The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted in 1975, just two years before my sister with Down Syndrome was born. Public Law 94-142 was still new to our small town in Oklahoma when my mom sat down for her first IEP meeting in 1983, when it was time for my sister to start kindergarten. She talked with a young teacher who wasn’t trained in special education, had never taught a student with Downs, but was willing to meet the needs my sister had at the time. And so began the sixteen years of my sister’s special education–of IEPs, therapy discussions, mainstreaming plans, and life-skills assessments.
I’m thinking a lot about that first meeting my mom had thirty years ago. Today, my son had his first day of kindergarten in an autism support class. His teacher specialized in special ed. She has experience with kids who have autism. She and I speak the same language of mands, reinforcers, and targets. We easily discuss his sensory needs and avoidances. She asks about diet restrictions and his eloping tendencies. She knows the questions to ask because my son is not the first child with special needs she has ever taught. He is not the first because for the last thirty-plus years, parents of special needs kids have paved the way for us. Today, I’d like to honor them.
Read the rest over at Not Alone!