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Private programs: an important choice.

Now is the time to review your child's current educational program and begin planning for next year. During these times of budget crises, it is imperative for parents to insist that public school systems meet their commitment to provide appropriate educational programs for every child with a disability. As part of reviewing future plans, parents may want to explore the options available in the private sector.

Every child with a disability in every community should be able to attend and prosper in a local school, enjoying the stimulation and friendship of peers while receiving necessary special services. However, the sad reality is that the needs of many children with disabilities cannot be met by the local public school. In addition, community-supported living resources for adults with disabilities are also limited.


There can be times in the lives of families when an individual needs more than the family's resources, love and best intentions can provide. Unfortunately, sometimes when parents of children or adults with disabilities express an interest in exploring educational and/or residential options in the so-called private sector, they find themselves being attacked as "bad parents." Families in such situations need great courage and deserve respect for the complex decisions they face.

It is the right of parents of children with disabilities to have choices, just as other parents do. In many communities, even though there are fine public school programs, some parents choose to enroll their children in private or parochial schools. Although these schools are often "segregated" as well as outside the family's immediate neighborhood, these parents believe it is in their child's and/or family's best interest to enroll.


Private residential programs are still sometimes perceived as being the large warehouse-style institutions which used to house vast numbers of children and adults with disabilities under inhumane living conditions and without appropriate educational and therapeutic services. Back then, families were forced to "accept" terrible conditions because there were no alternatives available. As most public institutions were a disgrace, it was small, private programs that demonstrated how special education and therapy could dramatically improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Funding methods have also contributed to misunderstandings about private programs. Many individuals in need are "covered" financially by either private insurance or public reimbursement programs as long as they are housed in hospitals or other rather restrictive "inpatient" settings. However, they are not covered when they live in small community residential programs, supported apartment settings or other living models which encourage individuals to live as independently as possible. As a result, the family often has to pay all costs directly without any financial assistance.

Private educational and residential programs are typically nonprofit organizations governed by a volunteer board of directors. To continue providing the array of necessary services, most settings must look beyond regular fees to charitable contributions. Unfortunately, without funding assistance, private programs can be financially out of reach. Yet, when costs are compared, specific private programs can be far more cost-effective and helpful over time than hospitals or inpatient programs.


As more and more children with disabilities are being well-served by local public school programs, private programs have applied their skills in a variety of ways. Some work directly with public early intervention programs, others focus on short-term intensive efforts with individual residents, while still others concentrate on developing long-term supportive living arrangements for adults with disabilities.

Some private programs have developed innovative curricula for individuals with disabilities and their families, focusing on those who are not served - typically those with more severe physical, intellectual, and/or emotional limitations and/or individuals in need of complicated day-to-day nursing care. Others have established flexible programs offering a variety of educational options as well as a variety of living accommodations to enable each child (or adult) to participate in and enjoy life as much as possible. In addition, some private programs try to provide a "continuum of care," meeting each individual resident's unique needs within living arrangements that encourage increasing independence while providing the necessary supports along the way. These approaches fulfill the goal of the "least restrictive environment" concept - allowing individuals to participate as best they can with the fewest restrictions.

In recent years, many private programs have created community living models allowing young adults with disabilities to live as independently as possible outside the parental home. Just as it is considered appropriate for young adults to live in college dormitories, fraternity/sorority houses, or rooms, apartments or homes in the community, young adults who happen to be disabled can choose a group home, supervised apartment or supportive living arrangement. At the same time, adults can decide to participate in social, vocational and/or recreational programs with peers or in the community.

Private programs are dedicated to offering children and adults with disabilities opportunities to live rich, full lives. At their best, the ability of private programs to develop new approaches has made them laboratories for new ideas as well as a viable option for individuals and their families.

-- S.D.K. & M.I.S. --
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:educational programs for disabled children
Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Making your own switches.
Next Article:The American with Disabilities Act: dreams for the future.

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