How do I Able, Not Disable

It Depends. If you are in Salem County, New Jersey, it may be a matter of opportunities that are available. Transportation is always an issue, but in a more rural area, it becomes even harder. There is a specialized transportation option, but you need to plan effectively and have time to wait for your ride. If you are looking for off normal hours, weekends and holidays, it becomes even more difficult. Having a large supportive network makes it easier to take advantage of opportunities and to develop a vibrant social life.

Friends of mine have Retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP is the name given to a group of inherited conditions of the retina that all lead to a gradual progressive reduction in vision. Difficulties with night vision and peripheral (‘side’) vision are the first things that are noticed. Later, reading vision (detailed vision), color vision, and central (‘straight-ahead’) vision are affected. The age at which symptoms start is variable and the rate of deterioration often varies – for example with the different genetic types – but is generally very slow with changes occurring over years rather than months. Despite their diagnosis, it would be difficult for most able people to keep up with them.

When we were in Jamaica this past summer, our group went to Dunns River Falls. Imagine an incline of water rushing by you as you try to navigate slippery rocks. The guide is telling everyone to pay attention and hold hands because everyone is going to need help in getting to the top. My friends, who are legally blind, are with us and we all made it to the top. They refuse to be disabled and are on various adventures throughout the year. They also moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, so that they could take advantage of a very good transportation system that allows them to live independently.

Mark and Sherry have a large and supportive network that they have developed and they use the latest technology available to their benefit. We able our children by helping them learn these strategies. Is that really true and is this what are schools are doing?

In truth, this is not happening because schools are more about testing and planning for college. Vocational programs have been taken out of our schools and most child are “left behind” because they haven’t been given the chance to learn how to develop basic living skills (cooking, cleaning, balancing a checkbook, fixing things, using tools safely and etc). We don’t give our students a lot of opportunities to be creative and learn to be independent. We also have a tendency to do things for our children rather than letting them struggle some as we guide them through the learning process.

Give a child a fish and you feed that child for a meal, if you taught the child to cook. Teach a child to fish and cook and you feed that child for a lifetime.

When The Parent Disagrees

Based on my experience, teachers do a great job of identifying students that are not performing at grade level in their classes. As a guidance counselor, I am the teacher’s first contact to ask if those students have an IEP or 504 plan. Often, it is the new students to the school. In some cases the parent has moved from one district to another and doesn’t tell the registrar that they have a special needs student or a student that is struggling.

The more difficult situation is when the parent will not agree to any type of classification that will allow the school to provide accommodations and modifications. In at least one case that I am familiar with, the student has failed every class in the regular education setting for three straight years. The only way for the school to actually correct this is to charge the parent with educational neglect and have the student potential placed in the correct programs.

This creates an antagonistic relationship that is almost certainly headed for disaster. Any thoughts??

Who gets to pick the special education placement of a down syndrome student?

When a special education student is placed in a specific class, who makes that decision? Is it the school, the parent, the teacher or is it a group decision. Like everything, it depends. Recently, the parents of a down syndrome student met with teachers, case manager and guidance counselor because the teachers believed that the student wasn’t benefiting from the regular education inclusion class. The teachers believed that they couldn’t make enough modification in their classrooms to make this placement work.

The parents heard that the teachers wouldn’t make the necessary modifications. They believe that the benefits of being in the same classroom with regular education students far out weigh the concerns that the student wasn’t able to complete the majority of the work. They also believed that the “learning disabled” class would have behavior problems and didn’t want their child in that environment.

I did get a chance to follow-up with the teachers and they weren’t trying to get the student out of the class, but strongly believed that the “learning disabled” class would provide more benefits. The class was much smaller and the range of abilities were closer to the student’s levels. The student would probably still have the lowest skill levels in the new class, but the pace and ability to provide more specific assistance and modifications would more specifically address her needs. They also indicated that the behavior of the other students would not be an issue and the student would benefit socially as well as educationally.

Any thoughts? I am still working out the “bugs”, but please try to leave a comment. If that doesn’t work, leave me an e-mail

Upcoming Events

Darryl’s Wheels 2018 Deck Party

Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 6:00 – 10:00 PM @ JG Cook’s Riverview Inn

60 Main Street, Pennsville, NJ; Tickets $35 / person

14th Annual Disability Awareness Day

Thursday, October 11, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM @ The Grove @ Centerton, Pilesgrove, NJ

To register for this free event, call the Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities call 856 339 8622  

Autism Goes to the Movies
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 from 7:00 PM @ Katz JCC
1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill NJ 08003
Transition Planning Workshop Series: Transition and the IEP
Part 1 of a 5 part series providing guidance to families of teens and young adults with special needs. Learn about the transition process from school to adult life and options after school. Tuesday, October 23, 2018 from 7:00 PM @ Katz JCC

1301 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill NJ 08003
The biggest problem that has been identified by members of our advisory board is that the community doesn’t know about the programs for the disabled and the activities / programs that are planned. It isn’t that there aren’t websites or activities, but how do we spread the word? How do we get the information?
How can you help? Send anything that you think might be relevant to my e-mail (, send a comment to this blog or send information directly to the Office: or call at 856 935 7510 X 8449.