To the Editor:
An Education Week blog post covers guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on “how school systems and state agencies can coordinate to help students with disabilities prepare for life after high school” (“Preparing Students for Life After Special Education? Here’s How Federal Dollars Can Help,” Sept. 18, 2019). There’s so much focus on the vocational rehabilitation program and dual enrollment for students with special needs that no one considers students who cannot be successful with either.
What happens to young people with exceptionalities after they leave the umbrella of free appropriate public education when they turn 22? School officials and families would like to believe that these students can and will gain employment, even if the hours are minimal. Unfortunately, not all students with special needs are capable of holding employment. Upon aging out of the school system, these students are left sitting on their parents’ couches while mom and dad work, unable to pay for private day programs.
I work in a post-high school setting with adults ages 19 to 21 who are still in the public education system. I receive glares for blocking store aisles to help my students pick out groceries, and scoffs when I teach my students what a hammer is.
People with special needs are being lost in crowds, arrested, and shot by those who don’t know how to interact with them. A teacher’s job is to educate students. Should it also be our job to educate the public about students with special needs, or is it the job of the government or other agencies? I don’t have an answer. All I know is that my role is to advocate however I can for my students. Even if it means teaching outside my classroom.
Special Education Teacher
A version of this article appeared in the November 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as A Lesson on Special Needs