With 19 days before the election, having just watched the final Presidential debate, it is time for me to publicly weigh in on the issues that are most vital to me. Not surprisingly, among the primary issues for me are education and special education. Senator McCain's position in favor of vouchers will in no way strengthen public schools, any more than draining blood from a person fortifies their health. Although public schools have much to improve upon, and I will and have fought on a case by case basis for out of district placements; to systemically weaken public education would not make for a better education system and in the process would not help nor improve the lot of students with special needs. It is an ideological position that will permanently and irrevocably leave students with special needs behind.
I have been simmering on a daily basis every time Governor Palin holds up her son Trig as a political symbol. I have to say, that I think all small children should be left out of the political forum, and it is wrong to use an infant with special needs as an emblem of your own personal rectitude. As to her comments that she will be an advocate for children with special needs, this statement rings hollow with me personally. She may be sincere in these statements, but I do not think she realizes how little she knows about what it means to raise a child with special needs, or the daily struggles against deeply ingrained stereotypes about children with Downs and special needs generally.
She has not even begun to know the daily pain of fighting small battles when well-meaning people touch your young child's head and body invading any sense of personal space and privacy. Or the people who say "is he tired" for the umpteenth time when he is slumped on your shoulder; the reality is that his head control has disappeared that day, and you would prefer to just have a private outing with your family without well meaning intrusions. Obviously, the big arena that she has not experienced at all is the fights over so many things in school. In this life it is important to know what you know, and it is even more important to know what you do not know. She does not have any sense as to how much she does not know. She is not a knowledgeable member of this involuntary club called "Special Needs Parenthood" and I am disturbed that she thinks she is.
Finally tonight when Senator McCain brought up research for autism as a political brownie point, I had to speak out. He has obviously read the statistics from the CDC that 1 in 150 children have autism, which represents a lot of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends and others that care about children with autism. It is wrong at this late date to shill yourself as a champion for the vulnerable populations of children with autism, when he has no record to speak of before now. Senator Obama and for that matter Senator Clinton have taken affirmative positions on funding and supporting efforts for children with autism.
Children with special needs whether those with Downs or Autism or CP or any other disability are not emblems to be held up for political gain. It is offensive and wrong! If Senator McCain's voting record with President Bush was not enough to disqualify him for the Presidency, then his use of children with special needs as a political tool certainly rules him out once and for all. I think Senator Obama is thoughtful and steady and qualified, but he has also shown that he is respectful of the people and issues that matter most to me. He has my vote and for what it is worth my hearty endorsement.
[Here is another blog taking a similar perspective on the debate.]