Simply Not Enough
Last week, a report summarizing the thoughts of over 600 students, parents and professionals on the state of inclusive education in Manitoba was released.
Many of us were not surprised that an enormous percentage of respondents described significant barriers to education, right from preschool childcare right through post secondary. It was a collaborative effort between Education Solutions Manitoba, Barrier Free Manitoba, and Community Living Manitoba.
The sample of people surveyed was likely not a direct representation of the experience of every person with a disability – responses were voluntary, and people who experience successful inclusion may be less interested in sharing their story. However the report does paint a disturbing picture. One child unable to benefit from a good education is one too many.
The essay below is the perspective of a person who has a role both as a parent and a professional in the school system.
The author of this post has asked to remain anonymous.
What is it like to work for a school division and also have a child with ASD as a student in the public school system?
I have been a school division employee for almost two decades in a clinical capacity. I have supported numerous students, families, teachers and support staff. Before I had my children my job felt very straightforward… almost black and white, even though the issues I was dealing with on a daily basis were difficult and sometimes all shades of gray.
Once I had my children I started to see things differently, as I am sure many of us have experienced after having children. I became more skeptical about the world and everything in it. I worried more, researched more and advocated more.
My daughter was diagnosed at the age of three and we became part of the DIR Floortime family. We loved it, she loved it, she flourished. We struggled but we were making progress. When she became part of the public school system I was almost blindly hopeful that everything would be wonderful despite what I knew about the system.
What I quickly saw was that my role as an employee and my role as a mother would quickly be at odds with each other. It has been a challenge to say the least. I have seen many online support group posts and heard many conversations about lack of services in schools and how children are being left behind and falling through the cracks. This is a common concern from parents of children who have extra needs. There are not enough EA’s, not enough adaptations, not enough empathy or sympathy and simply just NOT ENOUGH!!!!!
When I am at work, being work minded and logical, I see the struggles school people have with the same things, I see teachers having not enough EA support, not enough time to spend individually with students, not enough time to prepare adaptations and simply NOT ENOUGH!!!!!
I see teachers and EA’s attending workshops, doing research, attending student meetings in order to be informed, seeking input and recommendations and I see how the demands of their jobs have increased ten fold while the resources to help them have continued to be cut. I see principals who struggle with finding these supports without any funding to make them happen, those same principals being bombarded with emails and phone calls from parents who want more and watching them look for ways to help and seek outside sources. I believe in my heart that teachers want students to be successful. I have to continue to believe this.
When I am a mom I see what all those other moms and dads see…. My daughter is having struggles at school. Why can’t they do something about it? It’s their job. They get paid for this.
Then I think, “Wait, I get paid for this too.”
Why don’t I have any answers? For my own child? For other people’s children?
Well, the truth of it all is that THERE SIMPLY ISN’T ENOUGH. Unfortunately our children’s teachers, principals, EAs, and support staff are not with us at home when we sob over something that has happened at school that day or try to process a decision that we don’t know we agree with. They can’t possibly feel what we feel when we think our child is not being programmed for or their needs are not being considered. They cannot understand how we feel when they tell us there is no funding for what we need and that there are no resources. They aren’t there as we ponder our child’s future and whether or not they will ever be independent or where they will live if they need care after we are gone.
They will never understand that journey because theirs is different…. not less…… different.
But on the other hand we often don’t get to see the feelings of failure and disappointment on behalf of school staff when they have been unable to help our kids. We don’t see the political reasons regarding how there just simply isn’t enough money to get what we are asking for, or how there were other initiatives that were a priority at that moment in time. I have seen teachers genuinely at a loss when they have been unsuccessful at helping a student but particularly those with extra needs. They often take this on as their own failure even if they don’t always let parents see that. So I have realized that we are all human and we all make mistakes and for the most part when somebody becomes a teacher it’s because they want to help kids…..
Often our kids do fall through the cracks and don’t get the services they need and sometimes no matter how hard anybody tries that’s just the way it is… Is it fair? NO! Does it hurt? YES! Living on both sides of the fight has been exhausting and very eye opening… there will always be those people who will go to the ends of the earth for our kids and still fail and unfortunately there will also be those who lack the compassion and knowledge to advocate for something they don’t see as a priority.
BOTTOM LINE: WE NEED MORE! MORE FUNDING, MORE STAFF, MORE EDUCATION AND TRAINING, MORE UNDERSTANDING AND ACCEPTANCE, AND SIMPLY JUST MORE!!!!!
I work hard every day to balance my mom brain and employee brain. I will continue to try and see other people’s struggles as I advocate for people to see mine and my daughter’s. If it were possible for all of us to truly understand and feel other people’s lives….
Wow, wouldn’t that be something?
Winnipeg Sun: Students with disabilities face troubling amount of barriers
Winnipeg Free Press: Students with disabilities still excluded, bullied
CBC Manitoba: Barriers to education start early for people with disabilities, report says
Need to know how to advocate for your child? This list of resources can help.