July 5, 2022

Confused by the special education system? This Indiana group wants to help

Even as children have returned to in-person instruction, schools are struggling to provide services because of shortages of teachers and aides. - Alan Rodriguez/Unsplash

Even as children have returned to in-person instruction, schools are struggling to provide services because of shortages of teachers and aides.

Alan Rodriguez/Unsplash

When Milton Keys was a student in the 1990s and early 2000s, his parents relentlessly fought for the special education services he needed. 

“Teachers would try to take short cuts, or mistreat me, or make us feel bad for asking for the services we need,” said Keys, who has cerebral palsy. But his parents, “wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Parents need to advocate for their children so they can reach their potential, Keys said at a meeting hosted last month by EmpowerED Families, an Indianapolis advocacy group that launched last year. The event was the first in a series focused on educating and connecting parents of children with disabilities. 

The next meeting is at 6 p.m. July 7 at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. More information and registration is available on Eventbrite.

Children with disabilities faced unique educational challenges during the pandemic. Some students didn’t receive in-person therapies they needed. Some educational plans were not followed. And fewer Indiana students were evaluated for disabilities

Now, even as children have returned to in-person instruction, schools are struggling to provide services because of shortages of teachers and aides

Keys, who is now a pastor pursuing his doctorate in ministry with a focus on disability in the church and school, says some students are getting what they need in the classroom. But other parents must ask for more support so their children can achieve their dreams.

Because of his parents’ advocacy, for example, Keys was able to get crucial support such as a one-on-one aid.

“My mother just kept going,” he added. “That’s what I want to instill in these parents.”

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at dmccoy@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @dylanpmccoy.

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