rest of the students. In small districts, this can be a problem, especially if the special education student(s) uses up all the money in the budget. Then the school district has to go out for a local bond to keep their doors open. The federal government needs to live up to their promises. Every kid deserves a free and appropriate education.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2002 at 1:01PM
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The sad thing is that there are parents of truly needy kids who could benefit from some kind of subsidized transportation service. One I heard of last week was 13, lost her legs to cancer, her mom had passed away, and her dad worked to support her and her care. Church volunteers and neighbors are helping her get back and forth to school and to treatments and PT. Another mom who works with ACS said that there are other options. Apparently the dad had not looked into it because he felt guilty asking for any more help, and didn't want to be any more trouble than he already thought he was being.

I wish some people who "work" the system, as outlined by ponder, would see that their victims are not federal or local gov'ts, but other families who are truly in need.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2002 at 1:26PM
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Hi Sheila, thanks for the correction if I was mistaken. It doesn't matter to me if I pay it in my federal dollars, or local it is still coming out of my pocket, and it upsets me. You may know better than I do, but perhaps the school busses and classrooms pay differently. All I can tell you is that that it was my boss that told me directly. The person involved in school bids for service and payment of them.

I also talked to my Superintendant about our transporting stong abled children across a football field (running a shuttle during lunch, about an hour fifteen minutes total drive time). A bus goes at lunch and transports these kids to a cafeteria at another school across the field. No kidding...it is across the football field! I have driven it several times, and then I refused because I thought it was ridiculous and a waste of money. I was not the only one that refused to do so. Most of these kids walk anyway. I suggested to the Superintendent that our district could save money in these "little" things. The reply to me was "it doesn't cost us that much money, and wouldn't make that much difference" I couldn't believe it. She also sited either state or fedral money reimbursing that service! I honestly don't remember which. Probably some parent complained that their kid had to walk in the rain and that was the end of it. I believe in safety, but that wasn't the issue here. There are even teachers on duty because recess was any time during that lunch when they finished. It was a junior high grades 6-8

Also, I totally agree with you TREKaren. That is a situation that this family should be able to get transportation. Everyone is entitled to transportation to and from school. If she can't get on the regular bus she should be able to ride the special needs bus. Unfortunately, some of the kids like her don't want to because of the stigma attatched to doing so among the kids, which is unfortunate.

ok, I've vented. Thanks for listening :-)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2002 at 9:49PM
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