We Are The Parents Of Students With Disabilities And We Need Your Help (3/28/22)

Students with disabilities need your help. There is an amazing group of parents, advocates, and attorneys who battle tirelessly for the rights of students with disabilities (“SWDs”). But it’s challenging connecting with all of the parents of SWDs much less with parents of typical children. And for us to make real change in the educational system, we need the help of ALL parents not just the parents of SWDs. Why should Parents of typical children help? There are some very strong reasons.

Schools are chronically underfunded. The cost of special education does contribute to this. Some schools use this as a wedge issue between parents of typical students and parents of students with disabilities, claiming that providing the services for an SWD will prevent the school district from properly providing for typical students. This is usually said while the school district is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation, defending their refusal to provide an SWD with the services they need.

School Districts will spend thousands or millions of dollars on legal fees defending their actions rather than spending that money on improving the detection of SWDs and providing appropriate services once the students are identified.  There is also a societal cost. What do you think costs more? Providing the proper educational services for students between the ages of 3 and 18 (along with helping them become more independent and better equipped to function in society) or the societal cost of caring for people with disabilities from ages of 18 to 80, people who have not received services that could have helped while they were students.

There’s another cost associated with SWDs. Though the majority of students with disabilities will not become involved with delinquent or criminal behavior, it is estimated that 60 to 75 percent of the youths in the juvenile justice system have one or more diagnosable disabilities. A common element amongst these youths is the inadequate school support they have received in treating the disability. Imagine the cascading positive effects if delinquent and criminal behavior could be significantly reduced by better screening and treatment of children with disabilities at a young age.

It’s been suggested that people such as Einstein, Kubrick, and Bill Gates had Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I think of the thousands of SWDs that aren’t receiving the services they need to succeed, I wonder how many more Einsteins are unable to reach their true potential. Are we missing out on groundbreaking new treatments for cancer or new methods of space travel or whatever else because of our short-sightedness?

Every student deserves the right to a free appropriate public education. The vast majority of special education students (80–85%) can meet the same achievement standards as other students if they are given specially designed instruction and appropriate access as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The laws are in place. We just need the will to enforce the laws and the funding to deliver these services. But that won’t happen until ALL parents put pressure on the system to make it happen.

How can busy parents help? Let’s start with an understanding that the fight for the rights of SWDs is not just a fight for the parents of SWDs but for all Parents to engage in.  If services improve for SWDs, it will have immeasurable positive effects in our schools and in our society. Everyone will win.

We need your help! Please join us.