I hesitated in fear for a minute, but like any parent of a child with a disability that has struggled through the system and come out on the other side, there was tremendous motivation to use the hard fought, hard won knowledge to help others. That personal experience was the first step to qualify me to be the person on the other end of the phone with parents
The semantics of words such as "special needs” and “differently-abled,” or what Haben called "linguistics gymnastics," perpetuate the belief that individuals with disabilities are separate from non-disabled individuals and this kind of language prevents inclusion.
Looking at this IEP in Mandarin was truly humbling and enlightening at the same time. It was gibberish to me, even though I want to learn this language one day. I have seen many IEPs written in English and some (painfully few) in Spanish, my native language, but I had never stopped to look closely at one written in a language that I truly do not understand.
Before this moment, I had never stopped to think about what I felt he needed; I realized that what I wanted was for him to have peers that he could learn and model from and I wanted him to be given opportunities to learn new ways to handle situations, but most importantly, I wanted him to have the opportunity to be in an inclusive environment.
I share this to encourage parents to trust their instincts, as we know our children best. Nothing is set in stone, and sometimes what we originally think is best may not be, and that’s ok. We as parents are our children’s best advocates. We are their voice.
My mother taught me that socialization is as important as academics and every child deserves to be included, regardless of wealth or ability.
We testify today to highlight the need for New York City Department of Education officials to focus on the inclusion of students with disabilities in all schools, while they implement new admission initiatives to increase the number of middle and high schools serving English Learners and Students with Disabilities.
Volunteering for the Special Olympics led me to become certified as a behavioral interventionist for children with disabilities in Los Angeles and Ventura County. I help individuals from the age of four to twenty-three reach achieve positive developmental outcomes. Ultimately, with my certifications and personal experiences, I hope to provide parents and/or guardians of my future pediatric patients with disabilities a personal sense of understanding and comfort.