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The Right Decision Done Right

  • Posted on February 14, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Ben’s IEP meeting went better than expected, just as I hoped. When I invited the gentlemen from the Richardson School, I informed Ben’s teacher that I was doing so. I knew the school’s reaction would be to have someone with especial authority from the district attend as well, and that’s what I wanted to see. It wasn’t a manipulation, I assure you. I genuinely wanted the gentlemen to attend and I genuinely wanted their input. I knew, however, that the IEP team would need more authority than usual in order to make a truly effective placement decision. So, the extra authority was necessary and welcome, even if other parents might feel the district was stacking the deck against them.

You see, I wasn’t going into the meeting with the intention of “winning” what I wanted from the district. If I learned anything from editing Vaughn’s book, it’s this: What I want isn’t important, what the school district wants to provide isn’t important, the only thing that’s truly important is what the child needs. Getting Ben what he needed was my only goal.

They opened the meeting by telling me their objectives: determining whether Ben continued to qualify for special education services (he does); reviewing past progress (which we did); and setting his goals for the next year (which we also did). They then asked me what my concerns were, since it was obvious that I had at least one. I told them that my main concern was regarding Ben’s academic progress compared to state standards and his placement.

I was then given the opportunity to address these concerns and basically build a platform that would be addressed throughout the meeting. I explained that, as I saw it, Ben had reached the point where he was especially open to learning. My fear, then, was that if this window of opportunity wasn’t taken advantage of, he’d grow frustrated and the window would close. I knew that was a real possibility, because that’s what seems to have happened with Alex; which is not to say there will never be another window, but that it is an opportunity too precious to miss. My goal was to make sure Ben was placed in an environment where this window would be taken advantage of, where he’d learn and be challenged.

We talked about the progress Ben has made so far this year. As it turned out, he was making a lot more progress with social skills and language than had previously been reported to me. He was no longer spending his entire day in an isolated environment. He would have visitors and he would go around visiting, using practical language skills throughout the day. He had also made significant academic progress and his goals were either attained or emerging. As I put it, Ben tends to get stuck on a frequency. If the adults around him can tune into his frequency, they can access what he’s really capable of and help him develop that. His new teacher can!

It was great to hear. As the meeting progressed and the accomplishments piled up, I knew that we wouldn’t be changing Ben’s placement. I wasn’t disappointed the way a few seemed to expect. The point was not to get Ben “where I wanted him to be,” but to make sure Ben got to be where he needed to be. With the new teacher, he was right where he needed to be!

We talked about past goals, we talked about new goals, we talked about formal testing and accommodations and upcoming changes to state testing instruments. We talked about Ben’s services and what he needed to achieve his goals. There was a lot of excitement in the room, because Ben was doing quite well, and there was no hostility.

Then, we started talking about placement. I made it clear (directing my comments to the senior district representative) that this discussion shouldn’t be about what the district had available (she nodded) or about what I wanted (she nodded again), but that the decision was supposed to be based on what’s best for Ben (she nodded and smiled). I described briefly how the decision to transfer Ben from Kennedy to Wilson was made, how the decision was presented to me as “It’s either Kennedy or Wilson and Kennedy doesn’t work, so it’s Wilson.”

At this point, someone from Wilson broke in and asserted how much Wilson had done for Ben, basically defending the school. The hostility was suddenly palpable, and it was obvious to the right people that the hostility wasn’t coming from me. So, when I had a chance to speak again, I reiterated my point that this wasn’t about Wilson, but about making sure Ben was placed where he needed to be to take advantage of the open window. I made it clear that I wasn’t “against” Wilson and that I definitely recognized the teacher’s skill and connection with Ben. My point was that, for Ben’s best interests, we needed to have an open, honest discussion about where Ben needed to be, knowing there were real options (like the Richardson School), instead of anyone telling me there was only one choice.

That’s exactly the kind of discussion we had. And, in the end, considering the dramatic progress Ben is making, we decided—as a team—that Ben would stay at Wilson. The people from the Richardson school even said, “You’ve got a great team here and while, a year ago, yeah, Richardson might have been the right place for him, but he’s already making the kind of progress we like to see in our students.” I agreed. The point, however, was this time around it was a team decision made with real options, which is what it’s supposed to be.

I can handle the hostility. I’m especially glad I’m not the only one who saw it—I was looking at the senior district person when the person in question started her “defense” and her face was sufficiently expressive considering I was looking for her reaction. Hopefully things will improve in that quarter now, too!

It’s Here!

  • Posted on November 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Have you ever come out of an IEP meeting only to realize you negotiated away your child’s services to get something you thought he needed more? Are you worried it’s going to happen again, because you’re not sure what you did wrong? Are you preparing for you first IEP meeting, but worried about the truly horrific IEP stories you’ve heard?

You don’t need to worry anymore! Dr. Vaughn K. Lauer, a renowned expert in special education, has written a great guide that will teach you how to work with teachers, therapists, and administrators to get the services your child needs—all of them! Using real stories gathered from real people, Dr. Lauer shows readers how IEP meetings can go wrong and teaches readers what they can do to make sure their IEP meetings go right—every time!

When the School Says No, How to Get the Yes!: Securing Special Education Services for Your Child
by Dr. Vaughn K. Lauer

Packed full of stories from parents, advocates, and school staff, this book lays out a structured, collaborative process that IEP teams can follow to determine what a child needs and how to provide services that meet those needs each and every time.

*Please note: One of the contributing stories is mine. I also edited the book. I am biased, but I do not profit from your purchase.

Meeting Results

  • Posted on October 16, 2013 at 8:00 PM

The meeting was a success! There, I saved you some suspense. Now, let’s take a look at what made the meeting a success.

Unlike a typical IEP meeting, we didn’t spend a lot of time going over what we knew. We met, conversed cordially until everyone got there, and then dug right into the new data. The school psychologist was the one to collect the new data. I worked with a different psychologist with Willy, but this was someone new, someone not familiar with Alex and his interactions.

The pinching that she observed was consistent with the normal behaviors we’d seen before. In other words, Alex didn’t attack anyone, which is what he’d done to start this process. So, for the first part of the meeting we concentrated on strategies to address these typical behaviors with the hope of extinguishing them.

In other words, we followed the data we had and came up with solutions using that data to:

  1. Determine the additional data we needed.
  2. Use what we currently knew to re-address our strategies.

After listening to the input from a variety of the specialists present at the meeting, a new approach became clear in my mind:

  • We know that Alex engages in pinching at times of apparent disorder.
  • We know that Alex tends to target certain individuals and we speculate that this targeting is due to the specific, predictable responses he receives.
  • We also know that Alex needs copious amounts of positive sensory stimulation to stay regulated and that Alex responds negatively to normal classroom sensory stimulation (different sensory stimuli in each case).
  • We know that Alex now receives positive sensory stimulation in response to pinching and we speculate that this has reinforced the pinching behavior.

From this, we concluded that Alex craves more predictability than he is currently being provided with and that we could provide this predictability by increasing the structure in his school day. We also recognized that Alex’s attention span doesn’t last a full hour, so the structure we add needs to be a shorter cycle than the typical way the school segments time. We also wanted to provide Alex with more consistency, sufficient positive sensory stimulation, modeling of appropriate behaviors, and opportunities to improve his communication skills.

A two-fold approach resulted from these conclusions:

  1. We would create a repeating cycle of predictable events that Alex can rely on. The cycle will be flexible, both progressively and functionally. This means that the same cycle will be used throughout the day, regardless of what the academic or therapeutic expectations are. It also means that the cycle will expand and contract according to Alex’s needs. For example, he’ll have shorter periods of sensory stimulation and longer periods of academic work as needed.
  2. Staff schedules will be managed to provide Alex with consistent adult support, so that the same people will be made available to Alex from day to day.

These two approaches answered the question, “How are we going to provide what Alex needs while we shape the behaviors we want to see.”

These conclusions updated the behavioral intervention plan that we had been using to better meet Alex’s current needs. There was a celebratory atmosphere for a moment. We were confident and enthusiastic about our new solutions. But it seemed premature to me. We still needed a third component to break the current pattern, and we needed it to be something that could address the more extreme situations, should they reoccur, like the one that made this meeting so urgent.

The vice principal had been silent throughout the meeting. He was there as an authority of the school’s and he hadn’t contributed yet. It was at this moment, when we had determined two of the three components I felt were necessary, that he spoke up to remind everyone why we were here. His voice was like a dash of cold water on the team.

I wish I could quote him, because he spoke very well. He approved of our strategies, but reminded us that Alex lived in a larger environment that included people who would not be as understanding or appreciative of Alex’s unique needs. After the severity of the last incident and previous relatively minor incidents where Alex sought out strangers to pinch, his concern was that there could be potential blow-back and that the school had to demonstrate a level of responsiveness to this aggressive behavior that had not yet been addressed.

In short, he was the authority person reminding us of the big picture. At the same time, he asserted himself as a member of the team, as well, by reinforcing that he, personally, was sympathetic and appreciative of Alex. He also said something that suggested he is also the parent of a child with autism. The cumulative result was that, while he was supportive of the work we’d just done, he has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of those Alex might hurt.

I respected his approach. He handled the situation well and successfully got us on a track that made it possible to address the serious concern that brought us to this meeting, even though we didn’t have any new data to use. Everyone seemed somewhat at a loss on how to go from here. Alex doesn’t really respond to traditional disciplinary action. Nobody really wanted the consequence to be Alex being sent home, both because it’s ineffective as a consequence (more of a reward than a punishment) and because it deprives Alex of school time for something he really doesn’t (to our knowledge) understand.

It was a difficult situation. It took me a while to express what I was thinking. As parents, we’d tried so many different discipline techniques and nothing had worked. Well, almost nothing. The one thing that had worked wasn’t something we really used on a regular basis. I tried it awhile back. It wasn’t planned. It was simply necessary. Occasionally, I would use it again when the situation warranted. Attacking someone for no apparent reason we could recognize seemed to warrant it.

Alex likes cars, especially when they are moving. When he was younger, he would walk out into the street to take a closer look if we didn’t catch him first. One time, I got to him just short of the street, took him back to the porch, and sat him down on our steps. With “hard hands,” I put his arms down and made him sit, watching the cars from the safety of the porch. It wasn’t so much a form of restraint as it was firm, authoritative physical contact. When he tried to get up, I said, “No. Stop. Danger.” Short, simple words that I knew he could understand. My face was stern. My voice was firm. It was the closest thing to discipline that ever worked with Alex. And I described it to them in as much detail as I could.

Together, we discussed ways to implement this technique in the classroom. What it would look like (like a time-out within the environment), what Alex’s response would be (yes, he would get angry), and what the result would be (Alex would calm down and would recognize that he had been stopped). We spent time discussing how it would work and recognized that it could be implemented right away.

We had the third and final component. That, along with increased data collection, will prepare us to meet again at the end of this month for his IEP. We’ll see how these strategies are working and we will fine-tune them with the new data we’re collecting. We’re optimistic.

Another IEP Post

  • Posted on November 16, 2012 at 10:41 PM

So, I was all worried about Alex’s IEP. I buzzed in my co-author’s ear (who is writing a book about IEPs, which I’m editing) for I don’t know how long.

See, the few times Alex’s work was sent home it looked altogether too much like what Alex has been doing for years. And I do mean years. Year after year, Alex was doing the same thing. Nothing I did to try to change that seemed to make a difference. During the last year of Alex’s elementary school career, I’d begun making some impact. At that final IEP before he transitioned to middle school, I thought I’d made a pretty strong argument that the new team took to heart. But the work that was coming home made me question that.

I put a lot of effort into preparing for the meeting, but as usual I held back to let the staff show me what their intentions were. I was surprised. Quite quickly, my concerns evaporated. My initial impression during that last IEP was correct. So, instead of working through my prepared plans, we talked. We shared our ideas, came up with new strategies to problems both new and old. I came away satisfied.

The solutions we came up with does mean more work for all of us, but it also means that we’ll pursue the opportunities Alex needs us to pursue to help him accelerate the progress he’s already making and not lose the gains he’s already achieved.

It’s time for a break-through and I think we finally have the team to make it happen!

The IEP That’s Up and Coming

  • Posted on November 12, 2012 at 9:00 AM

I thought I got through during Alex’s last IEP, his transition IEP. I thought this necessary change in schools would produce a positive change in programing. I thought the education part of Alex’s education that I’d been fighting so hard to get would finally become a priority. I feared that Ben being sent to a special program because of his behaviors would be a step in the wrong direction.

Instead, Ben is making great gains and sure to make more by the end of the year. And Alex’s program…

What is Alex’s program? I’m not entirely sure, because his schedule looks nothing like the IEP we discussed. Based on his schedule, you’d think Alex was on the fast-track to working at one of the special programs for adults with developmental disabilities in the next few years. Moving boxes, packing boxes, breaking down boxes…that seems to be what Alex is learning in school.

Reading, writing, math, science, social studies…those have seemed to take a backseat to Alex’s “education.”

I say “seem,” because I’m not sure. But I’m going to ask. I’m going to ask what progress they’ve made this year and what progress they intend to make, and then I’m going to shape their intentions to be what Alex needs. That’s the plan. Wish me luck!

The Ideal IEP Meeting

  • Posted on September 5, 2012 at 8:00 AM

So, what would the ideal IEP meeting look like for you? Would you get everything you asked for? Everything you wanted? Or would the team collaborate—discussing your child’s needs and how the school could help meet those needs—to determine what was best for your child?

How about both?

To be fair, this meeting was simply to revise Willy’s IEP to address the needs raised by his new diagnosis of epilepsy. We did not revisit goals at this time. We simply discussed his new needs and how to accommodate those needs. Even so, it went surprisingly well!

Lately, I’ve been working with a co-author on a book about special education. I have also been editing his book on IEP collaboration. I’ve learned a lot working with him, and I’m confident I have taught him a lot as well. It’s a very fruitful, effective partnership (though, not in the traditional, legal, business sense of the word).

I brought that knowledge to bear as I prepared for this IEP. I even brought along two advocates—one especially familiar with Willy and one especially familiar with epilepsy. I was prepared to negotiate. I was prepared to advocate for my son’s needs.

And I did—no negotiation needed. I was simply “given the floor.” I explained what has happened over the summer, what I knew Willy needed, what I suspected would be beneficial, and that’s what was the team agreed to do. There was a lot of discussion, but it was collaborative and productive and focused entirely on Willy’s needs—including the training the staff would need to meet Willy’s needs.

The meeting went beautifully!

Afterwards, I thought a great deal about how that happened. The “training” I’d received by working with my co-author had certainly enhanced my advocacy skills—and I’m going to provide him with a quote for his book to that effect. But, as much as my modesty would like to give him all the credit, I also have to acknowledge that there was a lot of solid groundwork that made this possible.

You see, when I go into an IEP meeting, my focus is on my children. This means that I don’t always get what I want or even what I think is right. Instead, I work with the trained professionals to get (to the best of our ability) what my children need. Some battles are longer than others—and feel very much like battles—such as the years it took to convince school staff (in thought, word, and deed) that neither Alex nor Ben were/are intellectually disabled. (Again, there’s nothing wrong with being intellectually disabled, aka retarded; but there is something wrong with assuming that a child who cannot talk is intellectually disabled and there is also something wrong with providing inappropriate services because of such an assumption.) Some battles aren’t battles at all, like graduating Willy from a one-on-one aide to a team-teaching environment. The point is, if you start with your child’s needs, then discuss how to meet those needs, and finally ensure that the services provided satisfy those needs, well, sometimes you don’t like what you get, even when you get exactly what your child needs.

I didn’t like the idea of Ben switching schools in the middle of his elementary school education. But, as the year starts and I’ve had a chance to meet with his new teacher and help prepare everyone involved for the transition, I’m confident it’s the right choice for Ben. Ben’s needs will be better met at the new school and that’s all that matters.

When you go into an IEP meeting with that attitude, when you work with staff to achieve those ends, then you build a reputation in the school district and you build a relationship with the school staff. When you provide useful input and make reasonable recommendations—versus asserting your opinions as facts and making unattainable demands—you build a foundation of trust. You respect the professionalism of those on your child’s team and you show your own “professionalism” as a parent and as an advocate for your child.

That groundwork made this ideal IEP possible. The case manager trusted me to provide useable information to the IEP team and to make reasonable recommendations. In this case, they had more questions than answers, and my answers (and the answers provided by the advocates I brought to assist in providing answers) were respected and trusted. That trust empowered them to accept all the recommendations we proposed and to propose recommendations of their own that would completely accommodate the needs we identified. We worked together, collaboratively, with Willy’s needs in mind.

In a few months, when his baseline is re-established with a new, comprehensive three-year evaluation and we sit down for a full-blown IEP meeting, things might change. By then, we’ll know more about how Willy’s epilepsy effects his education. But, for now, we’ve done all we can and we’re confident Willy’s going to have a great year!

Waiting on Transition

  • Posted on November 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM

I attended Alex’s IEP and 3-year re-evaluation on Monday. By mutual consent, the meetings were combined and the material of the IEP represented most of the re-evaluation work, simply because nobody had any doubt that Alex still qualifies for special education services.

One good thing about the 3-year re-evaluation: When one of the therapists questioned why Alex wasn’t marked as qualifying for the special education services based on cognitive disabilities criteria, it wasn’t me who had to explain. The psychologist who was sitting in as part of the re-evaluation team provided the explanation, though he wasn’t a regular part of Alex’s education team.

His explanation was simple: We don’t know. Considering Alex’s sensory, communication and social delays and difficulties—all part of the autism criteria—we cannot effectively assess his cognitive disabilities; and, so we do not officially attach that label to Alex. All simple and straightforward.

The bad thing, of course, is that this had to be said. Again. Granted, the therapist in question is new to Alex. But the dominant assumption seems to be that because Alex is placed in a CD classroom he must have cognitive disabilities. We can assume—and many people choose to do so—that because Alex cannot effectively and consistently communicate that he knows how to do something, then he must not be able to do it. Of course, we know Alex knows his numbers 1 – 50, but because he cannot consistently prove those abilities through testing procedures, his teachers continue drilling him on them.

I almost wish we knew that Alex did have cognitive disabilities. First, there’s nothing particularly wrong with cognitive disabilities. You can still live a happy, productive life with cognitive disabilities. You can still be wholly and utterly a person with cognitive disabilities. It is a disability and does pose certain limits, and those limits do tend to put a ceiling on what you can do, but with enough effort from the support personnel and enough acceptance and accommodation, you can attain a pretty awesome quality of life. (I am not suggesting that’s the norm, but that it is possible.) On the other hand, not knowing is very difficult. Imagine being a twelve-year-old boy with a normal or above-average intelligence (distinctly possible since both his parents have above-average IQs), but being unable to express that intelligence in a way meaningful to others and to be drilled daily on the most rudimentary subjects like “What color is your shirt?” and “What comes after 32?”. If it were me, I’d be very frustrated, very agitated, and sometimes I’d get very angry.

I can, just barely, imagine Alex’s desire to break through that barrier—and the frustration and anger when he can’t. One thing about typical education strategies that always frustrated me was the rule that you say what you’re going to say, then you say it, and then you say what you’ve said. While teachers generally don’t follow this rigid public-speaking form, they repeat themselves a lot. As a child, I imagined how much more time I would have to play if they’d just say it once and leave it be. I didn’t need for them to repeat, repeat, repeat the same material over and over and over again. And I didn’t realize how important it was for the other students. It was frustrating. It was annoying. When I imagine myself as Alex with a normal intelligence, stuck in this repeat-a-thon for years, it makes me want to scream. It’s so pointless, so useless, and so very frustrating.

And Alex is frustrated. He does scream. He acts out in aggressive fashion. What if it’s not an inability to regulate his sensory system? What if it’s the combined frustration of being unable to communicate and being drilled with simple concepts day in and day out? What if his inability to regulate his sensory system is, in large part, a measure of his frustration in having knowledge that he cannot express and being drilled over and over on “meaningless” tasks?

I worry that this is exactly what Alex is going through, though I cannot prove it and I seem powerless to change it. Every time I try to nudge or push or shove the teachers into experimenting to see if Alex will find more difficult material more stimulating—I hit a brick wall, almost totally immovable.

So I hope and pray that the next year, the next school, the next attempt will bring about a break-through, either for Alex and his communication abilities or for me and my need to try to up the ante.

But for all my imaginings, the reality is that Alex’s sensory system is a mystery. We’ve tried just about everything any of us has ever come across and nothing can get him calm and keep him calm for more than a few seconds or a few minutes. Willy can go 0-60 with no apparent transition or cause. Ben can go 0-80. Alex goes from 0 to 150, and he has no in-between. He’s either asleep, at the edge of sensory overload, or over the cliff speeding for the crash at the bottom of the ravine.

My little guy faces so many barriers and we’ve tried so many things. And we’re stuck waiting…waiting…waiting for someone to figure out what we can do to help him.

Bringing Neurodiversity into the Classroom

  • Posted on November 17, 2009 at 10:42 PM

A little boy steps off the bus, confused by his unexpected surroundings.  This year—the year he starts kindergarten—the bus stops at the backdoor of a new school, instead of the front entrance of his neighborhood school, after a much longer bus ride.  Maybe he knows he’s being ushered into this new school through the backdoor, maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe he even knows the classroom he enters is segregated from his peers.  We assume he doesn’t know, because he doesn’t talk about it, because he can’t talk about it.  You see, this little boy is my own son, and he is autistic.  We assume he’s unaware that he’s being treated differently (not equally), but we can’t be sure.  Of one thing I am sure:  If he’s not aware of it now, he will be aware of it when he’s older, just like the many autistic adults speaking in favor of neurodiversity.

Unlike past forms of segregation, my son doesn’t spend his entire day in the special education room.  He visits the regular classroom and his peers are told that, even though he doesn’t stay in their room, he is part of their class.  He comes in with an aide who helps him participate.  Then, when it’s all too much, she takes him away.  The school system recognizes his educational needs differ from those of his peers and claims those needs cannot be met in a regular classroom.  I know my son’s needs are not met in a regular classroom, but does that really mean they cannot be?  I grew up learning that “different but equal” is not equal at all.  Sadly, that doesn’t apply to my children or others like them, because our society fails to recognize people with atypical neurological development as equals at all.

Some refer to this forced inequality as disabilism and see it manifested in pervasive ways throughout our society.  Disablism refers to the societal tendency to single out, exclude or mistreat people with impairments, because of those impairments.  Segregated classrooms for the cognitively disabled are only one example of disablism.  Disabilism is institutionalized into the public education system, in part, by the behavior of teachers, service providers, and administrators that Dr. Thomas Armstrong, an educator and author out of California, calls the disability discourse, which he described as “an institutionalized discourse consisting of specific words such as ‘disability’ ‘disorder’ ‘deficit’ and ‘dysfunction’ to describe the lives of these children.”  These societal behaviors shape the environment in which all of our children learn and grow.  Telling children a segregated child is part of their class, while well-intentioned, still fails to integrate that child into their class.

Unfortunately, the regular classroom is not only designed to exclude specific students from the learning environment it fails to include any child in the learning environment.  The public school system is designed to teach standardized curricula.  It is not designed to teach the individual students expected to learn that curricula.  Individual teachers can transform that environment into something special, but this ability is not a requirement for employment and often the resources to do so must be found outside the public school system.  This fundamental flaw is not the fault of individual teachers, principals, or school boards, but is built into the educational system itself.

Our children are unique with individual needs that can only be met when they are treated as people, instead of a homogenized group.  Our children do not come standardized.  Yet, our educational goals and the learning environment we create to meet those goals are standardized.  Our children get pushed through the system regardless of what they learn.  Unless, of course, their needs stand out so much that the system rejects them.  The child who does not and cannot fit the standardized mold is diverted into the special education system.  There, they face the unfortunate reality that they are not deemed equal in our society.  They are different, but not equal; and disabilism and the disability discourse shape their futures.

Neurodiversity is a two-fold concept that can change the public educational system for all children.  Neurodiversity refers to a civil rights movement crafted by autistics that seeks true equality for people with cognitive disorders and mental illnesses—founded on the belief that neurological differences are natural human variations and deserve the rights, accommodations, and acceptance any other human difference deserves.  Neurodiversity also recognizes that neurological development is not standardized.  Everyone develop unique neurological processes that should be recognized, respected, and facilitated.

Everyone is neurologically diverse.  Everyone has unique educational needs our education system fails to meet.  Instead of designing an education system that meets the individual needs of our children, we have designed an education system that meets societal needs for measurements, cost-control, and resource allocation.  Changes to IEP legislation that require recording strengths as well as needs, separating a grade into groups that study different levels of mathematics or reading, using inclusive language, and telling students that those segregated in the special education system are part of their class address surface issues.  But the problem goes much, much deeper.  Our education system is fundamentally flawed.  It does not meet, nor is it designed to meet, the needs of the students we wish to educate.

Our children deserve an education system designed to meet their individual learning needs.  Our children deserve a learning environment that teaches children, not curricula.  Our children deserve teachers that are trained and qualified to teach them as individuals, recognizing and meeting their individual education needs.  An Individual Education Plan shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for students with special needs, but should be provided to all students.  Our school systems need holistic change.  We need to re-think how we teach, what we teach, and who we are teaching.  We need to rethink the qualifications our educators need and we need to rethink the needs our schools should be required to meet. 

Change comes slowly and painfully.  Holistic change may be easy to envision, but it is very difficult to achieve.  It won’t happen this year or next year.  But it can happen.  Change requires a lot of work, a lot of planning, and often a new allocation of resources.  An individualized education provided by well-trained, highly-qualified, and fully-resourced staff doesn’t come cheap.  But our children are our future and they are worth the work and they are worth the money.  The real question is:  Will we afford our children the respect and consideration they deserve?