The end of the school year is always a time for reflection. Hopefully, teachers, administrators, and parents have all done their best to help all students move forward, to make sure they’ve made the gains and acquired the skills that will help them in the future. But as we go into summer break, and more importantly as we move toward graduation for our seniors, what happens now for the special education students?
Of course, students with disabilities look forward to summer break as much as anyone. Unfortunately, just like other at-risk students, if they are not enrolled in some type of summer program, a large percentage of their gains may disappear over the summer. It’s a tough balancing act to make sure students get into good summer programs, if such programs are available, without making it seem as if they are being punished in some way by having to attend a school program during the summer.
Some special education students will go into summer programs and thrive. These may very well have been bored had they simply stayed at home each day during summer break. Other students will go to such a program and resent it every day, preferring to sleep late, play games on the computer, and watch television to all hours of the night. Finally, some students won’t attend any type of program, and whether bored or totally satisfied with the activities they choose during summer break, will lose further academic ground over their summer vacation.
I have to admit that it’s a tough call. Hopefully, the decision is made by parents and caring teachers who make their decisions for each individual child based on that child’s background and frame of mind as summer approaches. In some communities, there is no decision to make because no summer program is available, good or otherwise. That puts an added burden on parents to provide educational field trips, visits to the library, and to provide other educational activities as often as possible.
While the month of May makes me cringe when I think of summer programs for special education students, the idea of graduation makes me break out in a full sweat. What will happen to that group of special education students who receive their diplomas at the end of the school year? Yes, some will be able to go to college depending on their disabilities and the extent to which those disabilities limit them. Others will transition into the world of work. Hopefully, their high school programs have bridged this gap and prepared them for that work.
What of the others? What happens to those students who are so severely disabled that college is out of the question and even settling into a menial job is beyond them because of the severity of their physical, emotional, or mental handicaps? I wish I could say that there were good programs throughout the United States in every community. That is not even close to being the truth. There are few programs that have excellent ratings anywhere, and they often have long waiting lists.
Parents often have to make a decision whether to continue to shelter their children at home or try to find good facilities or good group homes where their children can continue to develop. Unless the child qualifies for government assistance, the costs of these facilities can be prohibitive. As the end of the school year approaches, these parents have to make decisions that will affect their children for not only the next few years, but possibly for the rest of their lives.
Yes, spring and May and the end of school all seem like times for celebration, and truthfully, they are a time for great joy. I just worry about our special education students who need continued support and assurance far more than they need a celebratory ending of any kind.
Grant Name: Teacher Grants
Funded By: The Kids in Need Foundation
Description: Kids In Need Teacher Grants provide K-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities for their students. The Kids In Need Foundation helps to engage students in the learning process by supporting our most creative and important educational resource our nation’s teachers. All certified K-12 teachers in the U.S. are eligible.
Program Areas: Math, Reading, Science/Environment, Technology, All Other
Recipients: Public School, Private School
Proposal Deadline: 9/30/13
Average Amount: $100.00 – $500.00
Contact Person: Penny Hawk
Availability: All States