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Not giving up the fight

By Staff
Melissa Cason
This week I saw a mother give up on her child. As I stood in the hallway, I realized that she was throwing in the towel in her fight to make sure her son receives a good education despite his need for extra help in the classroom.
The sight broke my heart because I know that fight very well. I know it because Jimmy and I have been fighting that fight as parents of a special needs child for four years.
Now let me clarify what I mean by a special needs child. My oldest, Jordan, has a learning disability. I remember when we first realized something might be wrong with him. He was three, and Cameron was a baby. Everything scared him, but the reason for his evaluation was his stuttering. Jordan could not talk without stuttering, and we were concerned. The speech therapist said Jordan was learning to put words together, and make sentences.
Jordan was supposed to outgrow the stage. A year and half later, the problems escalated, and we could not go anywhere without Jordan being afraid.
We decided to have him evaluated by Children's Hospital in Birmingham since they had done his tubes when he was a baby.
The speech pathologist found that Jordan was significantly delayed in language. Basically, he did not understand the English language. His language skills had stopped developing around age 2, which caused to be afraid of everything because he did not understand.
It was difficult for me to hear that my baby wasn't perfect and needed help. But, from that moment, Jimmy and I put all our resources into making sure Jordan got the help he needed.
In the beginning, we didn't know how difficult that would be.
There are special programs funded through the school system to assist special needs children. The problem is that it takes nearly legal action to get them implemented.
It took us four months and a threat of a lawsuit to get Jordan into the speech therapy through the school system.
Since Jordan's case was severe, we took him to Children's once per week for speech and language therapy. Our insurance would not pay because they saw it as an education expense, and the school system dragged their feet.
Thankfully, Children's was able to see Jordan through a scholarship because of his severe impairment.
We sent Jordan to school at age 5 by doctor's orders. It was a battle to get him the help he needed. We found out in January the school was not seeing Jordan in speech or resource time. I guess we assumed the school system would simply do what they were supposed to do because they were supposed to do it.
That was naive of us. The fact is it is the parent's responsibility to make sure the special education department is doing their part, and in many cases they don't for whatever reason.
We held Jordan back in kindergarten because he simply was not ready due to his delay.
The next year the school system started down the same road, but we caught it within weeks of school starting.
We requested weekly reports from both the speech teacher and resource teacher, and we got them.
Jordan's first-grade year was better. We didn't have to make quite as many visits to the special education director's office, and this year, we've only made one visit on the first day of school to make sure they knew we were still here needing help for our son.
Jordan made the A/B honor roll for the first time this year, and we could not be more proud.
I guess I said all of that to say that I know what it's like to have to fight to make sure my child has a good education. I know it's hard. I have been there.
I want to encourage every parent, whether their child has special needs or not, to take a more active role in their children's lives and education process.
And I ask you not to give up at any cost because if you are willing to give up on them, they will give up on themselves.