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The Excuse I'm Tired of Hearing as the Parent of a Student With a Disability

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As a mom of a child with autism, and an advocate, the saying “Change Takes Time” is one I hear way too often. Honestly, it’s a cop-out for not doing the hard work needed today and sloughing it off for tomorrow.

A couple of years ago, I was at a meeting with our school district’s new superintendent of education. In my report for our inclusive education committee, I raised some of the concerns we’d heard from parents.

Not enough educational assistants (EAs), students only being allowed to go to school for two hours a day due to lack of supports, limited resources to help diverse learners, and more. After I spoke, the superintendent (aka top educator), waved her hands and said “Everything you’ve said isn’t new to me. I’ve heard it repeatedly over my 25-year career. Change takes time.”

I was gobsmacked.

Did she just say she’s heard the same concerns for 25 years and isn’t worried that little progress has been made? It was like I said the kids were complaining about the cafeteria food instead of highlighting the numerous barriers kids with disabilities face.

Saying change takes time minimizes the real issues and harms kids.

I should know, as I’ve had a front-row seat on the molasses of change my entire life.

Less talk, more action

My brother went through the special education system in the 1980s and 90s. This was a time when kids with disabilities were shuffled off into their own classrooms, only seen at recess.

Forty years later, not much has changed. We’ve simply moved these kids from segregated classrooms to floundering in “inclusive” classrooms while taking away many of their key supports.

While the shift towards inclusive education looks good on paper, the reality is kids with disabilities continue to fall behind. Many are pushed through the system. Those that do graduate often don’t have the basic requirements to attend post-secondary education, despite their diploma.

Why? Because they didn’t get the supports needed to go from surviving to thriving.

After all, change takes time.

This is a mantra I’m so tired of hearing. It’s the same mantra my parents heard for decades, as they advocated for supports for my brother, who in his mid-40s is still living at home due to a shortage of assisted housing.

This is not the future I want for my son or the other 10% of kids with disabilities.

There have been so many reports written on the lack of supports for these kids that we could stack them to the moon. The problem is every time a new government is elected, instead of taking action on the reports written for previous governments, they strike up a committee to write a new report.

Our kids are stuck in an endless loop of committees, report writing, and changes to governments.

Change is needed now!

So, here’s my hope. Governments and educators must stop saying change takes time and roll up their sleeves to make the change. We don’t need any more reports – we need action.

Yes, I know action takes money, but not taking action is more expensive. For every $1 spent on prevention, we save $10 on treatment.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a meeting with the superintendent of education and hear how kids with disabilities are being supported instead of brushing off real issues by saying change takes time?  The time for change is now.

As a mom, I will continue fighting for my child and pushing for the change we need today. Change that will make education truly inclusive by ensuring all kids with disabilities not only have a seat in the classroom but have the supports needed for them to actively participate.

The next time you hear the phrase change takes time, I encourage you to ask what changes are happening today. Even a small change can make a big difference.

Getty image by Wavebreak Media.

Originally published: October 25, 2021
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