Last night my family attending an open house for an area wide school program for high school special needs student. This is a program that my kids have attended over the last 4-5 years. It is run by two teachers and works with kids from our counties local school. Here the student make wood projects such as birdhouses and picnic tables. These are fantastic products. The kids work hard. The teachers work hard. One of the teachers works the saws. The students 16 or under must use the cordless drills and over 16 get to use corded drills. They have many orders, especially for the picnic tables. However, as like any program funding is always an issue.
Until recently the students only had half of the building that houses this program. Now they have the full use of the building and the students also perform a great service to the community by sorting and recycling the cities trash. Here again, updates have been taking place. They sort the plastics according to their number which differentiates one plastic from another. Then there is “junk” plastic that doesn’t get used and must be thrown away. This is something that is not only helpful to the community it is helpful to the planet. Basically, it performs a community service project for a large group of people.
The new update or addition to the program is a glass crusher which recycles glass from the garbage. Whoo Hoo this is fun to watch. It is a big machine that has pipes that goes to the ceiling and ventilates any dust out of the large work space. This machine crushes and deposits the glass into big bins. When you feel the glass there aren’t any sharp edges. The program is looking to different ways to help this program fund itself. Some of the uses for the crushed glass are as material used for sand blasting as there are different degrees of the end product or “grit”. Some of the glass is powder fine and some of it is the size of small glass beads. Then there are some coarser pieces. These bins sparkle with the crushed glass. They are even using the end product for landscaping. It is pretty to see…some of the glass is as fine as powdery sand on the beach…others sparkle along sidewalks and such.
The colors are fantastic. They range from a clear color, to a light seafoam green to brown….there is some blue but for some reason there are not as many blue glass bottles and such made nowdays. The prettiest to me was the bins where the colors were mixed together. I imagined the crush glass to be used in art projects and in floral arrangements at the bottom of the vases. Maybe used in making decorative patio blocks or cement pads. In fact, I am thinking next summer of making a patio area around our firepit with cement and adding in the crushed glass in the surface to add a bit of style and color.
The sad part of the program to me is that there is so little funding. The kids work with regular tools…these are not designed for commercial or heavy duty use; which is the workout that those tools get. It is costly to keep replacing these tools. What would be fantastic would be to have a tool company supply them with commercial grade tools. Noone really knows of what this programs needs are in the community. These kind of programs don’t get the attention that they deserve or need. I wish I was independently wealthy and could fund the areas that they need financial help with. The student could be learning skills that they could use in the future to help them earn a living once they are too old for the program. That is IMPORTANT for their personal success.
How could this program find ways to fund itself with these assets? That is the question. In the front of the “shop” they could set up a retail area….if only they could come up with some ideas. Do you have any ideas? Do you support your schools programs for your communities special needs students?
Today I did an interview with Louise Sattler who is the creative owner/operator of http://www.signingfamilies.com. Louise is an expert trainer at workshops and classes that teach American Sign Language to help people communicate with one another. She is also a certified school psychologist who has an awareness of the importance of the need for families and community leaders to learn sign language. Sign Language opens doors and bridges gaps for people who are hearing impaired, or who may have developmental delays or special needs. Communication is something that many people take for granted.
Put yourself in the position of a person who is hearing impaired, or a person who lives with special needs; and, consider some environments they they may experience differently than you; such as a trip to the hospital or emergency room. How different would the experience be for you if you were the one who had difficulty making your needs known to the health care professionals. Or say you are an elderly person who is experiencing hearing loss…how are you going to communicate with other residents or say the staff? How about shopping or getting educational services at college or in elementary school? How about ordering a meal in a restaurant? Do you see how the quality of life can be improved for people impacted in this way? Can you see how sign language could open doors for people if others in the community took the opportunity to learn it from someone like Louise or through her DVD’s?
If you are interested in learning more about Louise and her educational services please listen to the interview here: http://www.rapidcashmarketing.com/lorrainesinterview/signingfamilies.htm
Our local school told us at the IEP’s this year, that with changes in special education requirements(sound like national or federal changes)…that students in the special education program are now being encouraged to pursue a certificate of completion, as opposed to a diploma, when a special education student nears the end of their high school career. The reason being that for many of the students, the classes that they have already taken are not going to count towards graduation requirements. Therefore, they will end up going to school longer. For some students, it will mean that instead of 4 years of high school…they could end up attending classes in high school for up to six years.
I think this is very unfair. From what we have been able to understand so far, for those who insist upon a diploma as opposed to a certificate of completion…it will be almost impossible to attain. In our school here in Michigan, the special education students will be blended into some regular education classes; and, then they will have what they are calling a workshop, which is supposed to be more like a 30 minute homestudy class, where they are supposed to get more help with problem classwork. The issue is that many of those workshop teachers will be regular education teachers who are not trained to work with the special education students who require more help and in some cases specialized teaching techniques–something that will require more than 30 minutes time from a teacher who has to divide up those 30 minutes with a classroom of students who need help.
This feels like a social experiment that is going to go horribly wrong. I am frustrated because I have a child who is going to be caught up in the middle of these changes. I have a son who also is a special education student who graduated in the last few weeks…he was able to get a diploma. This is no small feat. In this day and age of financial uncertainty, anything you can do to improve your employability is important…having a diploma is better for getting a job than a certificate of completion when it comes to getting hired.
I was told by an administrative person that employers and schools of higher education are aware of these changes and are cooperating with these changes by honoring certificates of completion when it comes to going off to college or for getting jobs. I do not believe this is true. I firmly believe that most employers are unaware of these graduation requirement changes and will view a certificate of completion as being “less qualifying” for a job than a diploma.
First off, at this point…even many teachers and administrators are still trying to figure out exactly what all of these changes will mean for both staff and students. Many parents of special education students are not understanding how these changes will impact their families. It is the students who were already in high school and have completed a year or two or three towards graduation that are going to fall between the cracks. I am already being told of students who were Juniors this year, who have discovered that this impacts when they will “graduate” and are dropping out of school because they do not wish to go to school for an additional year, or two longer, than they had expected. When they also discover that many of them will not be able to get a diploma after all of their hard work….and will get something that appears to be less than a regular education student gets; I believe that even more students will drop out of school.
This is devastating; special education students are already at a disadvantage in many areas socially and in the job market. This is just one more (large) obstacle to having some level of independence and success. There needs to be a public outcry at the injustice of it all…on a local level and on a larger scale. Do you have any knowledge or experience with these changes?
Every family is made up of individuals with wants and needs. Every family is different. Add a person…take away a person; and, it changes the family dynamics. Add a need, or take away a need; and again…the whole composition of the family changes. This is to be expected in the life of every family.
Families that are created out of adoption have a multitude of blessings and challenges. The same can be said of families that have special needs children…whether they are born into the family or adopted. The term family falls under an umbrella of accomodations; each person’s wants and needs are accomodated into the family unit (or should be). Your place in the family is guaranteed out of love, acceptance, encouragement and the occasional nudging towards further personal growth. A healthy family is designed to be a personal support system.
My own family has both adopted children and special needs children. We have blessings and challenges like any other family. Those blessings and challenges aren’t JUST related to being a family created from adoption, or of special needs; it is sometimes a mixture of both.
I grew up in a large family and my husband did as well. We are used to understanding that each person is unique. Each person is an individual, as well as, part of a family unit. Often in my sibling group we had wants and needs that conflicted with one another…my husband’s family as well. We had to work out any differences between family member’s expectations. My husband’s family was impacted by some special needs, my family was not. Neither of our families were impacted by adoption. And yet, because we came from large families…some would consider our families to be special needs just because of the number of children. Each person in a family impacts another; that is typical of any family that consists of more than one person. There is no such thing as a “normal” family!
We are blessed with creative thinkers, business minded or logical thinkers, nurturers, artistic individuals, readers, non-readers, free thinkers, outgoing personalities, highly verbal personalities (how come i didn’t get any quiet personality childen?) LOL, musical, non-musical, conformists and non-conformists, high IQ-low IQ, flexible and non-flexible personalities; you get the idea. We are a creative mix of likes and dislikes. It is a balancing act at times trying to meet everyone’s needs. But, it is done because we want to; we desire to recognize each person’s requirements to be successful, to be healthy and happy.
Each family has a story; it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Everyday we are writing new pages to add to the story. Those stories are of interest to others because we can learn from one another. We can share in the laughter, the confusion, the joy, the sorrow, the sense of betrayal or anger that fills a family with a lifetime of experiences. The stories of your family can mingle with other family stories to create a sense of encouragement,failure, discouragement, success, education, or compassion. Experiences can draw people together or set them apart.
Isolation is sometimes a part of family life when you are raising adopted children or special needs children; just because of the lack of understanding; or, perceived lack of understanding, of those in your social circles or community. It is very important to find support in those times of feeling isolated by behavior difficulties or by circumstances.
We must learn to live in the moment…not be defined by labels or expectations. Each day, each moment is open to interpetation. We can stop, we can reread, we can change directions and we can grow and learn. Sometimes people get a label and try to skip all of the chapters in between the beginning and the end…they just want to go to the end of the book and see how the story turns out. It is in the daily living…getting the most out of each and every moment that we are given to live, that we find fulfillment and joy.
So, what’s your family’s story? How was your family created? Is your family life the way you expected it to be? If yes, why? If not why? What would you change if you could? Can you change it? Can you change how you think about it? What impact does your family have on each other; what impact does your family have on others around you? What does family mean to you? What do you love about your family?