Are you the parent of a child with autism or another disability that is frustrated by the special education system? More than 6 million students with disabilities receive special education services in federally funded special education programs. This is about 9% of the country’s school age population. This is a lot of children who depend on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to help them get the services that they need to live a fulfilled life. As any parent of a child with a disability knows much improvement needs to be made to the special education system. This article will discuss 6 ways to improve the special education system.
Needed to improve the special education system:
1. More available parent training and more resources to pay for the training! Parent trainings are available but in most cases do cost, which prevents some parents from attending. Parents must understand their rights under IDEA in order to be effective advocates for their child.
2. More effective enforcement of IDEA, to include the withholding of funds from states and school districts, who are continually non compliant! The enforcement of IDEA basically does not exist. It is the federal governments responsibility to enforce IDEA to the states, and it is the states responsibility to enforce IDEA of local school districts. Neither one does very much in this area. Enforcement without withholding of funds will not work. In my experience it will not take many states losing their IDEA funding, before major positive changes will occur.
3. Improved diagnosis of disabilities and an easier eligibility process! Many children with disabilities throughout the US are told that they do not have a disability, therefore are not eligible for special education services. This reality hurts children with disabilities and may forever ruin their lives! Parents often do not even know that they can disagree with the schools opinion! The eligibility process needs to be made more child friendly!
4. Special education personnel must set realistic high expectations for all children with disabilities! Congress has said from the beginning that school districts expectations of children with disabilities are too low. School personnel and parents must believe that children can be successful in their education and lives, if given an appropriate education, and keep expectations high.
5. Focus on outcomes of special education so that all children will be ready for post school learning and independent living! For the year 2005-2006 55% of children with disabilities graduated from high school, in comparison to a little over 70% of children without disabilities graduated from high school. This will limit the children’s ability to go to college or get a job, which will affect the rest of their lives!
6. Improve the federal funding of IDEA! The current estimates are that the federal government only pays about 17% of per pupil costs for special education. The federal government needs to put their money where there mouth is, and fund IDEA fully!
All parents can be involved in advocating for systemic special education improvements. Notify your state and federal representatives and see how they are willing to get involved, in this process. Children with disabilities deserve to receive an appropriate education and live their lives to the fullest!