I’ve been to the Ministry before and nothing has become of it. The promises which were made in 2011, 2012, and 2013 are still the same promises made in 2014. Has the Minister forgotten that she’s a public servant – working on behalf of the people? What misguided boldness! Such utter nonsense being publicly aired by a Minister of Government! That I, as a parent, knows where the Ministry is. Clearly suggesting that if I have any issues I should take my concerns there! Honorable Minister, I think it’s important that you understand that in government, there are going to be decisions you make (or actions you take) whose effects are likely to outlast the government of the day – And those, in my humble opinion are worthy of being addressed in public. Also, please tell the good public that I’ve been there (to your office) and done that! Tell them about the emails I’ve sent sharing my views and suggesting ways that the Ministry could possible get things done. Tell them about the discussions I’ve had with you and other members of your team about this very topic. But as Martin Luther King once said… “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” So, get off your high-horse and stand! This sort of superior attitude is what makes the public despair. There is a huge problem with regards to the provision of special education in this country. These deep systemic problems we’re faced with are not mine alone – And they are bigger than the speeches, the openings and the photo-ops we sometimes clamor for
Regarding the Minister’s comments about my supposed attack on the members who sit on the Special Education Council… For those who missed it, here’s an excerpt of what I said:
“A Special Education Council was put in place… Good move: An advisory council could potentially assist the Ministry with drafting policies/programs/plans/reviewing budgets and giving guidance (relating to special education) on how to put those plans into action. Where I think you went wrong: Instead of looking as far as the eye can see with regards to assembling a diverse group to sit on this council – You, looked outside your office door. That‘s the only conclusion I could arrive at to explain why you would elect a senior executive within the Ministry as the Chair of this council – Added to that the other members (with the exception of one) are all Ministry execs.
By all means, this is not an attack on the competencies of the individuals who sit on the council but they are Ministry staffers and are conflicted, therefore, in providing independent advice to you. The council is unlikely to recommend actions deemed unfavorable by you or criticize any decisions that have been made by the Ministry. Therefore you and your team cannot receive the objective advice needed in order to make intelligent decisions. This clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the processes of thoughtful planning which the provision of special education services requires.”
I’m not attacking the competencies of the individuals as you suggest. Actually, it’s your competency I question. You’re the one who has made the people doing the work both the doers and the advisers. How can you expect no one to question this? The actions you take have a direct impact on things and it baffles me that you’re unable to see this conflict. So, please do not confuse my right to be critical publicly with anything else. Don’t make that vulgar mistake that I’m somehow persecuting you or anyone else just because you’re being challenged.
Instead of working with the press to help the public understand what you are doing and why, you chose to defend your lackluster record where special needs education is concerned, on the grounds that you’re standing up for others. Give me a break! Quit trying to rationalize your phoniness into some sort of noble act. You’re not standing up for anyone! You’re using them as a shield! By the way, NO ONE! I repeat… NO ONE! Can be more hurt than the parents of these kids! At the end of the day you switch off your lights and leave your office. This is our ALL DAY EVERYDAY! So if you’re hurt, keep it to yourself! Use that energy to put the proper programs and policies in place to make the education system better for our children. It’s so ironic that it suits you now to say that every criticism is a broad-brush approach. In a quote from an article posted on Caribbean News Now in 2013, you said: “This particular area of education has not been done justice over the years”. We’re we to believe then, that the same folks you accuse me of disregarding now were being disregarded by you when you made those comments? Come on Minister… Give us all some more credit than that. No right-thinking person would assume that’s what you meant. Also, we agree with you! That’s what this public conversation is about! Plus, at the end of the day, don’t you think those same people want better, more meaningful change too?
Here’s some advice… Don’t campaign on an issue, make empty promises, and take the job of Minister of Education, if you don’t want to be held accountable for it. We’re not accountable to you; it’s the other way around. This is our tax dollars you’re spending! It’s not only at election time you have to come to us – But you have to come to us every time! Get it right! I do not profess to have all the answers, after all, like you said I’m a “just come”. But I would love if at least once, after giving your excuses, you could tell the public what your plans really are and explain to us why the promises you’ve made have not been kept.
When the 2014 Education Week launched with a call for greater commitment – Again, what are you asking us to commit to? Can’t be blind commitment? Which, as far as I’m concerned is intellectual suicide – And I cherish my independence too much to allow that. But you know, I once came across a quote which said: “The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” So from me to you…
I will continue to be critical, because no government gets it right all the time. So stop treading on dangerous ground with your archaic views – This notion some politicians have where they want you to come to their office to bare your soul. So sing to the media and cry inside these walls. Perhaps it’s because of how I was raised and the fact that I probably watch too much MSNBC, that I find it difficult to accept that crap.
As I’ve said before, I’m an ordinary mom. The only special interest I have is for my son and others like him to have equal access to an appropriate and adequate education. I’m proud to be able to speak up and out for them and even more determined not to stop. So you see… Honorable Minister; I’m not asking for anything that you yourself haven’t asked for, said we needed. All I’m saying is: Talk is not all that matters…
My open letter to the Hon. Minister of Education, Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro…
I’m saddened and distressed by the state of affairs with regards to special education in this country.
We hear “It’s a priority” so often and still nothing gets done so I’ve now become numb to the promises made. I guess one thing can be said – There’s been some consistency where this issue is concerned and that is, nothing gets done. How tragic.
This year I made a special effort to listen to the Hon. Minister of Education, Jacqui Quinn-Lenadro’s speech regarding the recent budget. At one point, the Minister expressed how painful it was for her to see an unfinished structure at the Antigua State College campus for such an extended period. Painful! It pains her to see an unfinished building – that I may add – she’s right, it should be finished – BUT – perhaps I missed this, but I’ve never heard the Minister sounding this pained when she talks about special need children and how they continue to be shortchanged by the education system. Children! Not blocks! People! Or is it just the parents who should feel this pain? Newsflash! We’re feeling it! Newsflash! We can’t take it anymore!
So, since we’re on the subject of pain. Here’s what pains me…
The way the authorities run to their back-up responses of arts and crafts, vocational when the subject of special education comes up. Arts and crafts/vocational, though good is not the be-all and end-all of our children. Are we as parents to assume that that’s what it means to you – And – that is the breadth of the experience they will have in the system?
I am saddened that you and too many others continue to apologize and make excuses for the lack of any real, and thoughtful plans to address the needs of these students – actions that continue to be disastrous for so many. Quit holding out the “Coming Soon” carrot stick! We’re not rabbits! After all, at what point should we get fed-up of hearing “We’re working on something” or “We’re looking at it”. So you’re looking at it, we’re looking for it and our children get absolutely nothing from it. Just great! Words don’t help our children. Good programs/policies that are enforced do.
Here is your record…
You started out by saying the Ministry of Education will be making special education a priority. Every time I think of this I remember a quote from Mahatma Gandhi which says; “Actions expresses priorities”. My interpretation of this is that people take action on the things they deem important. I guess in a sense the Ministry’s inaction has pushed me to keep fighting for my child’s (and others like him) educational rights. So I’m going to keep demanding, over and over and over again for better more meaningful change. “We don’t have enough money” is no longer acceptable or defensible for bad education policies and programs.
You then said that you will be setting up a diagnostic center: We’re still waiting for this to even start. By the way, should we be concerned by the track record of the new public library? In a Daily Observer article on November 19th, 2011 the Minister stated: “Our fine team at the Board of Education has just completed an estimate of the cost of converting the building (referring to a building on Nugent Ave.) into a functional child-friendly centre, and we have included this expenditure into the 2012 budget,” – What happened Minister? Ok… You missed the ball in 2012 and again in 2013 – But… Believe me folks it will happen in 2014! Give me a minute please because I’m gagging on this giant-sized pill I’m being fed now. I’ve said this before – But – year after year we hear of an education budget but it’s difficult to say whether there is any correlation between the amount spent on the education system and its ability to be effective in responding to diversity. So you don’t have enough? Let us see what you’re doing with what you have. It’s your responsibility to tell us.
A Special Education Council was put in place… Good move: An advisory council could potentially assist the Ministry with drafting policies/programs/plans/reviewing budgets and giving guidance (relating to special education) on how to put those plans into action. Where I think you went wrong: Instead of looking as far as the eye can see with regards to assembling a diverse group to sit on this council – You, looked outside your office door. That‘s the only conclusion I could arrive at to explain why you would elect a senior executive within the Ministry as the Chair of this council – Added to that the other members (with the exception of one) are all Ministry execs.
By all means, this is not an attack on the competencies of the individuals who sit on the council but they are Ministry staffers and are conflicted, therefore, in providing independent advice to you. The council is unlikely to recommend actions deemed unfavorable by you or criticize any decisions that have been made by the Ministry. Therefore you and your team cannot receive the objective advice needed in order to make intelligent decisions. This clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of the processes of thoughtful planning which the provision of special education services require.
More teachers have been trained in Special Education: This is absolutely great! But Minister, please explain why this benefit hasn’t trickled down to the point of making more of a difference for our children who are in the classrooms now. How do these new specialist teachers entering the system fit into the overall plan? What is the big picture? Is there a big picture?
The ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The new political ping-pong – Politicians climbing over each other to see who can be the most politically correct and use the most buzz-words. To that I say; “How convenient.” We don’t address it for years then all of a sudden it shows up in a budget speech. Did we just find the conscience we lost? When Antigua signed on to this convention in 2007, put in place by the United Nations, were we doing it for the betterment of our citizens or was it just for show?
The Ministry has managed to do very little because many parents/advocates either can’t, won’t or don’t know how to challenge them. I have to be honest though, sometimes I feel like I’m being ignored to the point of exhaustion (didn’t know this was possible) within a system that is so inherently flawed that the authorities think nothing about being satisfied with the status quo. It’s embarrassing, the awful reputation our public schools have when it comes to special education. How can we change that?
These children may have a disability and they may need accommodations to access the educational curriculum but they are worthy of the same high expectations that is placed on our typical children. So hopefully you agree that we must have high expectations of education authorities. After all it’s the high expectations that we have today which will prepare them for a life of independence in the future. I refuse to raise a child for a life of dependence on social programs and dollars! Or worse! I very much doubt you, or any other Member of Parliament, would be happy with that situation for your own children, yet so many in government are complicit by their silence on the issue. I’m not wishing for any MP to have to raise a child with special needs but perhaps you would all feel somewhat differently about the matter if you had to.
Here we are, celebrating Education Week under the theme “Every Learner Achieves: A Call for Greater Commitment” but from where I sit it does not appear as if we truly believe in that theme. That every learner can achieve – And when the authorities call for greater commitment. Who is this call going out to? Commitment is not a one-way street. Education officials are always quick to tout the importance of the involvement of parents as stakeholders in the education of their child but when parents do get involved it appears as if your involvement is only wanted on their terms. So we’re “good” once we’re singing from the same hymn-sheet but once I challenge you… Now, I know there are some who have no tolerance for this sort of emotional honesty in communication – But I refuse to give unthinking respect to anyone/group/thing. It’s not happening!
So, no more phony consultations to provide window-dressing for progress. We don’t want that! We want real dialogue that asks all partners to help define the barriers and consider how they can contribute to solving them. I’m ready to do whatever it takes. What about you?
I know I’ve been a bit tardy with my posts but in my defense… I do have a lot of stories to tell you but they just sometimes come to me at the worst times when I’m not able to write any of it down. For me to get something out I have to drop everything and just focus on writing or else you’re just going to get crap – And you know that would be a big step down from the literary masterpieces you’ve grown accustomed to. You’re welcome but no need to thank me it’s the least I can do.
You know that in my posts I’m either pissed-off or funny – But – I’m trying to mellow out because I’m getting older and somehow I never remember the funny stuff after they’ve happened. So in honor of my birthday I’ve decided that moving forward I’m going to work on striking a balance. So, as a part of the process I need to first confess a few things.
1. Ok… Let’s start off with what you know is one of my biggest fears, which is to be seen in faded underwear. I’m happy to confess though that I’m over it. Now, I worry about being taken to the ER in my spanx. Shhh… Sometimes it’s full-body spanx. It will be a couple hundred dollars down the tube if they have to cut it off of me. My mom is to blame for all this nutty behavior. One day I was stripping in front of my mom… SIDE NOTE: Get your damn mind out the gutter cause this ain’t no freak shit.
Back to what I was saying… So I’m taking my clothes off and she shouts out “Oh my God! How much clothes do you have on? Try nuh tek-een dung de road. Translation: I hope you don’t faint/pass-out when you get to where you’re going.” Now I can’t stop worrying. SIDE NOTE: I no longer watch the ER Trauma shows. Now I want everything that happens to me to be a surprise.
2. I think I’m ready to try my hand at being a lawyer or maybe being a cop. I’ve been binge-watching Law & Order all year. Actually this is not really a confession – Just wanted you to know about the new skills that I’ve acquired. I can spot a perp anywhere.
3. Ok… I’m no longer day-dreaming about quitting my job and cutting coupons so I can appear of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing”. I now realize that I need my job – BUT – I want my own reality show. Who wants to get paid to be my friend on it?
4. I’m way past my annual check-up. Because of my job, I’m having difficulty finding a gynecologist who does not know my name, recognize me or both. So now I’m back to wanting to quit my job. Some background… I went through a lot to trouble seeking out a doc that I’ve never been to before for my last check-up. So, I get there and I’m in plain clothes. SIDE NOTE: OMG! I tell you I could be a cop… Plain clothes (Not exactly what plain clothes means for me though).
Anyway… I walk into the lobby and immediately think, “Shit! I know all the staff here. Not good.” So I do all the preliminaries – At one point I thought that my blood pressure reading would be off the charts because I’m going a little nut-so hoping that the doc doesn’t walk out, see me, and start a conversation as if they know me. I would have passed out for real – And I wasn’t even wearing any spanx. I know… Totally nut-so.
That didn’t happen and I wait to go into the exam room. So it’s now my turn. The doc introduces himself to me and we exchange some pleasantries then the doc directs me to a room where I can strip… SIDE NOTE: Man! This is the second time I’m talking about stripping in one post. That could be good (suki suki) or bad (still suki suki…?) Back to the story… So I strip and put on a gown. SIDE NOTE: Yes, I think seriously now I want to quit my job because I need to spend some time coming up with a design to replace those gowns. Maybe crotch-less pants or… I don’t know but… If you’ve ever been in one (patient gown) you know what I mean.
So, I get back in the exam room and get up on the bed the doc starts asking me questions about myself, family history etc. At this time I’m still just sitting on the exam bed. Then the doc says to me, “Lie back and put your legs up. SIDE NOTE: The doc is about to go take a look at the best view in the world.
Still talking to me, I guess in an effort to make me comfortable. So… Pause… Exam for a minute or two then, out of the blue says; “Oh, so you’re Salma Crump!” I was like, “F ME DEN!” To myself, to myself, I said it to myself! Translation: “F ME! Nothing else, that’s it. The word “den” is just our way of vocalizing an exclamation point.
After that it was like my knees had a mind of their own because they were closing like a vice grip. I swear, I was told to relax about ten times after that. There was more talk after that but I would be lying if I told you what it was about. I couldn’t process anything else other than the Queen Victoria Expose which was unfolding right in front of me. And that is; ladies and gentlemen why I’m way past due with my check-up. You see, I just prefer when my doc gets to know Queen Victoria before they get to know Salma Crump. Please… Don’t judge me.
5. When your kids ask for toys; don’t make any assumptions, just check the toys out before you say yes. So, leading up to Christmas Kuba has been asking for the Animaniacs toys. He’s been into this cartoon lately. He would say to me (at least 5 times a day): “Mom, I want the Animaniacs plush toys for Christmas – Yakko Warner, Wakko Warner and the Warner sister Dot.” Yes, my kid is very specific. As it got closer to Christmas I decide to go check out the toys online.
I go to Amazon first. My search returns only one of them. I try all sorts of different searches but still the only one and it was about $45. I’m thinking to myself, “What the hell is wrong with this seller”. Anyway I go to ebay now. I get a few results but not as many as I think and I notice that the prices are along the same lines and some even more than 45 bucks. Then it occurs to me that I haven’t seen a description which says “new” yet. Folks, the toys are collectible items. The three stuffed toys are about to cost us about 150 bucks. What the hell did I get myself into! And it’s just like my kid to want vintage toys. It’s not that we’re opposed to spending this amount – But – on stuffed toys? Aren’t these supposed to sell for like 5 bucks? Now that is a bill I would support. So, the moral of the story is; check out the toys before you say yes. Your pocketbook will thank you. We’re suckers though… We bought the toys. SIDE NOTE: Even PayPal sent me an email after the purchase saying: ‘Come on man… Really!”
6. I’m still eating things (albeit less of it) which had a face prior to hitting my plate.
7. Ok… Never wear black pants or black underwear on planes. Actually stay away from black while traveling. For the second time in my life I bared my ass while traveling. This time it happened after I got off the plane. I take that back. I’m really not sure when it happened. All I know is that Kuba and I had just got off the plane after a long day of travel, numerous lines, escalators, and thousands of people – Only the have my sister greet me in arrivals, give me a hug then say… “Turn around, yuh nuh wan hole in yuh batum?” Translation: ”Turn around… You know there’s a hole in your bottom?”
SIDE NOTE: Guys, think about that for a second. This is what we call a double entendre, which, in literary terms means that what she’s just asked me could be interpreted in two ways; especially one having a meaning that is indelicate. And I don’t know about you but I consider all the holes on my body to be very delicate and any reference to them should be done with all sensitivity.
So what do I do? I reach for my ass. Long story short… It had turned into a city with a drug problem.
Imagine the horror. The first thought was Kuba. My only son, who came forth from my loins the one who had traveled with me ALL DAY! By the way, does loin mean vagina or womb? SIDE NOTE: I call Charlton to ask him. He’s like my ghost busters. You know… Who you’re gonna call…
Me: What is loins? Is it my vagina or my womb?
Charlton: Loins… What is this about?
Me: I’m trying to figure out where Kuba came from
Me: You there?
Me: You know when folks say he came forth from my loins. What do they mean?
Charlton: It’s mine. He came from me
Me: How do you know?
Charlton: That’s what it means. My seed
Me: (silence) – I’m thinking that whatever I say could potentially give this convo new meaning
Me: I thought he came from my loins? So it is my bowels then?
Me: Yes… He came from my bowels? Why does it have to be my bowels?
Charlton: He came from your gut right?
Me: Well… I guess
Charlton: Ok then
Me: So because he came from my gut that means he came from my bowels?
Charlton: I’m pretty sure it’s that but I’ll go research it
Me: I’ll go research too
SIDE NOTE: It’s on like Donkey Kong!
Anyway… Where was I again? Ok, right here… So my ass is ripped. Not “ripped” like “ripped” – I am working on that though – But – “ripped” like the seam broke and it’s “crack city” baby. One sec, back to loins for a minute … If Charlton is right –although I’m still researching, and Kuba came from his loins then I guess my dad’s own was a bit watery. Because if it wasn’t then maybe I would have more (literally… more) of an ass that is “ripped like ripped”. Sorry mom. But you were right when you said that we stood in the “bubby line” too long. Translation: “breast line”.
SIDE NOTE: I know; I have a serious problem with staying on topic. I’m working on it.
So my one and only son who came forth from my loins (yes… whatever… my research is not complete), the one who had traveled with me ALL DAY said not a word! Guys, we literally went up escalators where there were folks behind me whose head was in my direct fart line. And it was “Silent Saturday”… They wouldn’t have seen it coming at all.
SIDE NOTE: My apologies Princess. Everyone, I’m friends with a real Princess and she frowns when I talk about farts. She says it’s not becoming. So I’ve promised her that I will no longer talk about it here. So, from to the ones who are turning up your noses right now but you know you’re a closet fart lover. Here’s one for old times’ sake…
8. I think most people get farts all wrong. Too often they’re misinterpreted. I think they’re just a non-verbal way for you to say; “hey, you’re cool, I like you” or in the case of a stranger a nice “hello there”. I’m about to share something very special with you. Cause you’re my homie. It’s a day-of-the-week calendar that I’m considering printing and sharing with all my friends, which includes you. I know… No need to thank me.
Ok… Here goes the Fartdar.
Monster Mondays: Not what you’re thinking. It’s all noise and no real action
Time Bomb Tuesdays: These just escape like at all the wrong damn times. You let someone in your car; you’re in a full dressing room at Khols with your son the fart police.
Wicked Wednesdays: Run for your life
To Be Named Thursdays: Seriously… These could fit any profile
Funky Fridays: How it affects the senses is anyone’s guess
Like I mentioned Saturday’s are “Silent”: …………………………….. Deadly!
Savor the Sundays: Just let it out man. It’s just a gentle breeze. When it happens your… Hmmm squeeze…
SIDE NOTE: Feeling a bit sad now. Think I just lost a friend.
9. Ok, I’m no longer going to deny it. I naturally walk like I’m about to kick someone’s ass. However, I desperately want to learn how to walk sexy. There is no mood-killer worse than walking towards your man doing your sexiest stride and he asks you; “What did I do now? What are you upset about?” Little does he know that it’s because I’m concentrating so hard on walking and wining that my face is all scrunched-up and added to that my arms out at the sides, that I look mad.
10. The one checkup that I was looking forward to most after giving birth was… Ok, wait a second. This is just between us. Ok… What I was looking forward to most was my six week postpartum check-up where my doctor said…
“You’re free to resume sexual activity now.”
Thank you Jesus! I can take off the “Gone on Vacation”, “Extended Leave”, “Laid Off” sign off my vagina. I tell you… It couldn’t have happened soon enough. Any day I would have started to hump Charlton’s leg like a dog. I think I started humming something from Marvin Gaye right in the doctor’s office.
It has become one of Charlton’s “remember when…” moments. To this day when Queen Victoria “acts” dead he says… “Remember when…”
11. Sometimes I forget how old I am. Someone asked me the other day how old I was going to be on my birthday and I was… “Ahhh… 2014 minus 1977 – Seven from four… You can’t – Go over to the one and borrow one…
I eventually did the all the calculations in my head. Took me only a few minutes. Then I said 37.
Happy birthday me! Was actually a few days ago… I’m working on my timing.
I think it’s still cool to say Happy New Year. Happy New Year to you!
For the past week Kuba has been pretending to arrest me. He’ll walk up behind me and say; “Turn around. Put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest woman!” Then he would proceed to put on the handcuffs – And as he’s “pretend hand-cuffing me) he’s saying to me; “What are you going to do now… Huh?” Almost every night we go through this. Fast forward to just the other day…
And so it goes (as told by his dad).
Charlton and Kuba are on their way into the city. They get stopped by cops during a random police check-point. Charlton gets out; Kuba stays behind in the car. He’s driving my car and the tint is DARK for days! SIDE NOTE: In case you’re wondering how I get away with such dark tint. Your guess is as good as mine. I went from one day not having any tint – drove like that for over a year – to next day Charlton saying that my seats are going to get sun-damage and I need to put on some tint. I went from sunlight to blackout in one fell swoop.
Anyway, Charlton is outside talking to the cop. I guess answering the usual questions. Then one of them noticed some movement in the car and asked if there was someone still in there. He told them yes, his son was. So the officer says:
Officer: Ask your son the exit the car
Charlton (opening car door): Kuba, come out of the car
Now; take a guess at what “star-boy” aka Kuba did…
Nope. Not that.
Kuba exited the car with his two hands up in the air.
All professionalism went out the door after that because everyone was laughing out so loud.
Now tell me…
SIDE NOTE: Perhaps we watched too much of the Trayvon Martin coverage. We haven’t even had “the talk” with him.
Great news guys… Kuba told me he loved me the other day.
Usually when I would say “I love you” to him he would just say “I love you” back to me. He still has both immediate and delayed echolalia, so I never really knew if he was just repeating what I said or not. I was working late at the office a few days ago and he called to tell me that he wanted Subway pizza… Yeah, I told you he’s very specific. Anyway at the end of our talk I said “I love you” and he said… Wait for it…
“I love you too”.
Witness me having an out-of-body experience…
I saw big cartoon hearts fading into little cartoon hearts. I think Adam’s ribbed cracked a little because my heart grew like twice the size. It was late, so it was just me and the cleaning lady. So I was able to fall apart with just a “side-eye” from her and not under the microscope of my colleagues.
I could have just died! Although I would prefer for it to be in my sleep and not by a stab wound or gunshot, or anything else that would cause me to feel pain. Just saying…
But seriously guys… I had no doubt my kid loved me but it’s difficult for me to put into words what it felt like hearing him say it. He will be eleven years old a few weeks from now, so I’ve been waiting a long time.
I came right home to give him the biggest hug and kisses.
Thank you God for sparing my life to hear those words from my child’s lips! I’m a happy mama… My heart is filled with immense joy!
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” - Omar Khayyam
“I’m happy for this moment. This moment is my life.” - Salma Crump
We can be as aware of autism as we are of the sun and moon, but this really only means that you’re on to it, you know it exists. It’s a good start; please know this – But we haven’t achieved anything until that awareness then evolves into something. And that ladies and gentlemen is when we’ve transformed potential into a sort of action which then makes way for our children and the adults they will become, playing a valuable role in society, and for our society to see themselves as the beneficiary.
The thing is, autism awareness acceptance month has ended but it will never end for me. So, I ask that you please allow me to express my grave concern over the following…
I’m a firm believer that there’s a need for major improvements to our teacher training program. I’ll just come out with it… It is my belief that there are teachers who have a less than positive attitude towards students with disabilities and their inclusion in general education classrooms – And this is not necessarily good or bad but… Actually, it is bad – But I say this, not to lay blame at their feet because I believe that a lot of it (not all) has to do with their training. Think about it. They are the ones who set the tone of their class. This means the success of inclusion of students with disabilities will depend on the prevailing attitudes of the teacher as they interact with these students. The implications here are far-reaching.
In our current program the special education course is what I would consider “weak”. Added to that, it’s optional. There is still such a huge separation between “regular” and “special” education with regards to our trainee program. If this orientation continues how are they ever going to get more opportunities to integrate materials taught or get a chance to experience the transdisciplinary nature of education as it should be practiced in classrooms today?
The fact that many of our autistic kids (and other disabilities) are just aging out of the school system, though certainly disappointing, should not be a surprise to anyone who examines what actually happens in our schools, and compare it to what research in other countries have clearly shown to be effective in educating these students. For quite some time now I’ve been urging the Ministry to begin collecting (accurate) data which they can then use to drive decision-making. To date, this is still not being done. Little productive change has eventuated at the policy level, much less at the classroom level.
So, what does all this mean? Teachers should be prepared for the students they are going to teach. When this does not happen both students and teachers are being setup for failure.
Ultimately though, I believe we should give every bad teacher an opportunity to train to get better, and if they don’t, they should be fired. Yes teachers, you’re special, but you’re not that special.
In Antigua & Barbuda we have an “inclusion by default policy”. This means, that yes; officials may very well say that some students with disabilities are in the general classrooms in various schools – And this for them is inclusion. However, administrators and teachers interpret it as they choose, sometimes based on personal ideologies, and often to the detriment of students, because there are no Ministry checks and balances to ensure the intent of the “so-called” policy is respected.
So let me be clear… Inclusion is not a school or is it a class, or a student. What it is though, is a belief that regardless of labels, ALL students should be members of the general education community, having access to the full range of curriculum options.
To be honest, there is still some controversy over whether or not inclusion is appropriate, for example, for someone like my son (who’s autistic). However, in my opinion, I sometimes think that those who are not in favor of this are overlooking what is at the heart of the inclusion model. Don’t get me wrong, my philosophy is not inclusion at all costs. However, I think students must receive needed supports and services within the context of the regular classroom. When these accommodations are insufficient to insure educational success, then students can be placed in more restrictive settings. I also think it’s important for the students to have the opportunity to interact with nondisabled peers.
While I’m on the topic of inclusion; the “dunce class” – And you, yes you; don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. The “dunce class” in some of our public schools is no substitute for inclusion or special education either. What a shame, the way our kids are bullied, belittled, branded and forgotten because of a diagnosed/undiagnosed learning disorder.
We need to get away from this thinking that students, and this is students with or without disabilities, fall into neat categories of educational need. It just isn’t so.
The State of the Union
Yes; I’m going there.
To begin, let me state that teacher-bashing does not equal reform and I want to avoid it at all costs. So if you’re a teacher and you’re reading this, I hope you see it for what it is – A campaign for improved educational provisions for those children who have been excluded from or marginalized within our education system because of their disability.
So yes; you have a right to stand up and demand more/better for your members and I will support you on that – But – Demand more and better for our children as well. Contrary to popular belief (and not that this makes it right) you’re not the only “public servants” who are underpaid and overworked. I’m certain many of your members are concerned about this, but I have to be honest; you’re silence on this matter has been deafening. Teaching for the children is still a part of your mission, right?
Let me be the first to acknowledge that yes, funding is an issue – But as I’ve said before, in some instances it is not always a matter of more money; it is a matter of smarter money. We absolutely cannot continue to throw our hands up in the air and say there is no money so we can’t do anything.
First of all I think we need someone within the Ministry to “own” this; Special Education. Not that everyone don’t all play a role at the end of the day but someone has to “own” it – And overtime give that person a team to work with. This cannot be someone who’s already taxed by their workload in the Ministry. This is unfair to our students, teacher and the overworked employee because that person cannot give the Special Education the attention it deserves.
What the Ministry of Education needs to understand is that they have to take this matter seriously. Not just in thought but in deed. Not that attitude will change overnight if they do but I think it sets the stage for that change to occur. It’s a ripple effect. “We don’t have enough money” is no longer acceptable or defensible for bad educational policies.
I’m disappointed at the state of affairs with regards to special education but I’m not surprised.
Stand Your Ground System
We have a sort of “stand your ground” special education system in Antigua & Barbuda. This means when parents want to get any help in the public system they must be able to speak-up, stand their ground and know which doors to knock on, especially when help is initially denied. And when the public system fails, families with financial means turn to private options to rescue their kids. But the vast majority of our students with autism/other disabilities in our public schools don’t have that luxury. When they complain about inadequate supports to assure academic progress, they’re told that’s all the funds the Ministry has and that’s all they should expect. End of story.
As I write my final column for Autism Awareness Acceptance Month, I just want people to know that at the end of the day, no parent who has ever watched their child or another child struggle would ever want to deny an opportunity to help a child in crisis find the support necessary to thrive and succeed. My heart goes out to families whose children have been failed because of the public system. It kills me when other families approach me and ask for help because their children are suffering and they don’t know who to talk to/afraid to “stand their ground”. These are things that they know deep down goes against everything that’s right and fair with regards to the education of their child. Let me tell you – I sometimes struggle to find the quality that, thank God, is still somewhere within me to listen and not speak my mind in very unprintable terms. Because the irony of the situation is; that’s my kid too that they’re doing this to.
Solutions that tackle the above problems within our public schools are what we need, because these will help all students who are struggling, not just a few. The private schools are good to have but guess what? They’re private! They cost! And the tuitions are generally outside of the reach of the average family. Plus ask anyone of these schools who has a special education component as a part of their offering and they will tell you that they’re overwhelmed with parents (those who can pay the tuition and many who can’t) wanting to register their kids. And a school does not a policy make.
What we need are solutions that are imbedded in the public system from the outset. Yes they will take more effort but they will identify the real barriers, generate more buy-in, serve ALL children and pay the maximum long-term dividends for all students.
What we have now is a system where we do nothing about problem, provide no intervention, and end up with a significant group of disillusioned students who have lost contact with the curriculum. How about focusing our attention and resources on emphasizing the resolution of our mistakes? So this sequence of not chain of initial failure, embarrassment, disappointment, detachment and finally dropping out, that is so predictable and ongoing, needs to come to an end. Stop addressing it as if they’re all separate issues; they are not.
We still have many folks who are in positions which can effect change but they view autism and other disabilities as a leeches on the public school system who will suck resources as they are forced (by the way, this would be by our own laws) to serve our kids.
I’ve said many times before that if any of these people would just stop to think about what it will eventually cost ALL of us in society, if we do not do everything in our power while they’re in their childhood to produce a physically and emotionally healthy, self-sufficient adult. After all, we raise them to be men and women not children.
Our law says education for ALL. Not some. Not for those who can afford to pay – But for ALL children – One that’s appropriate and in the least restrictive environment.
So when we demand, in the name of our children, education over lip service, we have nothing to apologize for.
Hey Mister… Shut up!
I think I’ve had it up to here – Folks; I’m up on a ladder with my hands above my head so I’m right up to my limit – With the rude comments from strangers, friends (although I’m reconsidering this label) or family (unfortunately, I’m stuck with this one). So, please indulge me as I go through a little DIY therapy session and put some things in perspective.
“Wait! Is he retarded or something?” Dear God please help me! I want to drop-kick this man. I’ve watched enough Jet Li movies; I could so do it – BUT – I didn’t. Ladies and gentlemen, I actually responded and said; “He’s autistic.” Somewhere between my mind and my mouth I dropped “you idiot”. I was so pissed!
For the mom who comes up to me after he has had a meltdown… “You mustn’t let him embarrass you like that in public. You need to put your hand in his bottom.” She waits. I say nothing. She gives me the evil-eye. I continue ignoring her. She looks (disgust) at my son and shakes her head. I’m willing myself not to speak – So afraid of what may come out of my mouth.
Friends, Family and then some
Yes, we do discipline him. However, contrary to what you believe we can’t beat it out of him nor will we attempt to for your sake.
Ms. Tact Less
Did you do something to cause it? WHAT! I just had to walk away from that one. Whatever made you think you can ask me that? Arrrggghhh!
Kuba was babbling up until about four (4) years old. So his speech at times is still not that clear. “He’s too big to be speaking like that.” My response: “No shit Sherlock!” Like really! Do you think that I (a) Don’t already know this, (b) Doing everything that we can to improve it and (c) He wants to improve just as bad. Telling me that you have a 5 year old grandson who speaks VERY WELL because his mom makes sure of it is not advice. It’s just you showing off so… SHUT! UP!
Dr. Know It All
I was watching this program on TV and they were talking about how this gluten-free diet/ABA therapy/freak juice /jumping out of a plane can cure autism. Look… The one thing that I know for sure is that to date there is no cure. Yes, there are therapies that help, but no one thing helps all autistic people. Take home message; not because you watch it on TV or read it in a book that it’s the gospel.
The Food Police
My kid is a picky eater, plus added to that he has a few food allergies which can sometimes make dining out a challenge. “I don’t know how you put up with how he eats. If he lived with me he would have to eat what I give him.” My response: “You should be happy then.” Tell me again why anyone would want to take this personal.
You know what? Very early I realized that I was going to have to develop some THICK skin and eventually I began to let things just roll off my back – And actually began to look forward to questions from folks because it gave me an opportunity to tell another person about autism and hopefully make them more aware and understanding. But more and more it’s becoming hard for me to keep a civil tongue in my head, especially when others can’t or won’t.
Folks, this is our tender spot here – And you’re making it so hard for us when you come at us this way.
Ahhh… Yes. That high road… Sometimes filled with jerks and meddlers who think they have a right to talk to me as the wish and ask me any intrusive question that pops into their mind. As much as possible I try not to listen to the voice in my head. Imagine that! Not listening to the voice in my head – Thought we were to supposed to listen that one? But for now, with me, it won’t be pretty if that voice takes the lead so I swallow what a part of me so want to give right back to them because I’m going to be the one who regrets it, because I’m the one that knows better. And at the end of the day, I’ve done nothing to inform an uneducated mind. Plus hopefully I’m teaching my son a lesson about advocating for himself.
Again, let me repeat… It’s not EASY for me to do this. When you sometimes want to give someone the “one-finger salute” because words fail you, and it is still illegal to drop-kick someone in a supermarket. Totally kidding – But it means that they have hit a nerve. However for the times that I’ve stopped and talked to someone about autism, nine times out of ten, I think they walk away feeling pretty foolish for the way they spoke to me and there’s been times that some folks have even apologized. And that right there, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
So the next time you’re in the supermarket and you see a mom with a kid who’s having a meltdown… If you’re 12, go ahead and stare, I’m cool with that. If you’re 41; don’t come over and insist that I spank him, tell me that I’m a bad parent and start talking to the other folks in the aisle about how you would never tolerate that behavior or shout “Is he retarded!” Because when you do that; quiet inside-voice… Quite – He can hear you – And, most days, I couldn’t care less but really and truly, I would rather not expose him to this and have him feel uncomfortable.
You can though, feel free to give me the “I’ve been there smile”, ask if you can help or you can just ignore us. I’m cool with that.
So; are we all on the same page? Awesome! Thanks for listening.