If you are going to make big sweeping changes to how something is done, you need to communicate early (and often!) to the people those changes will be affecting. This seems like a simple rule, but it’s not always put into practice.
Over the past few months our district has been talking about upcoming changes to the autism program. I have zero issues with the current program, it’s been fabulous for the boys, and they are thriving. We are very happy in Minneapolis Public Schools. At the Monthly SEAC meetings I’ve attended, any discussion about the changes have made sense to me, and I have been comfortable with what is being rolled out. There has been very little push-back to the changes at the meetings I’ve been to.
If the changes are implemented well, this could be a great way of getting kids back into their classrooms, back into their community schools (vs being segregated into cluster schools), and more aligned with the federal settings.
I am not so naive as to believe there will not be stumbling blocks, or that the changes will be right for every single child, but I think the reasons for the changes are sound, and I think the changes are overall good, and I think this could really work.
I seem to be very alone in my opinions, at least I haven’t found many other parents who agree (or are willing to speak up on the matter). I am starting to think this is because the vast majority of parents do not know about the changes yet, and those who do are being informed by a very vocal group of parents who are absolutely outraged (Call the media! This is Criminal! This is detrimental to our kids!) vs by the people who should be sharing the information: the people who came up with the plan- the Special Education department.
You can not imagine how much this has made me question my sanity or intelligence. How can I, an educated mother of two autistic sons entering 1st grade, be so daft as to think these changes are OK, when everyone else is screaming for every advocate in the sate to take up the cause of putting an end to these changes? I’ve asked nearly everyone I know who has seen and heard the same information if I am missing something, and I have been assured I am not.
Am I just more level-headed? Maybe I can see past the knee-jerk reaction to freak out whenever something will affect the boys, and give it a chance? Maybe I am more trusting in my boy’s abilities? Maybe I am too trusting of the boy’s educators to want the best for them? Maybe I can see the good the changes will bring? Maybe I am right and they are wrong? Maybe we are both right?
What I want to know is this- what would the motivation be for a district to set up kids for such failure? Because that is what these parents are saying these changes amount to- nothing but detrimental, criminal level failure of our children, who will be no doubt ostracized in the process, and left on their own to fumble through. Apparently in this world, IEPs don’t exist, and neither do federal settings.
So far all I’m hearing is the token “it’s all about the budget”, but I hate to break it to you, in a school district EVERYTHING is about the budget.
There has to be more. I don’t think the district would do something to cause this much blowback, if they didn’t think the changes were good, and important, and that kids would be supported.
At this point I want to completely remove myself from the conversation. Those who are talking the loudest do not want to hear dissent. They are only interested in finding people who agree, or those who haven’t heard any information yet, because they can be easily swayed. And really, what could I possibly say? I have nothing to back myself up- there is nowhere to direct people to get information at this point.
Do you see what I mean about communicating early and often? The district has already lost on this, because they are letting a group of unhappy parents write the script. As we go into the last week of the school year, with the last SEAC meeting this Thursday, I just want to skip ahead to August, and have the changes in place.
Let’s get some information out there MPS. Stop letting this conversation be based on fear and negative propaganda.