Mom's Request Regarding IDEA Reauthorization
by Shari Krishnan, March 2003
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Thank you very much for always being so accessible to your
constituents and working so hard for us. I really appreciate it.
Senator, I have an eleven year old son, Nicholas, who has autism
(what some educators consider severe on the spectrum, since he
can barely speak). Thanks to IDEA 97, and its underlying spirit,
Nicholas may well be considered a special education success. He
is included in the fifth grade, rides on the bus with his
neighborhood friends, plays percussion in the band, and has been
invited to birthday parties of his own friends, thanks to his
public education experience in Michigan. All of this could be
jeopardized with the upcoming IDEA reauthorization.
As the Chair of Michigan's Special Education Advisory Committee,
I have been doing my best to find out about the IDEA
reauthorization on an ongoing basis. Additionally, I have been
dedicating my time and personal financial resources to
understand the context of No Child Left Behind, the Presidents
Commission's Report, and the like. I do this to be certain that
when I write to you and anyone else, that I maintain my
integrity and credibility as someone who firmly believes that
public education is something that we need to protect and
Much to my dismay, as a parent, I am hearing some extremely
disturbing rumors surrounding the IDEA reauthorization process.
Such rumors include the notions that:
1. IDEA is on the fast track in the House, and that the Senate
is not far behind. I have heard that the House (and even perhaps
the Senate) may want to be completed with everything by April,
2003. That is less than one month away!
2. Public notice of hearings are happening only one day before
the scheduled hearing dates (if the notice is "noticed" or found
at all by the public).
3. The House and the Senate do not want to expose information to
the public, since they don't want the special education and the
disability community to comment, protest, or somehow disrupt the
This troubles me, as we are at war, fighting in the name of
democracy. Yet, in our own country, we are locking citizens out
of the very process that we look to fight for elsewhere. It is
difficult to have freedom of speech, if there is no forum to
speak at. It is difficult to travel to Washington, D.C. at this
time, out of fear. Just at a time when Americans are most
vulnerable and uncertain about our futures, more uncertainty is
being placed on the plates of families who have students with
disabilities. And, the freedom of participating in this
democratic process is being limited to just a few individuals.
It seems that
the war effort is going to be used as a smoke-screen to hide
what is going to happen with the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act. I feel this way, since it resembles what happened
with No Child Left Behind. September 11 came along, and people
allowed No Child Left Behind to go through without completing
critical debates along the way. Out of patriotism, people
supported the President of the United States. In retrospect, the
public trust was abused, since No Child Left Behind is not, and
it looks like it will not in the future, hold its promise for
the purpose it was stated to be intended. We cannot allow these
issues to become clouded and violate the trust of our citizens
and hope for our kids in Michigan who heavily rely on the public
education system. In Michigan, we do not have consistently
strong mental health and other community options for students
with disabilities. So, at least at this time, we cannot afford
to water-down our Special Education system with what is being
proposed, as presented by the House this past week.
If you could do
the following, this would be very helpful:
1. Add me on any Education mailing lists coming from both
parties in the House and Senate.
2. Direct me to any and all IDEA-related bills that are rolling
out of the House and Senate.
3. Work with your Senate colleagues and slow this train down.
Please help them demonstrate sincere concern and consideration
for public comment and input. We have barely had a chance to see
what NCLB will mean for our states.
By having time to look at this, the input of IDEA will be in a
better context for kids. This is about the future of children
who have too few community options, let alone, credible and
affordable education options.
when I was on a recent Disney Cruise with Nicholas, I cannot
begin to tell you how many kids swam up to us and asked if
Nicholas had autism!!! These were kids with ages ranging from
elementary school to jr. high school. They spoke of their
experiences in school, helping kids like Nicholas. They gave me
their suggestions. And, most magically of all, they all took
Nicholas by the hand to help him up and down the waterslide.
They comforted a frightened, yet excited Nicholas all the way up
the ladder and then down the slide. They laughed with him. They
swam with him. They played with him. And, then, they asked if
they could do it some more.
This cruise experience, and many others like it, would not have
been possible without the things that have happened in school,
especially since IDEA 97. The brilliant things about IDEA 97
were two very strong philosophical statements about students
having access to the general curriculum and being educated
nearest to peers without disabilities. Everything else in the
legislation seamlessly helps these notions become a reality. I
pray that with IDEA 2003, these types of human experiences will
continue to be supported and realized by families.
Thank you very much for your consideration. I always feel good
knowing that you are in Washington, D.C., representing our
families in Michigan and, specifically in this case, our
children with disabilities.
Nicholas Krishnan's Mom
Bloomfield Hills, MI