One year ago tomorrow, I wrote my biggest article ever. Entitled US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States’ Special Education Rights, it generated numerous hits from across the country. I imagine just about every engaged parents of children with disabilities read that article. It was a warning shot. It impeded on the ability of IEP teams to accurately and correctly formulate an IEP. The latest “Dear Colleague” letter from the United States Department of Education is actually striking the hammer into the coffin of IDEA. The letter, written by Melody Musgrove, the Direct of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), demands all IEPs be written with the state standards as part of the goals for an IEP. I find this to be incredibly offense and this spits on the whole concept of IDEA.
In Delaware, where I live, our Department of Education released their Annual Measurable Objectives last week based on growth and proficiency of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While overall they want the proficiency rate to go from 50% to 75% in six years, for the sub-group of students with disabilities, they want them to go from 19% to 59% in six years. So students with disabilities will have to work harder than every single one of their peers.
The combination of these two announcements shows that those in power in education truly don’t understand neurobiological disorders and disabilities. It almost seems as if they want to get rid of the whole concept of special education in favor of personalized learning. As well, it appears they want parents to pull their kids out of public education. Is this some twisted voucher program that no one has told us about, or do they just not care about the well-being of these students? I’m all for progress and improvement, but there comes a point in time where every long-distance runner hits a wall. When they hit that, their body literally breaks down. Students with disabilities are going to hit that wall and it won’t be pretty.
For children who have sensory processing disorder, sometimes the environment becomes more than they can handle. Add some anxiety to that, and it can cause an explosion in the brain. This happens to children with this disorder numerous times and can happen several times a day. When teachers see this, do they know the best thing to do? Most parents will tell you the children need space and not to crowd them.
I’ve heard these children say “I can’t breathe.” For these children, they are obviously breathing, but their mind doesn’t register that. They have so much going on in their synapses and they don’t know how to let it flow it naturally. Everything gets stuck in there and it becomes too much for them. Have you ever tried breathing underwater? Unless you have protective gear on, you can’t. This is what it’s like for these children when they hit this wall. Now imagine an adult coming over and telling them to snap out of it or to pay attention. This becomes an added bit of pressure to an already insurmountable situation.
Teachers and administrators at schools need to understand this. They need to be fully aware of these situations so they don’t become worse. I’ve seen where children are at this point and an adult, usually unknowingly, makes the whole ordeal much worse. The next time you see a student get like this, try just doing nothing, or softly ask them if they want to take a walk, either by themselves or with someone they trust. You would be surprised what will happen.
We’ve been hearing the rumblings for months now. Too much power at the top, too many disgruntled folks down below. They’ve seen so many changes to already implemented plans, and they are frustrated. Seems a couple groups in the organization have recently stepped up to the plate letting others know they aren’t happy with the way things are being done. But now quite a few other groups are getting ready to assemble with them. They want change, and they want it now. They want their messages heard loud and clear. They want clarity and transparency. They are actually very sick of the way Governor Markell is controlling the landscape on their turf, and they want it known. Of course they can’t stick it to him, but to those at his beck and call they most certainly can. Do they have some people at the top who will bend, or will the power continue to control?