I am writing this letter as a concerned taxpayer and registered voter. Recently, I discovered that the state commissioned a study to examine the future of the State Schools for Severely Handicapped. The State Schools serve children age 5-21 who have severe to profound cognitive functioning and other disabilities.
The students that attend these schools have very significant developmental delays and extensive needs. For example, many children are nonverbal and cannot speak. Many children have seizure disorders and other medical issues such as tube feeding, food allergies, heat precautions, the need for daily medication, diabetes, asthma, and more that require the services of a registered nurse to be on site on a daily basis to attend to their needs at any moment throughout the school day.
Students also require therapy services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy including orientation and mobility. Speech therapy is provided to help the student develop a communication system to voice their wants and needs. This could be done through pictures, gestures, sign language, speaking, or the use of an electronic augmentative communication device to speak for the child as he pushes icons to choose what he wants to communicate. Occupational therapy is provided to help the students gain skills such as feeding themselves, dressing themselves, using their hands to grasp, release, and pick up items, writing their name, address, phone number, etc. Physical therapy is provided to help the students gain gross motor skills to do a range of activities from maintaining their head up, to independent sitting without support, to stand in a prone stander to develop weight bearing skills, to walking in a gait trainer, to walking with a walker, to walking with hand held support, to walking independently, to walking on uneven surfaces and more. Vision therapy is provided to help students use the vision that they have in a functional manner. Some students have multiple disabilities including cortical blindness. The vision therapist helps the student to track items, to reach for items in their visual field, to locate their classroom, to identify sounds and people in their environment, to use a cane to move through the school, home and community and more.
State Schools has a multitude of resources, equipment and well trained professionals to meet the needs of the children that they serve. The quality of service that the students receive would suffer if the governor’s proposal to change the way that services are delivered to students with severe disabilities is passed.
How can we as taxpayers and registered voters allow one person and an appointed commission that does not have experience in the field of special education speak for the needs of these children who cannot speak for themselves? Stand up for them and be heard.