Alexa Posny Interview - Part VII

My recent interview with Dr. Alexa Posny, the new Assistant Secretary of Education for OSERS (the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services) covered a lot of ground. This is the sixth in a series of occasional posts concerning the interview over the next few weeks. "JG" indicates that I am speaking. "AP" indicates that Secretary Posny is speaking.

In this post, Dr. Posny talks about standards of care for disability categories (which was proposed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals) and related issues:

JG: Okay. That's very interesting. I'm going to go back to some of the other reauthorization issues, but again, at some point, I want to try to give you some time to just talk about other things that are important to you. But the National Association of Secondary School Principals announced their recommendations for what they'd like to see in the reauthorization of IDEA. I found some of them very interesting. One of them was that they - - and I can see some merit to this; on the other hand, I have a real violent, bad reaction to this - - it's that they would like to see standards of care based on disability categories, under IDEA, so that a school would know, if they had an autism program that it was a good autism program. I think you can probably guess why that bothers me a little bit. I mean, it just kinda takes the "I" out of IDEA, doesn't it?

AP: Well, it does that. The other thing is, is that when you look at any of the 13 disability categories, you have a full range of mild to moderate to significant. So, you couldn't come up with just one standard of care based upon a disability category. It won't work. What it needs to be is standards of care based upon the needs of the child, regardless of what they are. You know, and even that's difficult because every child is so different. I mean, I taught learning disabled kids, as well. Well, everyone one of them was different as night and day. So, if I had one standard of care, that would not have been useful to me at all, not at all.

JG: And it's interesting, a lot of folks that are actually out there practicing don’t get this sometimes, I think, because they - - and I don't think that they're trying to be difficult, I think it's something they don't completely understand. But I had hearing once where the child was already eligible, under speech/language needs, and they then had the whole hearing based on whether he was also eligible under autism. And I kept saying, what difference does it make?

AP: What difference does it make?

JG: Yeah. Whatever his or her needs are, pretty much you have to meet them once you put them in, right?

AP: And that's my whole thing, you know, and it's strictly for funding right now to have to put them in a disability category. Who cares?

JG: Right.

AP: It makes no difference whatsoever.

JG: Right.

AP: You can call them whatever you want. What is it that we need to provide?

JG: Yeah, and again, I think if you got to the model you were just talking about, you'd eliminate a lot of that problem too.

AP: Yes. And we've gotta get to the point though where parents will trust us.

JG: Right.

AP: That we are going to do the right thing. And I think that's where RTI can really - - RTI and EIS, I think, can be very helpful to us, that they will see that their child's needs are being met, even though we didn't have to label him or her.

JG: Okay. That's interesting. Yeah, I didn't see the connection there to that before, but I think that's very interesting.

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