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Mama’s Musings - Merry and Happy!

All I want for Christmas is an A on my paper for graduate school. Guess what? I I got it!!! So happy. I put a lot of effort into the paper, having done so-so on the first one I did for the class. The teacher complimented my professional writing; I I found that amusing, since I do write professionally.

As part of writing the paper, I did a survey of parents with children in special education. The results confirmed my personal observations. I often called the students of Erick’s school years the “lost generation.” Because there seemed to be something lacking in the services they received as children. So the survey asked for birth year and the year special education services began. The results surprised me. With the national push for universal preschool, my expectation was preschool services would be lacking for those now older than 18. That theory was incorrect! The survey showed what was missing for students born before 2010 was birth to age 3 services. I was very surprised.

Birth to age 3 services are not in my skill set. In my own work in special education I work with mostly secondary and older elementary students. But my now nine-year-old son James received these services when he was about two years old. He was not speaking by age two. His daycare recommended an evaluation. My ex was against it.

Since I was the one who took James to daycare and home each day, it did not matter. I consented to the evaluation. Unexpectedly, it was also determined he needed occupational therapy. James received services for several months, and it was successful. He was talking and more able to manipulate toys by the time therapy concluded. It was not until he entered kindergarten that he needed behavior support and more occupational therapy.

Even so, when I did my survey, I found some children born after 2010 received services even from birth. It was eye-opening.

In grad school I learned about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was a federal act to guarantee special education services. Sort of. IDEA promised 40 percent federal funding for services. But the reality was very little money came from the government, and administration and funding was left to states and municipalities. Can you say “OOPS?”

In Pennsylvania, for ages to 21 many special education services are provided by intermediate units. We have two in our area. Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 covers Northampton County and the communities north of it. Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 covers Lehigh and Carbon counties. Services under age 3 are provided by St. Luke’s Health Network and Easter Seals.

James is now on a 504 plan, which mostly puts his services in his school’s area of responsibility, but he gets occupational therapy through the intermediate unit. I am very thankful he received services when he was 2. He might be very different if those services had not helped him.

Again, birth to age 3 education is not my bailiwick. But writing is! So now you know a little bit about special education. I hope this will encourage you to learn more. And I am happy to report I finished my course with an A, which was a big accomplishment for me. For the next 10 days or so, I will be celebrating the holidays with my three children, writing, cleaning, and probably working with horses. Happiness!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

By Lani Goins