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?
Ok, I know in practical terms…teaching independent living skills along the way while raising children is just common sense. However, as one of my children is approaching his last year in high school…it feels like I have an egg timer alongside of each day.
My son is a senior in high school. There is not much time left to teach him some really important lessons. Where we live, in a rural setting, there is not some great program available to him to continue educating him after graduation. In Michigan, if my son goes for his diploma at the end of the year; as opposed to a certificate of completion…his educational opportunities as a special ed student come to an end. If he wanted to continue in the school system, he could choose a certificate of completion…but, the only available program for him is a daily living skills program. While that is a valuable tool, it doesn’t in my opinion outweigh the benefits of going for the diploma.
Because we live in a rural area….there is not much opportunity for employment, in general, let alone if you have special needs that can hinder your employability.
The things that are important to my son at this stage of his life…are dual edged. He wants to drive a car. He wants to hunt. He wants freedom to make his own choices. He wants to work. There is nothing wrong with wanting those things…but in some cases, those very things are difficult to achieve or not in that person’s best interest.
My son’s abilities are limited because of several factors. He reads at a first grade level…and that, is with difficulty. He has problems with assessing safety situations. He is wanting to work…but sometimes, has trouble staying on task and focussed. These issues are going to limit his ability to hunt, to drive, to live on his own without some sort of safety backup plan.
Our plan is to work with him on planning meals and grocery shopping; he also likes to hoard food and eat it almost as soon as it is purchased That won’t be condusive to living on his own if he cannot somehow understand the concept of planning and executing a plan for purchasing and divying up the food purchases to make up meals for a set number of days at a time. He will have to show more care with personal hygene; it isn’t high on his list to change his dirty clothing when going away…he just doesn’t think about it. He will need to learn to think ahead for those situations.
We are wracking our brains trying to come up with some type of job that he is able to do and excited about doing. Many of the types of jobs he wants are not realistic. We have enrolled him in an class that will be working towards teaching him an employable skill. I think he will take pride in this; if he continues to enjoy it once he gets into the curriculum.
Housing, we are blessed that we were able to plan ahead for this years ago. We purchased a house next door to us years ago with the intention of using it for independent living skills for our boys as they became ready. This will allow close supervision but also allow for them to feel independent and “free” to be a grown up.
This year will hold many surprises and advancements. It is an exciting and scary time for him and for us. We all have a lot to learn as we transition to adulthood together! Here is a great link of things to consider when easing into independent living: http://www.teachersfirst.com/sped/parents/transition/eric-lifeskills.html