Fwd: Re: CDCAN NEWS CLIP: LA Times Column on Special Education and Father's Efforts for his Son
- "Marty Omoto (Director - CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network)" <martyomoto@...> wrote: To: <CDCANreportlist01@...>
Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2007 16:16:29 -0800
From: "Marty Omoto (Director - CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network)" <martyomoto@...>
Subject: Re: CDCAN NEWS CLIP: LA Times Column on Special Education and
Father's Efforts for his Son
CDCAN LogoCalifornia Disability
Community Action Network
Advocacy Without Borders: Connecting People With Disabilities, Mental
Health Needs, Seniors, Traumatic Brain and other injuries, Families,
Workers, Providers, Organizations, and Advocates to Rights and Unified
NEWS CLIPS & COMMENTS
January 8, 2007 Monday
Edited/Written By: MARTY OMOTO, Director/Organizer
To Respond to THIS email report reply to: martyomoto@... CDCAN
The Los Angeles Times published today in its California Section a Bob
Sipchen "School and Me" column on the struggle of a father in getting
his young son the special education he desperately needs. Over 650,000
children with special needs are enrolled in California special education
Comment by Marty Omoto on column:
The issue of special education for a child of special needs might seem
to be uncomplicated for those who never had to deal with the sometimes
bending and twisting road to either getting it or in providing it.
* With limited and precious time to make a difference in the lives of
their children with special needs, many families often face school
districts in a relationship that is often adversarial and confrontational.
* Enormous barriers exist for thousands of families who do not
understand their children's rights to special education that is free,
appropriate and as inclusive as possible, and tremendous obstacles often
remain even when they do know. This is especially true for families of
different cultures and languages.
* For schools, there are thousands of good administrators, special
education program staff and teachers across California who work enormous
hours to stretch sometimes limited resources and funding. And there are
some who don't.
* The consequences for children who cannot get the special education
they need and have a right to is enormous - as it is for children
without disabilities. A good education and interventions at a young age
can make all the difference in the world in whether or not a child with
special needs is able to live a more independent life as he or she ages
into adulthood. It can mean the difference of someone who can actually
be employed and be paid for work. It can mean the difference in living
on their own and making their own choices. It can mean a difference on
whether or not a family member needs to stay home or is able to return
to their careers.
* No story in any article or column can possibly be complete. There are
many stories. The story in this column by Bob Sipchen tells of one
father's struggle for his young son. who says "I will never give up". In
the last analysis, that is a feeling we all should share - the good
parents and families who are struggling to find hope and answers and
those good special education people who are trying to make a
difference. That's why families fight so hard sometimes. We can't give
up on our children.
Where to go for more information:
Reprints of Column:
* For reprints of the column, go to the Los Angeles Times (local news)
website at www.latimes.com (it will be also posted on the CDCAN website
* CDCAN will be focusing a CDCAN Advocacy Without Borders Townhall
Telemeeting on special education issues in the coming weeks, and also
education for adults with special needs.
* You can contact the columnist, Bob Sipchen, directly at
bob.sipchen@... the column or on the question "do schools
do enough to help special needs students?" [note this is a question he
is asking of the general public]
* You can call him at (213) 237-5000 (LA Times main number)
Letter to Los Angeles Times Editor
You can write a letter to the Los Angeles Times by:
* Call: (213) 237-4511.
* Fax: (213) 237-7679.
* Letters should be brief (250 words or less) and are subject to
* They must include a full name (initials and pseudonyms will not be
used) and a valid mailing address and telephone number.
* Unpublished letters cannot be acknowledged.
COLUMN AS PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES TIMES
Date: January 8, 2007, Monday Where: California Section B Page 1
(left side, below fold and on newspaper website)
Bob Sipchen LA Times ColumnistBob Sipchen:
Dad devotes himself to son's special education
Emotions best described as fatherly push at Alfredo Reyes' face.
He is among two dozen or so parents gathered in a hotel conference room
for an L.A. Unified School District-sponsored "Training for Parents of
Students With Disabilities." Most, including Reyes, have children who
have just entered or are about to enter public schools, and these
anxious moms and dads have reason to think their child is somehow
different from other students.
They want to know what's wrong. They want to know what can be done.
Reyes, 28, is still trying to sort out where his 3-year-old son, Lenny,
fits on the spectrum of human behavior. He's also struggling to
understand where he, himself, fits into the parallel universe of special
education parenting. The fact that he came out on this rainy Saturday
morning offers a pretty good clue.
He and his wife, Miriam Covarrubias, 29, noticed early on that Lenny was
not like his cousins. The boy loves Thomas the Tank Engine. But whenever
Thomas toppled off his tracks on TV, Lenny would topple onto the floor.
The sound of a passing motorcycle or television static terrified him. He
was slow to speak. He learned some things then quickly forgot them.
Covarrubias, who packages frozen foods, speaks no English. Reyes, a
metal cutter, has been working hard on his, in part because it's the
language of so many of the people who hold keys to his son's future, he
About a year ago, Reyes had district specialists assess his son. The boy
began receiving weekly speech therapy at his preschool, but the father
still has lots of questions. As he asks the district representatives
about options and the inconsistencies in his son's diagnosis, I can
almost see Reyes envisioning his enthusiastic, difficult son in
classrooms two, five, 10 years from now.
He looks worried. A bit puzzled. That's understandable.
Until about 50 years ago, schools tended to exclude students who were
too far out of step with their peers. Today, laws require public schools
to educate kids with disabilities while treating them, as much as
possible, like any other student.
L.A. Unified was slow to embrace such reforms, and for a decade the
federal courts have exerted pressure on the district to do a better job
of complying with the myriad rules concerning disabled students. For
once, I have a measure of sympathy for what the bureaucrats are up against.
About 84,000 L.A. Unified students receive some type of special-ed
intervention. About three-quarters of them have relatively minor
problems processing what they see or hear, says Donnalyn Jaque-Antón,
the district's associate superintendent for special education. The rest
have more severe disabilities, such as Down syndrome or total blindness.
All are entitled to some services, ranging from, say, a few visits with
a speech therapist to full-time enrollment in specialized nonpublic
schools at district expense -- including, in some cases, specialized
residential programs in other states.
Tensions arise when parents and the district have different ideas about
a child's abilities or how much help a school should offer. Given the
fuzziness of diagnoses, the range of professional opinion concerning how
to educate these students, and the fact that there's not really a magic
ATM with an infinite supply of cash atop the district's Beaudry Street
headquarters, full agreement isn't all that common.
A couple of weeks after that Saturday morning, I stop by Reyes' neat
two-bedroom home in South Los Angeles.
With Lenny and his younger sister, Melanie, alternatively climbing onto
Reyes' shoulders and playing with a box of blue Thomas the Tank Engine
tracks, the father opens an accordion file and pulls out his son's
24-page Individualized Education Program.
An IEP is the document that determines how a child will progress through
the system, and Reyes has clearly spent many hours going over this one.
Although no one can seem to fully agree on a diagnosis, the current
consensus is mild autism, he says.
As it happens, one of my Times colleagues has a son with a similar
diagnosis. For years she has struggled on two fronts: to raise a boy
whose behavior problems seem all too obvious and to persuade the
district that the child has problems and is entitled to additional help.
Those all-important IEPs are done annually, and she now has a small
stack of the intricate forms. Thumbing through, she points to a page
listing all the people -- therapists, an attorney, a psychologist, etc.
-- who attended one meeting on her son's behalf. This one cost $300,
this one $150, this one $50, she says, running down the list. So far,
she figures her head-butting with the district has cost her well over
$20,000, not counting the days of missed work.
My colleague's a journalist, adept at sorting through complex
information. Her ex-husband is a Harvard-educated attorney. They find
the process daunting, frustrating, infuriating, befuddling.
Reyes, who came to the U.S. from Mexico 11 years ago, remains
determined. He has been researching autism, along with all the other
possibilities of what could be wrong (schizophrenia causes the greatest
concern, he says, gazing again at the grinning boy). He has joined a
support group down the street. Eager to share what he has learned, he
talks to every parent of a special needs child he can find. He stays in
touch with his son's doctor and preschool teachers. A while back he quit
his second job to spend more time trying to understand how to get the
help Lenny will need to live the best possible life.
I watch him try to stoically suppress the intensity of emotion on his
face, and believe him when he says: "I will never give up."
About the Columnist Bob Sipchen:
* To discuss this column or the question, "Do schools do enough to help
special needs students," visit latimes.com/schoolme. Bob Sipchen can be
reached at bob.sipchen@....
* Bob Sipchen writes the Times weekly "School Me" column and oversees
the "School Me!" blog. Among many writing and editing positions at the
Times, he served as editor of the Sunday Opinion section, later renamed
Current, he created, launched and edited the Times Outdoors section, and
served as senior editor at the Times Sunday Magazine.
* As Associate Editor of the Editorial Pages Sipchen won the 2002
Pulitzer Prize and the Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial writing (with
Alex Raksin) for a series of editorials about people with mental illness
and addictions living on America's sidewalks and in its alleys. As a
staff writer he shared in the Times 1992 Pulitzer Prize for its team
coverage of the Los Angeles riots.
* In 1995-1996 Sipchen ranged the country covering the presidential
campaign and in 1997 he loaded his wife and three children into a
27-foot motor home and traveled 22,000 miles through 46 states writing a
series of twice-a-week columns colleagues still refer to as "The Sipchen
Family Summer Vacation Scam."
* In addition to his work at the Times, Sipchen freelances for such
publications as Playboy, National Geographic Traveler and Men's Journal.
* The New York Times Book Review called Sipchen's Baby Insane and the
Buddha (Doubleday, 1992, Bantam 1993) "first rate," adding, "Mr.
Sipchen's supple, muscular prose gives the book the sweep and narrative
pacing of a novel."
* An adjunct professor at Occidental College since 1997, Sipchen teaches
news writing in the fall and narrative non-fiction in the spring. He is
a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and 2006 recipient of the university's
Distinguished Alumni Award.
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The California Disability Community Action Network is a non-partisan
link to tens of thousands of Californians in every community, including
people of color, people of every type of disability, including people
with physical disabilities, people with developmental and other
disabilities, people with traumatic brain and other injures, people with
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MANY THANKS to Training Toward Self Reliance, UCP, California NAELA,
Californians for Disability Rights, Inc (CDR), CHANCE Inc, Parents
Helping Parents, Arriba, Strategies Toward Empowering People, Parents
Helping Parents, Asian American parents groups, Resources for
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advocacy and family support groups, developmental center families, and
hundreds of individuals. Thanks also to partnerships and the good
people with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and also
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Services, Department of Social Services and the CA Health and Human
Services Agency and other agencies, and the State Legislature and staff,
the Legislative Analyst Office. Good people who do good things can make
a difference together.
fn:Marty Omoto (Director, California Disability Community Action Network or CDCAN)
org:CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network
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