A judge required a Florida school district to pay $720,000 for private education of an autistic young adult because they allegedly failed to provide him with the necessary education and training he was entitled to. The young man is 22 years old and is facing another five years in private education, in hopes of getting him to achieve the desired academic and life skills.
Details of the case are not given. Allegedly, the school district failed to provide Drew Sammons with a free and appropriate education by making him graduate and leave the school district while he didn’t meet appropriate requirements. The district, however, claims that he did pass a particular test, called FCAT or something (I don’t know what that test is for but it looks like a standardized test). In the Netherlands, it would be ridiculous if a family demanded a child remain in education beyond a certain age (usually 20), and certainly if that child passed a standardized test. Of course, standards in special schools are a little different, cause there training is focused more on life skills than academics, but students will still be made to leave when they’ve passed the standardized test for their particular type of high school, and this may include passing with accommodations. Doesn’t matter whether that disabled student has the life skills to make it in the outside world or even the study skills to carry with him into college – I didn’t either. Further training or therapy is paid for by health insurance or the government, not school districts – and even when the child is still in school, only special education schools will provide such things as occupational therapy or speech therapy, not regular schools.
But there is another, much more fundamental, issue raised within this case: do children or adults with disabilities need to be trained until they have reached a particular level of skills set for them? This man is 22, a few months older than me, and he’s required to undergo five more years of private educatioon and behavioral therapy to equip him (hopefully) with the academic and life skills he allegedly needs. Have the parents bothered to realize how much pressure all this training and therapy and treatment and education may be placing on their son? Can they possibly accept that their son may not reach the standard of achievement they determined for him? I’m pretty afraid that the parents run a risk of having to blame everything their son is lacking that they didn’t want him to lack, on poor education.
My parents are somewhat the same. They will not sue my old training home to make them pay the cost of having me retrained in Deventer – they don’t have any decision-making power over me and, should I’ve gone to that place, the government or my health insurance company would’ve paid anyway -, but they are of the same opinion: because I failed independent living, my old training home failed in providing me the skills I needed for that. They don’t say that my high school failed in preparing me for college, because they apparently know that school isn’t going to teach you how to learn but how to graduate. Training home doesn’t have a graduation exam. There are life skills goals – like an IEP has goals, too -, but if you don’t meet them, that doesn’t necessarily say that your training has failed. I didn’t meet the majority of the goals put on my last goals list at training home. That’s not because no-one tried to teach me or because I didn’t try to learn, but it happened anyway. And while I believe it ought to have sent a message that simply sending me to Nijmegen to live independently, might not work, I’ve never held training home accountable for not teaching me life skills.
And even if I had been saying that my training had failed – which I refuse to say, but many others do say -, that doesn’t mean I ought to be in training for another five years. Even if I did say that high school should’ve taught me study skills and didn’t, I still wouldn’t want to be in “college prep” school for another five years. What if I still don’t have the life skills and study skills I need after those five years? What if Drew still hasn’t met his parents’ goals for him after five years in private school? Will the family sue again, demanding the school pay for yet another training/education program? Please, parents, realize that just because your child has IEP goals, doesn’t mean he will reach them. And just because an education or training may not have been the best it could’ve been – which neither my high school nor my training home nor any other training or educaiton I’ve been in, have been -, doesn’t mean you ought to be in training and education and behavioral therapy programs for the rest of your life.