In The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida invites the reader to “a nice trip through our world.” However, the only reason that he was able to explain autism through his point of view is that he had a parent and an educator who had the perseverance to get him the tools that he needed to tell his story. Unfortunately, my experience with the LAUSD has shown that the district is not always willing to provide special education students or their teachers with the tools that they need to allow students to achieve their full potential.
In one round to set up an Individual Education Program (IEP), we were told that since one of our daughters had not made any progress towards speech they would be REDUCING her time in speech therapy. The therapist who made this recommendation is the same one who we were told does not like to meet with parents because he stutters. While appealing this and other matters we found out that the district had evaluated my daughter for assistive technology and found that it could be useful. Unfortunately, somebody had forgotten to forward this evaluation to us and nobody at the district had implemented its findings. She is now using a tablet for communication and her teachers report that she has made a lot of progress.
We also had our other daughter evaluated for technology this year but she was turned down on the basis that she is verbal. While I agreed that she does have the ability to form words, she is unable to use these words in a conversation. Finding that she does not need assistance is the equivalent of telling a person with a spinal injury that he is not eligible for a wheelchair because he has legs. Upon further investigation, we found out that the district only evaluates if the student can communicate enough to do their classroom assignments. If we wanted to know if there is technology to assist her in the way that Naoki Higashida was helped, we needed to request a separate evaluation. This evaluation is now ongoing.
Special education is not supposed to be a babysitting service. Students cannot simply be warehoused within the schools until the state says they no longer have responsibility. The school years are the time to actively intervene to make sure that all students achieve their full potential. The price of failure will not only be felt by the students and their families but by a society that will bear a greater cost in caring for people who, because of neglect, become more reliant on the system for help than they needed to be.
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