February 13, 2011

A little knowledge goes a long way...

In Colorado there is an Organization named Peak Parent Center, whose mission is as follows:

To provide training, information and technical assistance to equip families of children birth through twenty-six including all disability conditions with strategies to advocate successfully for their children. As a result of PEAK's services to families and professionals, children and adults with disabilities will live rich, active lives participating as full members of their schools and communities.

PEAK is very active in the urban and suburban areas, and provides Person Center Planning programs, such as "Taking Charge", an advocacy and leadership course, and PATH Planning, a process to identify and realize dreams, both geared for people with disabilities, especially teens and young adults.

Out here in the sticks, beautiful but remote, we did not know much about PEAK. This has recently changed however, as our Valley has been given the opportunity to participate in these program through a grant provided by the Colorado Disability Council. This is a huge coup and is due the activities of one very involved parent. I wish I could say it was me, but once again I am following a path someone else has blazed. This path however, is still being blazed and I plan to help make it wider and easier to find. Alex will be participating in both programs, and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity for her and for us.

PEAK also puts on an annual conference every year. It is called the Conference on Inclusive Education, and was held this past weekend. To say I was awestruck is a gross understatement,  never have I had the opportunity to meet, listen to and learn from so many passionate parents, educators, professionals and self-advocates.

I learned that what I am trying to teach the schools to do; work as a team to educate Alex and provide her the support she will need to succeed, is the approach parents and schools are using all over the country. To me this made perfect sense, for thousands of others it is working. I learned I am not alone, nor am I wrong. What we are asking for our kids makes sense, and I heard the evidence, anecdotal as well as data based, that proves this works for ALL kids. I also experienced it in IL, before we relocated in August, 2006.

This idea of an inclusive education is not new, it has been happening all over the country for years. But as I understand it, rural school districts are still struggling with this. We have been working as a SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee) to help our school district, but I still feel resistance. This resistance comes in the form of "no funding", "teachers don't know how to do this" and "we can't provide training". To me these are all lame excuses, and categorize a system this is hampered by funding cuts and over worked administrators. My soapbox....can't is a four letter word - don't use it.

I had two take-aways this weekend. First, collaboration with the school distrust is always the best approach, and secondly under IDEA 2004 and LRE (least restrictive environment), what I am asking for Alex, which is the support she needs to realize her dreams, just like other kids...IS THE LAW!


  1. I recently learned of PEAK through a meeting with our local Ds group. I hadn't heard of them before, but was excited about their programs. I'm glad the conference was motivating for you! I hope to get the chance to go to it too.

  2. As a former inclusion teacher, you can demand anything typical kids get and they have to give it to you. Additionally, if you don't like how a meeting is going, you can table it (end) for any reason so you can go home and get references or "back up. They cannot make you accept anything you don't want. Legally.


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