One positive story after another – all week long.
First, ABC and EPSN gave significant airtime to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Opening ceremonies. Individual and team events. Good Morning America’s Robin Richards went one step further – interviewing a number of athletes. All with intellectual disabilities.
Real people. True stories. Hard-earned success.
Then Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver boldly stated, “World Games are just a starting point. Inclusion is no longer a luxury. It must be the norm.”
A great line for every parent to quote in their next school meeting. Over and over again.
His late mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver would surely agree. After founding Special Olympics in 1968 – in honor of her sister Rosemary, she had a singular mission. A life-changing vision.
“We believe the quality of caring we give the powerless endows a life – and a community with respect, hope and happiness.”
Inclusion is no longer a luxury. It must be the norm.
Next was World Down Syndrome Day on March 21st – showcasing a population long associated with the disability movement. Their parents were the early pioneers – tirelessly lobbying Congress in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Not taking no for an answer.
Their efforts resulted in a new federal law. In 1975, all children gained the right to attend public schools. To access a special education. And to receive those services in the least restrictive environment, not a segregated facility.
We must be grateful for the doors that they opened.
But other doors remain.
Not all individuals with disabilities possess defining physical features. Think mental health. Brain disorders. Early childhood trauma. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Invisible – yet nonetheless debilitating, especially when not properly addressed.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court agreed last week. Adequate progress matters to everyone. In fact, a Free and Appropriate Public Education (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is meaningless without it. And get this. Conservative, moderate and liberal judges stood together. Unanimous in their 8-0 decision.
“It cannot be right that the IDEA generally contemplates grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who are fully integrated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for children who are not,” read the opinion signed by Chief Justice John Roberts.
The National Association of State Directors of Special Education quickly concurred and gifted every parent another great line to quote at school.
“A standard more meaningful than just above trivial is the norm today.”
That hugely important word again. Norm. Not out of the ordinary. Not an isolated example. Available to everyone.
Perhaps one day the federal government will honor its 42-year promise to commit 40 percent of overall special education funding. Currently the average paid to states is only 15 percent – leaving states and local districts to fund the balance.
To end the amazing week, the ARC of the United States led the charge to persuade Republican moderates to keep Medicaid intact. And with no subsequent vote taken on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Obamacare remains the law of the land – for the time being.
While the AHCA’s proposed Medicaid block grants to individuals states sound inviting on the surface, they cap funding. This feature alone would ultimately reduce services for all people covered under Medicaid Waivers, Medicaid Disability and the traditional Medicaid that serves many foster-to-adopt children.
Many would do without.
Now let’s push both sides of the aisle to come together. Meaningful insurance reform that leads to healthy competition in every county. Action that reduces premiums, deductibles and the cost of prescriptions. In the end, affordable care for all – not just access.
A standard more meaningful than just above trivial is the norm today.
A great week indeed. We must seize the moment. We must build upon this long-awaited momentum. Together as a disability community, regardless of the individual label.
At the end of the week, they are all our children. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To learn more about Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, Craig’s soon-to-published memoir about raising six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold