Raising Expectations for Special Education

Notes from the President:

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Did you know that only 33% of working age adults with disabilities are employed?  Our vision is to maximize independence, inclusion, and contributions to society, and 33% is not good enough.  That’s why we’re so thrilled about the unanimous Supreme Court ruling on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that said school districts must give students with disabilities the chance to make meaningful, “appropriately ambitious” progress. I believe this will have far-reaching implications for the 6.5 million students with disabilities in the U.S. and ultimately on employment and independence.

Research shows that higher expectations ultimately lead children with disabilities to achieve more, gain confidence and independence, and develop a stronger sense of self.  Researchers have also found that the quality and quantity of young children’s social communicative behaviors are highly predictive of long-term developmental and functional outcomes. That’s why skills acquired in the first five years of a child’s life lay the foundation for future success in school.  By providing high quality, inclusive classroom experiences and early intervention services right from the start, Easter Seals is preparing our children for success in school and setting them up for an inclusive academic future.

Mikey is a great example. Supporters of Easter Seals may remember Mikey and his parents, Mike and Virginia, from our Advocacy Awards video in 2015.  Mikey was stillborn at birth but was able to be revived, and his family was referred to Easter Seals by DC Early Intervention.  After they enrolled Mikey in the CDC, our Veterans Staffing Network also helped Mike find a job here in Washington, D.C. when he was at risk of having to take a position in the Middle East far from his family.

When Mikey started at Easter Seals at 11 months of age, all his father wanted for him to do was to hold his own bottle.  We weren’t sure then what Mikey would be capable of doing.

Mikey on his first day at Easter Seals!
Mikey on his first day at Easter Seals!

Three and a half years later, Mikey is not only feeding himself, but he’s running and playing and is even potty-trained (a milestone his mom was not sure would ever happen).  Mikey is using more and more words and is also able to share his thoughts in sentences via a speech generating device provided through a grant from the Comcast Foundation, and after graduation from our Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Child Development Center in DC is now attending a public charter school in a general education classroom.

Mikey in June 2017 with his speech generating device!
Mikey in June 2017 with his speech generating device!

All of us at Easter Seals are so excited that Mikey will be in a general education classroom where he will have the greatest opportunity to learn – that placement is an incredible testament to the hard work of Mikey, his family, and the entire staff led by Jill Chimka, Regional Director of Therapy, L’Ornya Bowie, Senior Director of Child Development Operations, and Carol Watson, Senior Vice President of Programs.

Although Mikey will continue to need specialized services, I know Easter Seals has laid a solid foundation for Mikey and his parents to have the skills needed for him to have a very bright future.  Go Mikey!

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