Yesterday was our annual review and transition meeting from CPSE to CSE with the district. The whole process literally sucks the joy out of parenting my beautiful boys who happened to have been born with an extra 21st chromosome, a genetic condition known as Down syndrome.
Now it’s true that the extra chromosomal material results in a syndrome of possible common conditions and/or symptoms for those born with it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone with Down syndrome is the same or has the same medical, cognitive, or social/emotional characteristics as anyone else with Down syndrome. It doesn’t mean that everyone with Down syndrome should be tucked quietly away into a special needs classroom separate from all the other “regular children” — a phrase actually USED during my meeting and, whether it was meant that way or not, demeans children with Down syndrome and keeps them away (just like the institutions of yesterdayyear) from the general population instead of a making them a natural part of it… as it should be. Children with special needs should be embraced instead of hidden.
It’s also true that the current Best Practices research supports educating children with Down syndrome — and other children with special needs — alongside their typical peers. That’s why the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) law was created. Because it has been proven over and over again that educating children with special needs works BEST when they have peer role models to help them model the desired behaviors. The best outcomes academically and socially/emotionally occur when children with special needs are educated alongside their typical peers with appropriate supports in place to help them succeed. It’s more effective AND less expensive!
So WHY does the CPSE-CSE committee insist on committing children with special needs to segregated classes and schools? Because the whole process is self-sustaining. At least in New York it is. New York is ranked 2nd in the United States for segregating children with special needs from the general population with regards to education. Without giving you an in depth history lesson, New York had the money to build and staff an intricate special education brick and mortar infrastructure to educate individuals with special needs after institutionalization lost favor as a best practice many many…. MANY years ago. Although research now shows that the education of children with special needs is most effective when it occurs side-by-side with typically developing children (as I said previously), New York continues to support and defend it’s segregated special education infrastructure… Committing children with special needs to segregated educational environments — schools and/or classrooms — ensuring that the schools continue to exist, the classrooms continue to be staffed and the special education teachers continue to teach based on antiquated practices… certainly NOT Best Practice inclusion principles. You see, a lot of people would lose their jobs — or the nature of their jobs would change — if we actually did what’s best for our children with special needs.
The CPSE-CSE is run by professionals in the special education arena. Their own jobs depend on sustaining the segregated environments New York and so many other states have supported for too many years. I choose NOT to be a part of this. I CHOOSE to be part of the solution in moving New York State forward and toward actually implementing best practices in educating children with Down syndrome and other children with special needs. It may take me awhile, but I WILL make a difference. I and my two boys will NOT succumb to illegal and ill-informed practices. One step, one class assignment, one child (or two in my case) at a time. I will not waiver because the future of MY children rely on ME to step up and fight for them… To make sure the CPSE-CSE committees and other education powers-that-be do what is right and best for them and others like them.
Join me. I’m on a mission to do what’s best for my children and for all children with special needs despite the ill-informed efforts of the state’s education system! I can’t fail… I can’t afford to! My boys’ lives depend on it.