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Why is it that when federal funding gets cut, the hugest slice comes from education. Hundreds of educators are laid off, the arts are almost extinct in public schools leaving no room for artistic expression through drawing and / or music; and needless to say any program or initiative outside of the “normal” curriculum geared toward special education is immediately void.
I recently shared that my 3-year-old son’s art teacher was recently laid off due to budget cuts. As I mentioned in prior posts, I, along with my son’s teacher, receive daily complaints in regards to his desire to wrestle and “escape” – all with a wide grin on his face. I find it troublesome and am overcome with worry that not only will he hurt himself or other students, but also that he will be dismissed from the after school program because of his behavior. On the other hand, I am appalled that with the increase in autism rates in New Jersey, public schools are not equipped with staff who are educated in special education nor is there curriculum given to support the staff – hence there is staff who are unwilling to accept and work with my son. In the beginning of the school semester, my husband and I were told flat out “NO” he was not wanted at the program (that was until we spoke with the supervisor of the program who gave the ok).
What is a parent to do when their child attends an after school program (within the same public school he attends) where staff have no idea how to, and at times do not want to deal with him? There is no money in school funding to support an after school or morning program solely for special needs kids nor are there funds to ensure a staff members receives adequate education around working with and / or redirecting children with special needs. I am for inclusion and combining special needs children with the general population because it has a social benefit, however this environment must include educators in both the special education and general education population in-order to sustain a fair and safe environment for all the children.
I recently read an article by Brenda Considine, a representative from the New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform and was compelled to share her comments regarding how funding for special needs programs in schools should be appropriated (click here for the link).
I am faced with the notion that my son is “different”; however he is no less than his peers and should be treated with the same care as “normal” children, especially in a school setting. If the expectation is to prepare special needs children for the “real” world, we must fight to ensure their educators and caregivers are properly prepared to learn about and from them!