Friday, February 11, 2011

The Dream

continued from HERE

When Sophie was born 3.5 years ago I said goodbye to my dream job as a program coordinator at a domestic violence intervention agency to become a full time stay-at-home mom. My work since then has been as a volunteer advocate in the developmental disabilities community.

On January 2nd I awoke from a dream that felt more like real life than the typical nonsensical dream. I can still see details in my mind's eye. In this dream I returned to my old job at the shelter. My boss was there and everyone was expecting my return. There was no pomp and circumstance. It was as if I had only been gone for the length of a long maternity leave and I fell right back into the swing of things, as was expected of me. This vivid dream stayed with me, but I didn't know why.

Over a decade ago a steering committee with the Temple University Institute on Disabilities had a vision to create a non-profit organization that would work to assist families of children who have developmental disabilities in a truly innovative way. Born from the passion, dedication, pain, experience, and dreams of a small group of parents of children with special needs, Pennsylvania's Education for All Coalition, Inc. (PEAC) became a reality.

PEAC is a small organization with larger-than-life goals. Read more about their work HERE. PEAC believes that parents of children with special needs are experts in the disability field (because we are). Parent Consultants are trained to assist other parents by offering support via email, phone calls, in-person meetings, assistance in preparing IEP goals, and attending IEP meetings to support families. Parent Consultants also speak at universities and train student teachers. PEAC conducts IEP planning clinics and will be hosting an inclusion conference for 500+ participants in November 2011.

The ultimate goal is inclusion for ALL students with IEPs in their least restrictive environment. This means that for each child with an IEP, inclusion is specifically tailored to their needs and abilities. PEAC does not support forcing students into classes that would not be beneficial to them and without the proper supports and modifications. However, PEAC does believe that ALL children with IEPs can and should be adequately educated and included in their community schools.

The work of PEAC is multi-dimensional. PEAC assists individual families yet also works towards state-wide systemic changes to promote inclusive educational practices. PEAC connects with future educators (college students) and has quickly earned a very respected reputation at all levels of the educational system. At the heart of this work PEAC is a collaborative organization, not an adversarial one, whose ultimate goal is inclusion for all students, regardless of ability.

I want to be a Parent Consultant for PEAC. I want to have that knowledge and give back to others who need help navigating the (often) uphill battle that befalls parents of children with special needs in the educational system.

However, my dream has been put on hold.

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