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America 2000: a chance to unite all parents.

A few years back my son's principal called me to alert me to the problems my son was having at school. He explained that Aaron had been getting into fights on the playground and if it continued, he would have to pursue transferring Aaron to a more appropriate educational setting. I was at first damn proud of my son. Imagine, a kid with muscular dystrophywas tough enough to back off "regular" kids! I then came to my senses and asked Aaron about the fights. He explained that the only real activity at recess was soccer. He couldn't play soccer and many other kids didn't play and one thing led to another. I asked him, "If you could take some of your toys to school for recess which ones would you take?" "My cars of course" was the response. The next day Aaron took four small cars to school in his back pack and at recess time, played with them. To his and his principal's amazement, these toys not only prevented fights, other "regular" kids gravitated to Aaron because they too, did not feel comfortable in the tough and tumble world of recess soccer. They also needed alternatives to the mainstream (which turned out to be a minority of kids) at the school.

In my mind, the above situation is merely an illustration that the needs of "special" kids and the needs of "regular" kids aren't all that different. All children need to develop certain academic and social skills to be "successful" as adults and they need to feel good about themselves as they do it. President Bush and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Robert Davila have now set our schools on the course of attaining world-class standards by the year 2000 -- a laudable goal to be sure. If we are to achieve "world-class" standards, isn't it time to empower the parent movement in this country to a world class standard?

Over the years, parents seem to have defined themselves as either parents of kids with "special needs" or "regular parents." By doing so, the presence of parents in the national discussion of educational goals, ambience, outcomes, etc. is necessarily diluted. Instead of one irresistible voice calling for the realization of 100 percent of every child's potential, policy makers react to two seemingly different voices calling for varied priorities and policies. Policy makers are easily confused, which can then lead to the comfort of inaction. Inaction means a negative outcome for all.

Now the national political leadership seems interested in placing eduction front and center in the national arena. They're not ready to really fund it, but they are ready to talk about it. Isn't it time for all parents to join hands and demand that every child in the U.S. be given the opportunity to "be all he or she can be"? Isn't it time for parents to become a voice that will be heard because if it isn't it will "turn the rascals out'? The only way this sort of presence can be established is for the various parent constituencies out there to quit defining themselves and their needs in ways that separate them from others and initiate the development of a common national agenda for all children. AMERICA 2000 offers parents of all persuasions an avenue through which these common themes can be communicated and if the will is there, funded. Let's not let this opportunity slip by. In Davila's words: "Truly, it's time for a revolution is special education. Our strengths -- programs that have improved the lives of millions of children with disabilities -- can be a model for regular education ... Let's team up with parents of children who are not disabled. Let's dedicate ourselves to ensuring that children with disabilities will receive quality services that will give them a genuine opportunity to participate in our communities and compete in the global arena."

Larry Searcy is program director for NPND. He has a daughter, Kate, and a son, Aaron, who has hearing impairments and muscular dystrophy.
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Title Annotation:Annual Mobility Guide for Parents of Children and Adolescents; Networking
Author:Searcy, Larry
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Executive director's report.
Next Article:The Americans with Disabilities Act: From Policy to Practice.

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