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City is shortchanging special needs children

As I read articles in the papers and also see what is happening to my 6-year-old grandson Jacob, I see that authorities are saving money at the expense of special needs children. My Jacob was a normal 1-1/2-year-old boy when autism closed him down. My wife and daughter are teachers so they noticed the problem and had him tested.

For 4 1/2 years he has been receiving services at a fine pre-school and now at P4 in PS 179 on Peck Avenue. He is in first grade and has improved greatly. He is very verbal. The system did well up to now.

However, when we started to prepare for first grade we needed a place for him to be between the time he got out of school until his mother could pick him after she was through with work later in the afternoon. We were told that he had to be on Medicaid for him to qualify for an after-school program. No one, during the past four years, had mentioned Medicaid. Councilman Mark Weprin’s office is now helping move the paper work through the state bureaucracy.

Suddenly a phone call from a provider we are working with told us that there will not be any after-school programs available for about four years. Well, the media is reporting on after- school program for middle-school children so my wife is now in contact with the city chancellor’s office. Special needs children have an IEP, or formal outline of which services the child should

receive to help the child develop. If the school system doesn’t provide these services, it is in violation of federal law.

Not providing these services or just putting the child in, for example, a regular gym class instead of giving individual physical therapy is a way to save money, but this is a violation of federal law. When

children are given the services required by the IEP, it can help them improve. I have seen it happen. Inexperienced parents don’t know that a full IEP is important for the child. Some parents don’t know that they can have a one-on-one aide for their child if necessary.

Authorities love to have inexperienced parents come in alone to approve the IEP because they can give less and save money. By not telling parents to put their special education children on Medicaid, they can save money but this can hurt the child and cause unnecessary stress on the family. Parents and grandparents have to be alert and perhaps obtain an advocate to help them get the services their child needs and is entitled to. It can help the child and help society.

Council member Mark Weprin has listened to the complaints of his constituents and moved to clean the center malls found on our turnpikes, avenues, parkways, and boulevards in the neighborhoods of his district. He has allocated money to pay the Doe Fund and the Horticultural Society in conjunction with the Association of Community Employment to remove weeds, mulch tree pits, and remove litter. The city Department of Sanitation will increase the emptying of our overflowing litter baskets along commercial strips.

I attended Councilman Weprin’s news conference at Hillside Avenue and Braddock Avenue, where he announced these activities. Members of the Bell Park Major Co-op were present to lend their support. The West Cunningham Park Civic Association has pressed for the cleaning of the mall on Union Turnpike near Cunningham Park for years. Now I will not have to call every summer when the weeds in the city tree pits get as high “as an elephant’s eye.”

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK:

The federal government has decided to go after ISIS. It looks like both our parties will approve. Yes, this extremely vicious terrorist organization is dangerous. We will spend billions, which could be used for schools, infrastructure repair, servicing our veterans, health care for our own people. What will happen to the lands of Syria and Iraq, which are failed nations, when we leave?

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