Reimagining Education

I am not Superman

I often hear myself saying, ‘CEAM receives calls on a regular basis from parents….’  These calls stop me dead in my tracks.  Last Thursday, by the time I got home, I was emotionally spent and all I had left was tears.

On Thursday, I returned a call to another Mother in St. Louis city who called about her son.  They (parents) all call because of concerns about their children hoping that when I answer, I will be the one who can finally help them.  They are looking for their own ‘Superman’, just like the one who was noted missing in ‘Waiting for Superman’, the recent Davis Guggenheim documentary on public education being screened across the country, showing now in St. Louis until at least 10/28 (call to see if extended beyond that date).

I am not sure how this woman came upon CEAM and didn’t get the chance to ask.  She has no access to a computer.  Someone must’ve told her about about our financial assistance and parent training program, as I finally realized during this lengthy conversation that this woman was panicked and seeking an alternative that she now does not have.  So, what happened?

There was some kind of ruckus on the playground, preceding this call, involving a group of 16 children.  Though this woman says she has 3 witnesses affirming that her son had nothing to do with it, he has been somehow identified by his school as one of the 16 that is now facing the possibility of expulsion.  She told me her son is 11 year old, has an ADD diagnosis and an IQ of 18.  He also has no history of bad behavior.

When I shared this sad story with special education specialists (no less than 3 of them), they all winced and said either she meant that her son has an IQ of 81 or her son was not properly diagnosed.  She says she has had some parent training, but she was seeking an advocate for her child.  For if he is expelled, what will she be able to do for him?  She also said that the school’s designated representatives do not show up for her son’s IEP meetings.

I was able to make some personal recommendations based on what I know already about who in Missouri provides support, but the fact of the matter is that resources are scarce and one must be trained to advocate in this education bureaucracy.  I am not in a position to provide direct intervention and immediate consult/relief, which is what they all seek.  They are often pretty desperate by the time the calls come in.  They need help now.

All I could do was provide some phone numbers to help them find that superman and put this woman on our list to mail out applications in April when we finally launch our program.  But what about right now?  What about all those kids we will have to turn away because they do not live in the St. Louis metro area or because demand well exceeds our funds?  What about the Mother I met from Hillsboro whose 12 year old daughter with autism is sent to a state school that does not have teachers trained to advance her non-verbal child, nor an appropriate curriculum nor therapeutic services necessary?  Or the child in Union who did not receive a proper diagnosis of autism until he was in 5th grade?  I have not even met that family~a friend told me about this.  The 5th grade boy has a history of having been restrained, drugged and isolated.

I hate that I am not Superman because if I was I could swoop in and save these children by stopping that freight train that is their destiny.  I don’t want to tell anyone that Superman really does not exist.  Choice options like charter schools serving special needs learners, or open enrollment, at least for this demographic, and expanded scholarship funding would benefit these children and their families.  From a long-term perspective, society would benefit financially by advancing children to their fullest potential and independence.

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