There is a great deal of good intentions that came out of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). In theory, the concept that children with disabilities should be educated, as often as possible, in an environment alongside their non-disabled peers (the LRE or Least Restrictive Environment), was conceptually an amazing idea that would hopefully help children with disabilities thrive alongside their classmates. In practice, for many children, it has been a disaster. There are many places that you can take a deep dive and learn about all the repercussions of this decision such as this link. In the end, there are always going to be pros and cons when it comes to pursuing this type of adaptation, but there are so many children being left behind. My youngest is one of them.
I get it. We all have stress in one way or another. I just went back to work (at an secret, undisclosed location) and while I’m enjoying it immensely, there is a new aspect to this that adds a layer of stress. I have to coordinate school drop off and pick ups, driving them back and forth to work (neither of them drive due to their autism and other anxiety issues) and now my schedule. While I don’t consider things to be difficult, it’s still stressful. For my youngest, this school year has been nothing short of disaster.
When a child has issues such as learning disabilities, autism, severe anxiety and now, major depression, this can obviously have a detrimental impact on their education. Her school has never worked to place her in classes that she could succeed in, and for the most part, she has passed with just a few numbers in the grade to spare. No matter how little she gleaned from the class, she was always promoted without question, despite having no idea what it was she was supposed to have learned from the class. This year? They have placed her in two advanced placement/honors level courses for computer science and physics. She has a learning disability in math and it’s quite profound. So, I do not understand the logic for this. They claim that they are the “only classes available that meet the criteria for her to graduate”. So, where is the appropriate in “free and appropriate education”? The classes do not meet her needs, and she became despondent and has even stopped going to school. For anyone who may have dropped out, know someone who has or otherwise dealt with this issue, it is a detriment in this society for finding a quality job and career. Yes, the GED is an option, but that is also an intense situation to complete as well.
Now I’m back to this concept again for the second time. The first time I homeschooled my now almost 18 year old, she was a freshman and being relentlessly bullied. The incident that propelled me to remove her, was when a student threatened to stab her if she stepped foot on the school campus, as well as saying they would look for her to stab her. The police and the school did nothing, as it was sadly considered hearsay. So, I pulled her from school, filled out the forms to homeschool her, and was basically left on my own. Thanks! (yeah, I’m still a bit bitter about that) So, now I’m faced with another dilemma, except this time, I *think* I have more information to help me. Since this time, she is sadly dealing with an intense emotional disorder, there is something called “Home and Hospital”. This will allow her to hopefully still “attend” school, but officially remotely. I have to get countless forms filled out by her mental health professionals, but I’m hoping this will be the catalyst to get her back to being educated.
There is nothing that would ever compel me to give up on this, but I will tell you that after more than two decades of constantly advocating for my two youngest children in the world of developmental disabilities, all I can say is I don’t know how people can continue to accept these types of situations as the norm. While I most certainly do not want to see a return to the horrifying institutions of old, where people with disabilities were horribly mistreated and basically tossed aside as a burden to be put into centers to sit and languish, there has to be some sort of middle ground. Not every child is going to graduate and head off to college or other training. Some children just want to graduate and move into a career that is satisfying and productive.
I realize that things are under a great deal of strain and misery with the pandemic, so this type of issue is not at the forefront when it comes to getting help for children with disabilities. Countless children are suffering from anxiety and depression due to the lockdowns and other issues that are ongoing. Until this horrible pandemic moves into a manageable phase, I know that there will be no long-lasting change to existing policies. I just wish my child would be able to emerge from this with at least a diploma and the realization that her best WAS good enough.