Special Education Advocacy Comments by: Sandy Cook, Parent, To Georgia’s House of Representatives Education Committee Members and Georgia’s Senate Education Committee Members at their Townhall Session on 10 October 2013
“After five years in public school, my oldest son still could not read. He was falling further behind in all subjects. We told our IEP team our son wanted to go to college.
“One administrator laughed aloud, and barked, “Your son may never read well, and he is certainly NOT college material. You just need to lower your expectations!”
“As they had always done, our school ignored our pleas for meaningful instruction. It was CLEAR their expectations for INTELLIGENT children with dyslexia are minimal. I don’t think they realize their low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
“Thus, I was forced to homeschool. In our first year of homeschooling, my son achieved a 6th grade reading level, and he was fully proficient in reading two years later. My son is now in college, on the Zell Miller Scholarship, and this year he will graduate from college—with honors.
“Scientifically proven programs for teaching students with dyslexia have existed for decades. The programs enable children to read proficiently in three years or less. I used one, and I was easily successful yet Georgia’s schools to continually fail to teach intelligent children to read—in a reasonable time frame.
“Children with dyslexia account for 10-15% of the school population, so you, the legislators of Georgia, can increase school performance across the state with three pieces of legislation in the form of special education advocacy :
1) “ALL Teachers need to be taught Universal Design for Learning and they need to understand children with learning disabilities are not mentally impaired. These kids can learn if they are provided with accessible instruction and properly implemented, proven programs.
2) “Every child with a learning disability needs to be quickly equipped with assistive technology. You wouldn’t withhold audiobooks from a blind student, and likewise we shouldn’t withhold audiobooks from children who have dyslexia. We need to provide assistive technology to all students with specific learning disabilities to keep our children on grade level while we work to overcome their disabilities.
3) “Parents need schools to document the effectiveness of their special education programs so we can make informed decisions about the placement of our children. Schools need to be held accountable for the effective implementation of proven programs.
“Parents need to know: How many years children spend in special education resource classes. They also need to know how many children ever graduate from a school’s resource program.
Special Education Advocacy Efforts
“In summary, Great Outcomes requires that we:
1) Educate teachers about Universal Design for Learning and learning disabilities.
2) Liberally equip Georgia’s children with assistive technology.
3) Empower parents with data so we can make informed educational decisions.
“These three educational initiatives will improve learning outcomes in Georgia’s schools. Thank You for your consideration of these changes on behalf of students with specific learning disabilities.”