|Home > Ask the Advocate > Am I Being Selfish in Asking for Services for my Child by Pat Howey|
I Being Selfish for Asking for Services for my Child?
individual advocacy, case by case, parent by parent approach does
work, although it is a slow process. Parents must remember that when
they achieve a new benefit, program, or related service for their
own child, the "system" often justifies its actions by finding
other children who can also benefit from what it is being required
to provide for your child. If your child needs a particular service,
device, or assistance, he or she is likely not the only child in need.
I call this the domino effect. Schools call it opening
1987, when we requested a due process hearing for our child, a key
issue was whether she needed a laptop computer. (This was way before
the words, assistive technology were in the laws). In
settlement negotiations during the hearing, the school agreed to provide
the computer. However, moral of this story is that the school did
not purchase just one computer; it purchased three. Two other children
ultimately benefited from what were able to obtain for our child.
Many other children have since received laptop computers to assist
them in their education.
second key issue was whether my child required Adaptive Physical Education
(APE). At the time of the hearing in 1987, no APE was provided to
any child in the entire county. The hearing officer ruled that my
child did require adaptive physical education and by the next school
year, the school had hired a physical education teacher with a masters
degree in adaptive physical education. Since 1988, APE has been provided
to hundreds of children within the county.
third key issue was whether my child required direct Physical Therapy
(PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT). At the time of the hearing, the
school contracted with a physical and occupational therapist for six
hours each per week. My child was the only child in the entire county
who was receiving direct physical and occupational therapy. Those
who had physical or occupational therapy listed on their Individual
education plans were served by a "consultation" model. A
gross motor aide who was paid minimum wage and who was
required to have at least a General Equivalency (GED) or High School
diploma provided exercises. The hearing officer ruled
that my child required direct services. As a result, since 1988, hundreds
of children in the county have received services from full time and
part time, OTs. PTs, Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA)
and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA). The school has
at least two full time physical and occupational therapists on staff
throughout the entire year. Many, many children now receive PT and
OT direct services. Some continue to receive "exercises"
from a gross motor aide, but those parents most likely do not know
what their children are receiving.
the fall of 2000, approximately thirteen years following our hearing,
I happened to meet a retired teacher who remembered our hearing. She
actually thanked me, stating as a direct result of our hearing she
was able to obtain services for her kids that she had never before
been able to obtain.
hearing was well publicized. It was open to the public with television
cameras and radio reporters in attendance. We invited parents to attend,
so that they would be able to see what an actual hearing was all about.
After our hearing, six other parents requested hearings. Some were
settled. Others went to hearing. Many other parents filed successful
state and OCR complaints. Two superintendents eventually retired or
resigned, we elected at least four new school board members, and the
director of sped chose early retirement.
am in no way advocating that all parents take public stances with
their school disputes. That is an individual decision that each parent
must make based on the issues and facts that relate to their own case.
In 1987, my child was in the second grade. None of her friends read
the paper or watched the news. The publicity had little impact on
her. Had she been older, our decision to be so public in our dispute
with the school would likely have been different to protect her privacy.
However, for those who have strong family support and courage to publicize
their sped issues, your bravado can provide quite a learning experience
for other parents of children with special needs. You will make some
enemies. You will make some new friends. You will learn quite clearly
who your true friends are.
advocacy does make a systemic impact. Sometimes the impact will be
greater than you ever would believe. It is, however, a slow, slow
process. It is one that has taught me more about patience than any
other experience in my life. Thats why I continue to go through
life Changing the World One Child at a Time.
"Changing the World -- One Child at at Time."
© 2005 Pat Howey