To avoid any misunderstandings

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2002

Related Article:

Cornwall: Better services for disabled students

Your reporter's interview (Empire, Sept. 18) and resulting article graciously allowed a forum for my views to be expressed as a school board candidate. However, a few statements have led to some misunderstandings that I would like to clarify.

The beliefs expressed in the article are my own. They should not be construed as representing opinions held by my coworkers, or by the two agencies I work for - REACH and Parents Anonymous/Catholic Community Service. Also, my jobs do not require me to go into schools or to view class instruction while in progress. I have done these things, but they were by invitation on behalf of friends and families who are dear to me.

Second, the statement that the district and social agencies should network better referred especially to training opportunities. It often happens that local nonprofits, the school district, or non-local agencies have brought in speakers or trainers on issues important to all of us who live or work with people with special needs; but the information is poorly disseminated and we only find out about the event the day before, or worse, two days after. I have noticed some progress on this front, especially during the past year.

Finally, I apologize if the article left an impression that there is no coordination between agencies and the schools. Families who have children with special needs who are served by local nonprofit agencies (such as REACH, Parents, Inc., SAIL, Hope Community Resources, and others) can have hard-working and highly skilled advocates helping to coordinate educational services and transitions; and those families get excellent service because of that help. However, 40 percent of the children and youths with Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, are categorized as "learning disabled," and their families generally do not qualify for services through those agencies. These parents often do not know where to begin to get help, and are often unaware of how powerful a tool the IEP can be, since it is contractual.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify these few statements, especially given the complexity of the issues and the importance of them to so many of our children.

Louise M. Cornwall


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