Catania Pushes Through New Special Education Legislation

Finally a Politician Who Gets My Son

Today, I had lunch with a friend to help brain storm some ideas for her child, who has a handful of challenges in his school life and social time. The friend was stressing how wonderful it would be if he were able to follow through good, quality activities that would actually aid his development. That might just be too much for him right now, I gently explained. Going to school and daily homework may well be the limit of his abilities.

Familiar Frustrations

My friend's feelings of frustration and loss are all too familiar. I had to go through a similar emotional reckoning with my own son a few years ago. Still, my heart sinks when I drive by the baseball field or see Facebook photos of my friends’ kids smiling happily at their choir concerts or chess competitions. As smart and interested and vibrant as my son is, the truth is that school, homework, some friends, and family life is about all he can handle.

It didn’t used to be like this. Despite his disabilities, my son was able to participate in a few solid activities. I will spare you the details of why he had to discontinue them. A great deal of his inability to handle them now has to do with how difficult school has become for him. His school has literally broken down his ability to cope.

School often ends up being the enemy of our kids. School officials wind up as the enemies of parents. Why? Could not there be a system that met the needs of our children?

I have a kid who was reading well before Kindergarten. He was doing long division before starting first grade. Can't he be educated without tearing his soul apart?

Hail Catania's Reforms!

As I read the spectacular news that David Catania’s special education bill had been unanimously passed by the DC City Council, I thought about my frustrations with my son's school. The complaints of parents like myself are finally being heard. The needs of our children are being put before those of the administrative system. Now, there is the possibility that we could access a truly appropriate education for our children that did not both ruin our finances and put hundreds of miles on our cars.

There are more than 13,000 special education students in the District. Mine is one. He’s the one who matters to me, despite the feeling we are given from city officials. I will never forget the day I received an email from the then head of the autism team in response to a request for assistance. She said she would get to my request, but I had to remember there were 48,000 students in DCPS and mine was only one of them. Nevermind that mine was in the midst of a crisis caused directly by DCPS.

I don’t want my child to be a number or a statistic and I don’t want anyone else’s child to be either. In my work helping other families navigate the special education process, I see all too clearly how unbalanced it is. I have the benefit of years of experience in education, an advanced degree, a relatively middle class lifestyle in which jobs are not lost because of a day off of work. My son gets an abundance of support from me and still it’s not enough.

We have turned a corner. Catania’s bills shift the burden from the parents on to the educators. They provide earlier and increased services for young children identified as delayed. They put in place greater supports for students graduating or aging out of the system. Along with recently added special education classrooms, his bills are the first sign that perhaps things will get better.

Elect Catania Mayor

Electing Catania mayor is the logical next step. Here is a politician who clearly understands what kinds of things need to be done to improve the city's schools. He listens, comprehends, and makes concrete improvements.

I want someone, anyone, in our school system to see, appreciate and value each and every one of our 13,000 special needs kids. Catania gets that each one is special in many ways. And, have no doubts that if he forgets, there are some pretty determined parents ready to remind him.

E.V. Downey is the principal educational consultant at Downey School Consulting. In addition to helping families navigate the public/charter lottery process and private school applications, she advocates for special education families. A graduate of DCPS, E.V. lives on Capitol Hill with her husband, two children, dog, and cat.

E.V. Downey, Downey School Consulting I've endorsed David Catania -- read about it here.

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