Unlocking Potential

Adam WaldenToo many of us with children enrolled in LAUSD’s special education programs are familiar with Rosanne Walden’s experience. As a parent, she knows what services her son, Adam, needs in order to unlock his full potential. The experts at the school Adam attends agree with her assessment. Unfortunately, some faceless bureaucrat with an office in the Beaudry headquarters has formulated a policy that prevents Adam from getting these services. That person has never met Adam or witnessed the progress that he has made, but that has not prevented him from enforcing a policy that stands in the way of unlocking Adam’s full potential.

At the last LAUSD board meeting, Ms. Walden testified about her experiences with the district’s bureaucracy. She explained that Adam is on the moderate to severe range of the autism spectrum and has severe communication issues. Despite these challenges, he is on an academic track to receive a high school diploma. In fact, in middle school he was even included on the honor roll. Adam’s mother gives a lot of credit to his Inclusion Specialist, Adrienne Johnston, for helping him to achieve this success.

Unfortunately, as he begins high school, Adam will not have the assistance of an Inclusion Specialist. The district has informed his mother that the job of such a specialist would be to “dumb down his work to the third grade” level. This would take him off of the academic track. Instead of a single point person, each of his teachers is expected to call her every night and explain how to adapt his homework.

Roseanne says that the special education people at the school are “throwing their hands up” at this policy. At this point, parents in her predicament are forced to either give up or take their fight directly to the bureaucracy. If she wants to improve her chances of success, she will hire a lawyer who specializes in these cases. If she prevails or settles, the district will pay this lawyer’s fees. This is another example of how the district’s refusal to allow parents and local educators to make decisions wastes money that is supposed to be used to educate our children.

The next speaker to address the board was Adam. His mother explained that since he does not have a lot of language skills he had chosen to testify with his cello. He then proceeded to play Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite 3 from memory. His performance brought my wife to tears. Most of the people on the dais looked enthralled. Monica Ratcliff actually pulled out her phone to take pictures. Hopefully, she will use it as a reminder that all children have a potential that deserves to be unlocked.