By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs
We adopted our son from Russia when he was nine months old. It was the single greatest day of our lives when they finally brought him to the hotel we were staying at in Siberia. The orphanage workers handed him over to us and made us take all his clothes off so they could return them to his orphanage for another child. It was, to me, a strange stripping of his former life but a renewal for his new life.
We proudly kept his birth name and began our new lives together.
When we adopted him, we knew that he would come with cognitive delays. We were educated by the adoption agency about possible health issues that he could be born with. He had years of therapy (OT, PT, Sensory Processing Disorder Therapy, Socialization Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, two eye surgeries to fix his strabismus) to catch him up. He worked so hard!
He has excelled beyond our wildest dreams, and he is the joy of our lives.
He is an accomplished trumpet player, he knows the full history of the sinking of the Titanic, he is a lover of animals, and he is an amazing son.
I decided to write this letter to him because I have been involved in trying to stop the destruction of his education for 3 years. My involvement has been time consuming and I am hoping that this letter will serve as an archive for him to understand why I fight.
I adore you more than you will ever know. Having you in my life has been an utter joy and has enriched my life beyond measure. This is a hard letter to write because I have been fighting a battle that began because of you, my love for you, and my want for you to get a great education. As a teacher and a mother, I know that getting a sound education will open so many doors for you. I know that using education to find your passion will make you a happy adult. This is why I fight. This is why I travel and speak; this is why I work on the computer for hours at a time to write, organize, and join coalitions to make sure that you, and all children, have an education that opens doors and allows for discovery of a passion.
There are entities in the country that want to take away your right to a “Free and Appropriate Education." They want to deny you the rights you are entitled to under IDEA. They want you to work to IEP goals that you could never meet. They want you to take exit assessments that are designed to set you up to fail. They want to create a cookie cutter education system that won’t help you overcome your weaknesses and will not lift your strengths to the surface. I know this, your teachers know this, but the entities that make education policy are not listening.
You are my son. I adore you. I love you and…
I will not be ignored.
So, I need to extend an apology to you.
I am sorry that adults who make education policy are ignorant about the real needs of special education children. I am sorry that adults involved in making education policy continue to marginalize special needs children. I am sorry that adults who make education policy continue to see special needs children, and their parents, as invisible.
The fight we have before us is to tell education policy makers that we will not be marginalized, and we will not be invisible.
So, I continue to fight for you, for all children with special needs, and I hope one day…
You will understand why I fight.