I am sad right now. I am feeling discouraged right now. The mountain is always in front of us but we climb anyway. Advocacy for access to the curriculum despite a disability as a human right continues for our son. We chip away and stand our ground as our son due to his own determination continues to push forward. Right now he is unaware that those who are suppose to be on his side are hindering his progress. They have all the best intentions but are not delivering solutions fast enough which in effect holds him back. We keep pushing and hold the line as best as we can until he can help push back too. After all this is his life and no one can speak to his needs better then he.
Last week something happened that somehow made the mountain seem unsurmountable. Instead of fighting for more services to help our son climb to a level playing field with other children and learn in the way he learns we need to scramble and fight hard to keep the services he already has. Special need funding grants from the government have been cut, miscalculations and wrong estimates regarding costs have left an enormous deficit of $45+ million . The school board is required by law to fix this. They want to accept the recommendations and see it as an opportunity to reset how they administer many programs including how they handle the Special Services sector. Special Education teachers jobs are being looked at for reductions which in effect the ISP (Intensive Support) classrooms which Johnny is part of.
What will happen to the children that are now thrust into regular classrooms without assistance or inconsistent assistance? Will they have a EA (support helper) or will they have to share one helper with multiple students at a time? Will the compromise be sending the children to a school where they are all in one place and increase student teacher ratio? Will they prosper because this is setting them up for success? Or will the stress and anxiety increase as change is thrust upon them and they are told to adapt but still reach the same expectations? Is the school board using the cutbacks from the provincial government to Special Needs children and their own deficits as an opportunity to reset how they teach children with special needs and learning disabilities? What about the expectations the board is suppose to meet? What about the expectations the child has when they go to school?
Of course it is more expensive to teach a child with special needs as opposed to a typically developing child. But every child deserves equal access to the curriculum no matter what. If a child needs to wear glasses to see the chalk board then they get glasses and are moved closer to the board in every room. If a child is blind and has a seeing eye dog then accommodations are made so that child’s assistance dog is allowed at school so they can access the curriculum. If a child cannot talk then speech augmentation device is made available to them and they are taught how to use it to communicate and again be able to access the curriculum. If a child needs a ramp to get their wheel chair into the school then a ramp must be installed so that they can attend classes and access the curriculum. But what if a child’s disability is not so obvious? They “seem” normal is the phrase I hear most often. Do they deserve accommodations? What if they must instead be expected to just learn to adapt and fit in? Is this being given equal access to the curriculum?
We are thinking about all of this as we prepare to attend our son Johnny’s IPRC Review Committee Meeting to review his placement within the school board and discuss his progress. I’ve never been to an IPRC where so much is up in the air as the higher ups prepare to make some very hard but troubling discussions. There are many consultative meetings coming up this month with stakeholders, school board officials, and parents in the coming weeks. We are hoping that saner minds prevail and everyone figures out a way to keep the programs in place that help our children step up to a level playing field and access the curriculum. We are not sure what we will do if the cuts do occur. I keep hearing so much talk about what the school boards deficit and making hard choices but what about Johnny’s deficit?