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Budget crises: all children at risk.

Headlines around the country are trumpeting terrible shortfalls in school budgets. Communities are being forced to make budget cuts in educational services. Teachers are being laid off, class sizes are being increased and school programs are being reevaluated to determine whether further cuts can be made. In open forums and the local media, parents of children with disabilities are being asked to share the burden of budget cuts with all other parents.

Twenty years ago, in our editorial entitled Let Us All Stop Blaming the Parents, we described the many ways that parents of children with disabilities were criticized when they sought educational or rehabilitation opportunities for their child or even when they sought professional advice. Implicitly or explicitly, parents were told that their child would not profit from one program or another because of the child's disability. Thus, the child's disability was blamed" for the fact of the child's exclusion. Parents who did not accept the exclusion of their child were "blamed" for being unrealistic and not accepting of their child's alleged "limitations." In fact, the limitations were in the communities which lacked experience with children with disabilities and/or lacked the funds to create adequate programs.

We have come a long way - community attitudes have changed for the better. Even critics no longer say that school programs do not benefit children with disabilities. Educational and vocational opportunities continue to improve. The fruits of the earlier efforts by unrealistic" parents and professionals are evident as more and more young adults with disabilities are integrated within higher education programs and the world of work.

There is a new threat. In some communities, leaders and opinion-makers are trying to attack mandated education programs for children with disabilities as "budget-busters." They are arguing that funds allocated to facilitate the education of children with disabilities are limiting educational opportunities for other children.

Let us be clear. All educational programs for all children are hurting because there is a lack of community support which has led to funding cuts. All children and all parents are the victims. Now, more than ever, all parents need to work together on behalf of all children.

Parents of children with disabilities can be valuable allies to other parents. They can teach all parents how to persevere and persist in the face of those who do not feel that support can be found for all children. They can teach parents that a public educational system that begins to point the finger of blame at successful programs for children is prepared to make a scapegoat of any individual or group.

Parents of children with disabilities can join with other parents and educators to protect everyone's children. Together, all parents can make clear that all children need to be protected rather than abandoned by financial jugglers.

In that same editorial in 1971, we described how society could be divided into three groups of people:

Those who can tolerate the everyday stresses and strains of life: they say little, and these are the average people. There are those who cannot tolerate the everyday stresses and strains of life, and they shout, and these are our leaders. Then, there are those who cannot tolerate the stresses and strains of life, and they whisper, and these are our victims. Society has generally demanded that families of disabled children whisper. Society has implicitly blamed and punished those parents and professionals who have attempted to shout about their pain and anguish. And finally, professionals and families have often, unwittingly, accepted society's limited investment in them.

Fortunately, professionals and parents of children with disabilities no longer remain silent. They have become leaders in changing attitudes and creating programs. Now, with the current budget crises throughout the United States, we urge our readers to speak out and to join with other parents and other citizens to insist that all children have the educational opportunities they deserve. Parents of children with disabilities can illustrate how every child could benefit from an individualized educational plan which includes parental participation - just as children with disabilities and their families have benefited.
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Title Annotation:parents of children with disabilities must share burden of educational budget cuts
Author:Schleifer, Maxwell J.; Klein, Stanley D.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:A Reader's Guide: For Parents of Children with Mental, Physical, or Emotional Disabilities, 3d. ed.
Next Article:Jason goes to junior high.

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