Susan's Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Le Plus Que Ca Change…

Last night I attended a meeting of our town’s special education parent advisory council (SEPAC_. Way back when, I was a co-chair of this group, when I first became interested in what our town was doing in terms of the schools and special education. This was eight years ago, around when Benj was born. I remember being elected co-chair and then realizing I had to run home so I could nurse little B. [Oh, God, was that sweet! I used to hold him up in front of my face and say to him, “Hi Benji! Wanna eat?” And then just sling him across my belly and latch him on. If there is anything I miss about having babies, it is that. That, and the smell of their faces. The best dessert life has to offer. It’s like the labor and delivery are the vegetables (i.e., the worst) part of that meal, and then smelling/kissing/nursing the baby is the dessert!]

Wake up! They are no longer babies and they don’t smell all that good. But they are so cute, and so funny!

So there I was at the SEPAC, “Meet the Administrators” meeting. I realized that I had had a hand in hiring most of the people up there, because of course I hired the superintendent while on School Committee, and also the Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, and then approved hires like the Out-of-District Liaison, with whom I deal personally all the time because of Nat. I felt very proud of what I had helped do. School Committee is a thankless job that takes at least 20 hours a week (without pay) and you very rarely get to actually see anything you had a hand in.

I noticed that the bulk of the parents sitting there were autism parents. Bad sign. That signaled to me that our town is still not doing what it should be doing in terms of ASD. Otherwise you’d get a smattering of every disability.

When I first became politically active, there were NO programs for autism in our town, and Nat was sent to a collaborative program in a neighboring town. The two towns pooled their kids and their resources and created programs that way. Now my town does not belong to a collaborative at all, and tries to form contiguous programs in all disorders at the various schools (we have eight pre-K through eighth grade elementaries and one high school). We also have a “magnet” school for ASD, but many of the parents are dissatisfied with it, particularly because the classrooms are more substantially separate than inclusive. Sometimes I get pissed with these parents for being unhappy because at least there is a program in town now! Which I helped create!!! But — I stop. I understand how painful it is when it is still not right. Then I kick myself for having resigned from School Committee because I can no longer affect change from that venue!

But it was not the venue for me. I need to be able to be irreverent and critical. On School Committee, so much of it was about public appearance and decorum. So much was listening to recommendations from staff and not the other way around. It is better for me to be off, to be an activist and kvetch with my laptop, and a parent on the other side of the table.

Still, I was frustrated thinking that there was still so much dissatisfaction with the ASD programs here, after all the advocating I (thought) I had done. I have served on the SEPAC, the School Committee, written for the local paper for eight years, and I have written MPWA. What the heck else can I do?

I keep going to the meetings, gently pointing out here and there where things need to change, what we used to do, what we still could try, and hope somebody gets it and moves on it before all these little kids are as old as Natty!

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