Parent Statement #15I've asked someone to read this in my place because I am not as brave as the others, and fear there may be a negative impact on my child's programming if identified. However, the thought of not speaking out causes more fear as I consider the grave consequences all of the special needs children in Colchester will continue to face if nothing changes.
I understand this meeting is an opportunity to share concerns we have regarding the current Special Ed Director, Mrs. Shaughnessy. I think it's also equally important to speak of the very deeply rooted "culture of burden" within the Colchester school system in regards to special needs children, because I believe this pervasive idea of special needs children as "burdens" trickles down from the Special Ed Director. This attitude must change.
There must be a shift in the way our children's educators perceive them. They deserve to be seen and valued, not as burdens, but as unique and valuable individuals; beautiful round pegs that don't necessarily fit into square holes. These are children who were born differently, who experience the world differently and therefore learn differently...BUT STILL LEARN. The legal requirements of Special education law, and specifically IDEA, is to understand the specific educational needs of each child and then develop and implement an individualized education plan.
Unfortunately, I have found Colchester provides special education programming that is quite frequently more of a "one size fits all" variety. Often, if not always, Colchester parents are forced to fight the district in order to ensure their children's needs are identified and met according to the law. Sometimes, on paper, programming may sound ok, but it has been my experience that there is a lack of transparency and accountability here. What is written in the IEP is not really what is carried out in the classroom. Data to support proof of progress on IEP goals is always vague and optimist. I have not found it to be a true reflection of my child's actual learning. Ever.
Our family has spent thousands of dollars on advocates and legal advice after hours of PPTs in which Mrs. Shaughnessey has tried to minimize our child's deficits, therefore minimizing the programming required. There have been many times that Mrs. Shaughnessy has refused to acknowledge specific recommendations of neurologists, behavior analysts, developmental pediatricians, independent service provides (ex. SLP, OT, and PT.) Countless times she has used intimidation techniques, sarcasm, cohersion of other team members outside of PPT to push watered down programming.
These are common experiences for many families in Colchester.
This behavior is not only illegal, but serves to devalue the essence of every child and not only prevents those children from accessing curriculum, so they are denied the basic right to learn essential academic, social, and daily living skills, but it denies them of the right to be celebrated as valuable, unique members of their community.
If we don't shift the way our special educators perceive, value, encourage and edify our special needs children, in the long run we as a community will pay greatly. I believe very strongly in the "pay now or pay later" ideology. Our children deserve the investment and I'm confident if provided the right tools, as promised by the laws, they will show us how capable they truly are.
It is my hope that Colchester can start fresh. There is an opportunity now to takes a stand as a community and shift the way we allow our special needs children to be treated. It is important to note, Colchester Special education is currently viewed by many Connecticut parents, advocates, and Special Ed attorneys in a negative light as the behavior of Mrs. Shaughnessey has not gone unnoticed.
Colchester has an opportunity to make an impacting change, to lead by example in regards to special education, and lead with a director that understands the inherent value of each child, and especially the child with special needs. Those children deserve a powerful ally and advocate behind them who will work with parents to develop appropriate programs that will allow them a nurturing place to be seen, understood, valued, and assisted to thrive.
It is my hope that the BOE will take time to consider all the concerns expressed here today.