From the Executive Director
Dr. Richard J. Robison
Change has come to America. We have a new President, a new Congress, new respect for our country at home and abroad, and renewed hopes and dreams. We welcome these developments.
We are also in the midst of a national economic crisis. So, while it is a time filled with hope, it is also a time of insecurity. Many of us are experiencing the uncertainty associated with job loss, loss of health insurance, and cuts in social services, especially those that affect our children with special needs. These reductions limit our new dreams from becoming a reality, and show a lack of respect for the supports our families need to remain together. Many of you are familiar with the timeless song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, by Aretha Franklin. One lyric in particular strikes me as applicable to this situation, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T….Find out what it means to me.” In the midst of shrinking budgets and services, it feels like RESPECT was one of the first cuts.
In March, during an appearance on the Jay Leno show, the President compared his lack of bowling ability to the “Special Olympics.” We are so hopeful about this new leader and the very positive vision he has for our country and our world. We are so disappointed that he made a joke at the expense of individuals with disabilities. He apologized. We believed him. However, it reminds us that no matter who you are, or how progressive you might be, until you have spent time supporting a family member or other individual with special needs, you can’t imagine the challenges it brings.
Commonwealth Magazine recently featured an article about Special Education, its costs and controversies. Reading this article is like traveling 10 years back in time when Special Education was under attack by our State Legislature. Filled with innuendo, misstatement and half-truth, the article undermines any positive accomplishments of Special Education and the opportunities it affords students with special needs.
It is notable that when times get tough, our culture puts pressure on the most vulnerable, accusing them of costing us precious resources as though individuals with disabilities caused our lack of awareness, tolerance and economic woes.
To echo the words of Aretha Franklin, all we’re asking for is a little RESPECT, topped off with some compassion and basic civility. Let us unite our voices as a community of diverse and caring people.