We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and sow forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Banish hate and it its place plant love, thereby making the present comfortable and the future promising. ~ Maya Angelou
In the context of IDEA reauthorization, our children and their own experiences are living history.
Each day, the very second that our children with disabilities leave our homes and head off to school, historical moments in the history of disability culture and education are unfolding. Every move (assisted or not), every spoken word, every pause of silence, every gesture of assistance, every roadblock of resistance, every moment of loneliness, every celebration of social belonging, every wasted teachable moment, and every gain at school that deeply enriches the meaning of lifelong learning are all historical moments in time.
The irony in all of this is that while our children are living the actual history, some outsiders seem to feel confident enough to provide “expert” commentary about our children and us, often without ever engaging either our children or us in critical dialogue before doing so! What is so damaging to our children is that some of these folks, who look to advance their careers and power through our children with disabilities, are not consistently open-minded enough to tell a credible story, nor are they experienced enough (in a broad-brush sense) to see all of the facets that impact the lives of children like ours, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Yet many of these self-affirmed experts and lobbyists for the industry of special education strategically end up in the little black address books of reporters and legislators. So, when stories need to be written or advice needs to be obtained in order to meet writing deadlines for press or legislative bodies, who do you think gets called, them or us? Well, we already know that it isn’t always families who live with disability issues, struggles, successes, and outcomes who get that all-important call.
We, as families who have students with disabilities and as those who care for them, need to make a sweeping concentrated effort at working harder to get our contact information into those little black books. We need to be the ones who are called. And, most importantly, we need to emerge as the folks whom reporters, legislators, and others seek out for primary source information. They need to learn to listen and trust us for the ultimate truth and credibility when it comes to writing stories and legislation pertaining to our own children.
One way we can ensure that the present history for our children is going to be told accurately is by telling the stories ourselves. This is the reason that the Our Children Left Behind team asks you, your children, and advocates for children to share experiences with legislators, policymakers, campaign managers, and the press. We have found, after talking to some people in these types of roles, that they just truly do not always understand the whole picture from the lens of our children and families. It has been a pleasure to help educate them on family perspectives pertaining to IDEA reauthorization.
So if you are tired of having other people speak for our children and families, take a deep breath and continue sharing your stories with everyone that you can. We will too. Together with you, we will help document our own families’ living histories and not allow someone else to do it for us.
Our Children Left Behind [OCLB] was created and is owned/operated by parent volunteers (Shari Krishnan, Tricia & Calvin Luker, Sandy Alperstein, and Debi Lewis). Permission to forward, copy, and/or post this article is granted provided that it is unedited and attributed to the author(s) and www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com. For more about OCLB or to share information, please contact parentvolunteer@....