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Monday, April 4, 2011

Empowering Our Kids by Trish @ Another Piece of the Puzzle

Empowering Our Kids by Trish @ Another Piece of the Puzzle 

 Earlier this year, I had the immense honor of sitting in the audience at a local school board meeting (not my own district) while a young man who is a junior in one of their high schools addressed the board regarding the lack of accommodations being provided so that he can be a successful learner and meet his goal of being an independently employed individual after high school. I have tears in my eyes just writing that sentence. Mike C. is one of my heroes. He is an extremely bright young man who has Asperger's Syndrome, is legally blind and has some other health issues. Although he is an honor roll student, he was not at school from Thanksgiving until mid-February after his doctor recommended that he receive homebound instruction until the proper accommodations were provided for him.

 Here is what Mike is asking for:
Text-to-speech software and instruction on how to use it
A computer with a larger screen
Texts provided in audio format
Class lectures, including discussion, to be taped for him

It was amazing to see how composed he was during his speech and to hear how clearly he articulated what he needs and why he needs it. And he got a standing ovation from the many people who turned out in support of him from his district and beyond.

 I have embedded the video from one of our local news stations about it. I don't know if the clips and stories rotate or how long this video will be available, but it came from the CBS21 website:

 I took my son Michael with me and explained that we were going to show our support for Mike. Michael was very upset that the school was not giving Mike what he needed and was extremely well-behaved during the meeting, for which I was very thankful. The next morning, we had a two-hour school delay due to snow, and Michael was upset about something that he was afraid would not happen because of the shortened day. I asked him if he wanted me to email his teacher about it and he did. As I opened up a new email window, I realized that it's never to early to start teaching the kind of self-advocacy Mike's mom had taught him, so I had Michael dictate what he wanted to ask his teacher and then sent the email from him. I think it was a good start, and I can only hope that one day my own son will be as confidently able to express his needs and goals as clearly as Mike did last night. Update on Mike C: After some continued back and forth with the school district and a facilitated IEP meeting moderated by a representative from the Office of Dispute Resolution, Mike has returned to school with the following assurances - class lectures will be taped, there will be a "timely" assistive technology assessment, a larger screen will be provided in the interim, appropriate physical education will be discussed and proper modifications will be made for classes missed.

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