Had a very familiar conversation with a parent of a special needs child, Jane, today. She has a daughter with autism and spent a couple years in the public system and then transferred to a private school. It's been quite a challenge finding all of the services her daughter needs to give her the best chance for a happy, fulfilled life.
Like myself, Jane was a bit overwhelmed when her daughter went into the public school system. Your autism funding drops drastically when your child turns 6 years old. The assumption is that the school system picks up where autism funding has been reduced. The reality is that there just aren't the services available within the school system to meet all of these needs.
Necessary speech and occupational therapy is at a premium. Occupational therapy is almost impossible to get at school. So, even though doctors and therapists will give recommendations, schools are not able to comply. So, what does a family do? That's a good question that many parents struggle with. What do we do? You end up making some tough choices on how to use your funding. Sometimes secondary insurance plans will provide some help and community services. You need to be a really strong advocate for your child and research programs. This isn't easy for lots of parents to do for a variety of reasons and end up frustrated and confused.
My friend Lisa has a couple children with learning disabilities. They have had major challenges getting what they need at school. I have another friend Sue, who is told to keep her child home 1/2 day because the school isn't able to deal with all of her son's needs. Because of this, Sue is unable to work and they need extra help from the government to get by. You may be surprised, but schools telling parents to keep their kids home is not as uncommon as you might think. I need to check and see if there are any stats on this.
How do these kids get what they need? Who is advocating for them? There has to be options and there needs to be somebody helping these families through the maze of education and community services.
Programs for special needs kids need to improve. Childcare for special needs kids needs to improve. With lack of funding in education and community service sectors, we need to build stronger relationships with businesses and our communities.
I'm not sure exactly what the answers are, but I'm looking forward to hearing what candidates propose in this upcoming election.