Dear Betsy DeVos, Thank you….for what you’ve done

No really, I mean it. Thank you.

You don’t know me. I’m a mom, blogger and special education advocate and lobbyist here in southeastern PA. Oh wait, it seems we do have things in common….an interest in education, we both like to lobby.

The only differences between us are ideologies and a few billion bucks, huh?

That, and, I’m not so arrogant to think that just because I love lobbying for my personal education interests, that I am qualified to be Secretary of Education. So I want to thank you for that.

No, really, I mean it. Thank you for being arrogant enough to think that you are qualified for this job, enough so that you would embarrass yourself on national TV and in front of this country’s leaders.

See, I’ve been lobbying for a while, not as long as you though. But I started this blog 6 years ago, and it was July of 2011 that I first asked my readers to get involved in citizen lobbying. Six years I’ve spent, on a weekly basis, asking them “call your Senators! call your state legislators, please!” and only a few would.

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to motivate them. You know what finally did it!

YOU! You did!

You know what’s even better–not only are special needs parents advocating and lobbying in droves….we are finally unifying with school personnel. It’s so beautiful, brings a tear to my eye.

See, let me explain something to you. I know, based on watching you on Tuesday, that you haven’t got a clue what an IEP is. But take my word for it when I tell you that they cause stress for families. School personnel too. Since 1975, as you were informed on Tuesday, IEPs have never been fully funded. This lack of funding causes stress, tension, anger and frustration, both on the side of parents and schools. Because even worse than not having money….NO ONE is allowed to talk about it. It’s the big pink elephant in every IEP meeting. We all know that there’s not enough money, but we cannot say it out loud.

And so parents would ask me…why is it that parents and schools fight?

I never had a good answer.

But that appears to be over. Because for one split second….when you said that you were open to the notion of FULLY FUNDING IDEA…our hearts leaped…they really did! And then… said, but only if you can use that money for your stupid, discriminatory vouchers! Ah, crash and burn! Don’t you know, disabled kids are always left out of school choice. You folks love for kids to have school choice….but only if they are the easier-to-educate kids, not kids like my son. So you lost us. When you threaten to take away the very few resources that we have, well, we’ll fight you on that every chance we get.

At this point, I’m really rooting for you, I am. Because now parents and schools are united in their fight. We will NOT let you forget and toss aside our kids. You really think that the millions of teachers in this country are going to be on your side after you stated you believe they are overpaid? Remember when Ronald Reagan tried to dismantle special education? He couldn’t do it and he was much more popular than this administration. People are engaged, they’re relearning civics and politics. We all know that “fiscal conservative” means you don’t want to help the little guy–you’re not a fiscal conservative when you give tax breaks to families like yours, and people are waking up to that.

Even better…the special needs community is coming together. I am seeing more unity in the various groups than ever before. I see adult advocacy groups lobbying against you…and they don’t even usually lobby for kids.

You know what’s ironic? Look at this graphic! How funny is that?

special needs grizzly bear

It’s funny because I made it months and months ago! Way funnier now!

But it’s no less true. Ma’am, you have tapped a  hornet’s nest, a sleeping bear. I hope that you realize that your nomination is just the first of many hurdles. You’re not going to get anything passed without a significant battle. You don’t have the public’s support. If you did, your camp wouldn’t be paying people on Swagbucks to sign a petition supporting you.

betsy devos swagbucks

We’ve had enough. What our kids have now is so little and it’s not even close to being what they need….and we’ll be damned if we’re going to let some rich housewife from Michigan come in and take that from us. No way.

I have never seen so much spirit and enthusiasm among my thousands of readers. So what if you get confirmed or not? If you don’t, they’ll just find someone else just like you, so while I think you’re in way over your head….doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did a week ago.

We got this. Everything you do has to get past Congress anyway, and even the most die hard Republicans are getting cold feet. Trump’s victory was not a mandate, and to not recognize that is political suicide. This is stuff that can’t be bought with a $50k donation here and there. Is this really what you want? A bunch of people following your every move, your every word? Our Senators and Congressmen are going to be so sick of hearing your name, they’ll wish you were gone. They can’t hide behind “fiscal Conservative” anymore.

No matter how hard you try to convince yourself and others that your “ideas” work, you simply don’t have the data. And if there is one thing a special needs mom knows, it’s how to get data to drive what we need. Our child’s very lives depend on how much data we can provide. And you don’t have it. You don’t even know the difference between growth and proficiency, and many of us have already had to argue this in IEP meetings more times than we can count!

We have learned, as Mama Bears, that we have to be particularly protective when it comes to our kids with special needs. The special needs moms who I have met and am friends with….the most amazing, strongest, driven women you’ve ever met. Senator Hassan is just the tip of the iceberg–there are 12 million more of us in this country. We don’t get tired. We can’t afford to. We’re not afraid of you. We’ve been to hell and back with our kids–we’ve watched them be mocked, excluded, bullied and on the brink of death. We’ve done hospital vigils and so much worse.

Our lives are such that we are used to mustering up that one last bit of oomph, whether it be a phone call, a letter or more. We fight with insurance companies, schools, govt agencies and service providers on a daily basis. With the right motivation (you!), one more phone call or letter to a legislator is no big deal.

So again, thank you. Thank you for stepping up and putting yourself out there. You are just what the special needs and education community needed.

  • Fine Motor Skills-Games, crafts and coloring activities are a great way to use and practice a child’s fine motor skills.
  • Speech and Language– Many parents seek out a language-rich environment for their child. Any activity can be an opportunity to use and repeat new words and language, mimicking sounds, new vocalizations and articulations.
  • Executive Functioning Skills– Depending on the game or activity, it can be an opportunity to practice executive functions such as working memory, sequencing, following directions, task initiation and more.
  • Handwriting and Fluency- This piggybacks onto the language skills a child needs, but with worksheets, coloring pages and games, they can be a low-risk opportunity to practice handwriting and fluency.
  • Practicing Previously Acquired Skills-Applying already acquired skills across all environments, bring the classroom teaching into the real world.
  • Sensory-Textures, sounds, taste, vestibular, interoception, anything!
  • Social Awareness-Practice traditional social skills in a safe environment, such as: joint attention, taking turns, reciprocating conversation, waiting politely, and more.
  • Gross Motor-If you’re in a new place, practice walking across uneven surfaces, new surfaces, inclines & declines, stairs, or increasing endurance.

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