This month Kelly M. is being spotlighted for her strong will and dedication to advocacy. Kelly has two children who have received Early Intervention (EI) and Special Education services. However, her experience has been far but favorable, which has contributed to her dedicating her time and effort to advocate for better EI and special education services not just for her children but for other children as well.
“As a parent of two children, one with a 504 plan and the other in special education, several issues are important to me. One is early intervention and education for parents. The other is funding for special education. Third is inclusive and teaching other children about our kids and the day-to-day struggles they go through. A fourth is providing resources and transportation during staff shortages. A fifth concern is communication among teachers regarding IEP and 504 plans.
Early intervention is essential for our kids. This allows kids early access to play catch up on skills they may be delayed in. This also allows early diagnosis for our children with developmental delays, as sometimes it can be a waitlist for a medical diagnosis. Early intervention offers a wide range of services from speech, OT, PT, etc. My personal experience with early intervention allowed my son to get speech services and an assessment for autism. If I did not get him assessed by the school, he would have waited to close to a year just to be diagnosed with autism. For children with autism, early intervention is vital.
The second concern I have is funding. Most parents cannot afford services that are recommended for their children. Therapies that are recommended are often time-consuming and interfere with working hours. When a child is diagnosed with autism or ADD, it is recommended they start to go to therapy. Therapy is essential for our kids because, for children on the spectrum, it teaches them ways to handle the behavioral issues they may have and teaches them how to recognize their emotions. For kids with ADD, it teaches them life management skills. Both ADD and ASD therapy also helps with executive functioning and possible anxiety, which generally runs hand in hand with ASD and ADD.
The third issue is inclusion and educating children in regular education about children with special needs. For parents with special needs children, we feel that our kids spend a lot of their time masking and learning to fit in. Still, society does not accept them despite our children being the world’s next leaders. I want the next generation to be accepting of all abilities. For us to reach that is to educate our kids on acceptance of kids with different abilities and educate them on the day-to-day struggles and stemming from kids with ASD. Also, educate them on ways that kids with ASD sometimes communicate. Communication does not always consist of speaking; some have their language or may even communicate through an electronic device or sign language.
Another area of interest to me is transportation and staff shortage. The pandemic has allowed the US to see the disparities within certain communities. When I say communities, I am not talking about economics but a community in the sense of the special needs community. A lot of children were left behind and forgotten. Children who only benefit from in-person learning were set back by a week in January 2022. The Rochester City School District had some schools go remotely for one to two weeks. For our kids, it is a major setback. Our kids struggle to focus can and have regressed motor skills. I felt that our kids with special needs should have been given top priority; the special education classes should not have gone remote; they should have been open.
A fifth issue that is a concern of mine is communication. Often teachers are not being told that a student has a 504 plan. Sometimes teachers are not going by the 504 plan because they are not given notification on the 504 plan. I also feel providing stronger communication and training for support staff on how to deescalate when children are having a meltdown or struggling to focus is an area that we should and could advocate for.
I am interested in fighting for more education for parents. Raising a child with a developmental delay does not come with a handbook. Parents often feel worried or that they are to blame. You want to help your child but often don’t know-how. Parents and family members often have misconceptions and get stressed. This can be seen a lot in minority communities like mine.”
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The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.