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Visions of the future.

This short article, about a subject very dear to my heart, is long overdue. During the last 20 years of parent advocacy in the area of special education (PL 94-142, IDEA), I have been and am very aware of the needs of parents, their children and families. There is a great need to recommit, in a positive way, parents of families to the educational system. The public education system is the only system we have for children with disabilities in this country, and it is up to us, their parents, to make it work. We need to cooperate with schools, state departments of education, and the federal Department of Education. That does not mean that we should allow our selves to be intimidated by anybody, but we need to learn all we possibly can about the changing systems that I am sure will be implemented during the next few years.

We cannot expect people who do not even know we exist to take care of our children's education. As always, it is our job to monitor and make sure our hard-earned tax dollars are used to obtain a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for our children.

The other key issue is an equitable, integrated education for all children with disabilities. There are so many children throughout the country who are still not in school, let alone obtaining an appropriate education. It is unfortunately seen as a political game; we need to be aware of that and be a part of it.

Hopefully, this time of change is favorable to a complete overhaul of the education systems. Neither the introduction of a two-tier system nor the suggestion of a voucher program is acceptable for the 10 percent of the school population who happen to be disabled -- physically, mentally or emotionally. The new administration needs to understand that we have long-term goals and dreams for our children just like everybody else. These children have the same civil rights as all other children in the U.S.A., and we mean to make sure that they are upheld, under Section 504, IDEA, and now ADA.

It is vital that the whole movement of parent training be continued in a parent-to-parent model. The level of skills acquired far exceeds the initial cost of such an innovative program model, which now should be expanded. Here is the ongoing vision of total inclusion and integration for all children, with the necessary supplementary aids and services as required by law to meet their individual needs.

Ms. Steneberg has been a staff member of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)for the past 15 years. The organization works alongside people with disabilities who work toward obtaining rights for future generations of children whom we hope will be able to make a difference,
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Title Annotation:parental participation in special education; Networking: Information from the National Parent Network on Disabilities
Author:Steneberg, Doreen Pam
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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