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Today, Sarah Palin gave a major policy speech on special education. As a father of a boy with Down Syndrome, I have followed her comments on special education with interest. I know that many of you want to attack her for exploiting her child for political gain, I know that the rage she inspires in most of the readers of Daily KOS is powerful and, I feel, often justified.

But regardless of her policies and views before Trig was born, before the diagnosis, she's a different person now. Having lived through it, I know she's different.

But she's not a different politician - so she made it all about earmarks and taxes. She raises real problems, but, as usual, she's doing it wrong.

Here's a link to the text of her speech.

I've got to confess to you, there's a lot in here that I can identify with. It's apolitical, it's the kind of thing I wrote about in a recent op-ed in the Star Tribune, and I'm glad she gave this speech.

When she says:

One of the most wonderful experiences in this campaign has been to see all the families of children with special needs who come out to rallies and events just like this. We have a bond there. We know that children with special needs inspire a special love. You bring your sons and daughters with you, because you are proud of them, as I am of my son.

(snip)

The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.

As for our baby boy, Trig, for Todd and me he is only more precious because he is vulnerable. In some ways, I think we stand to learn more from him than he does from us. When we hold Trig and care for him, we don't feel scared anymore. We feel blessed.

She's right. We do have a bond. I really hate having that bond, because Palin represents so much of what I dislike in American politics, but it's there none the less. That experience of finding out that your child has Down syndrome is transformative in a way that I am still struggling to articulate. Furthermore, she's right to call for the full funding of IDEA, of the need to ensure that parents like us can find capable schools for our children. This line especially resonates with me:

Many of you parents here have been through the drill: You sit down with teachers and counselors to work out the IEP -- an individual education plan for your child. The school may be trying its best, but they're overstretched. They may keep telling you that your child is "progressing well," and no extra services are required. They keep telling you that -- but you know better.

You know that your children are not getting all of the help they need, at a time when they need it most. The parents of children with special needs ask themselves every day if they are doing enough, if they are doing right by their sons and daughters.

I do. I wonder if I need to structure my son's play to be more therapeutic. Get him more time with other children. Push him to walk. NOT push him to walk. Get him in the water. Get him into "music together classes." The things we could be doing go on and on. And, let me tell you, the days that I feel my son's schools (he's not 2 yet, so this is hypothetical) aren't doing everything they can for him, I will pursue every option I can to change that.

So far, so good. I'm not voting for her, but I'm glad she's talking about these challenges that parents like us face. But then the talk goes south.

We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark.

Right. So out of that 3 trillion dollars, the way to solve special ed. is to focus on this 18 billion? What about this earmark for special ed in Illinois? Or this one in Maine for services for families with autistic children. Pretty sure Susan Collins (Sen-R) is behind that one. Those are two I found with a cursory search, but I'm sure there are millions of dollars of additional earmarks for special ed.

Then there's this piece on research:

For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference. That's why we're going to strengthen NIH. We're going to work on long-term cures, and in the short-term, we're going to work on giving these families better information.

Sounds good, but you never know what basic research will lead to cures or treatments. What about stem-cells, Governor Palin? Trisomy-21 occurs when the cell first divides from one to two (if I understand the science correctly) - doesn't that sound like something that might involve studying embryonic stem cells? Does to me, but I'm not a scientist. Of course, neither is Sarah Palin.

And then she finished by attacking the Obama tax plan, implying that a vote for Obama is a vote against families with special needs, because he's going to tax Special Needs trusts. You know, I don't want any trust I'm fortunate enough to leave for my son to be taxed too heavily, but I'm not really worried about it. I'm worried about, how did Palin put it, "the most vulnerable." Children with special needs whose parents aren't lucky enough to leave trusts, who don't have good schools, who don't have resource centers, whose parents don't have knowledge - lives without hope.

I'm glad Palin is talking about her son's life, not just her decision not to have an abortion. Awareness is a good thing. Now let's take that awareness and go after real solutions, not her partisan off-topic talking points.

Special needs education and treatment isn't about taxes or earmarks. It's about our children's lives.

---------

Edit: Thanks to Blue VA for this link. Turns out research on fruit flies has helped us learn about autism.

Originally posted to Lollardfish on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:01 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  But a special infant needs very special care (6+ / 0-)

    Once she made the decision, more power to her, I believe she owes that baby every ounce of help and what attention is he getting for these critical months of his life?

    •  Yeah. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      haileysnana, eru, empathy, maren a, redtex

      I wonder about this too.

      I'm actually not worried about his respiration or his ears, assuming that the doctors have approved of his travel. We traveled a lot with our little boy once he was six months old or so, in part because we moved away from our friends and family and wanted to see them.

      What I wonder about is the therapies. Does he have roving early-intervention therapies? Did they just decide that these two months from convention to election wouldn't hurt his development (which is probably true)?

      I wish she spoke more about EI, it's so crucial, and still so many parents don't know about it.

  •  All special needs children and other (7+ / 0-)

    children are going to do much better under an Obama presidency.  Believe me.  She can say whatever she wants, but Republicans are not known for supporting education or special interests.  I think she is exploiting her child for political gain and I find it disgusting.

    Just sayin'.  :)

  •  did you see this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    empathy, redtex

    thought this was interesting take on those earmarks she was railing on again

    Memo To Palin: Fruit Fly Research Has Led To Advances In Understanding Autism
    http://thinkprogress.org/...

    Proud supporter of Barack Who's Sane Obama

    by Blue VA on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:08:34 AM PDT

  •  Schools pocket federal funds (5+ / 0-)

    I used to work with special needs kids at a high school in Mass. I resigned because as of November, none of the students had been assessed by a speech therapist as was required in their IEP. Making the matters worse was that two of my kids were tuition paying so they were essentially being ripped off twice by the district because the district was pocketing the money from IDEA and also from Massachusetts as well as the tuition that the parents paid.

    One of my boys I worked with was a very high functioning young man with Asperger's. His parents were very involved in their son's education and they came from money. I felt that I should tell them their child was not receiving an education commensurate with his IEP and that the school was using the parent's tuition to pad the school budget rather than provide the services they were required to by law.

    I resigned from the school and then contacted the parents. This was seven years ago and I have not returned to teaching since.

  •  Nice dairy! However today's speech was (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    crystal eyes, chigh

    unfortunately more about burrying the deposition than it was about actual help to special needs children. That said, I think we all know that together we can do a better job helping not only special needs but also those children that are wards of the state for one reasons or another. I'd suspect Obama with his constant focus on education is the elixir that this country's children need and require at this time in our nation.

  •  As a special education teacher I see Palin using (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eru, empathy, drmah

    her child like McCain is using being a POW.
    A good speech but no history of action, makes their claims of special caring a shallow costume.

    I retired early from my classroom because of No Child Left Behind, and Palin is just a pretty face on Republican tradition of cold neglect for special needs children.  I need more than a moving personal speech to trust that a Republican in power won't neglect the quality of education or veterans care.

    "So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it."- Willie Wonka

    by crystal eyes on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:11:15 AM PDT

    •  If I could ... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kfred, eru, empathy, crystal eyes, pedmom

      Use my son to get full funding for IDEA, for educating people about Down syndrome, for improving early intervention, for funding scientific research into Down syndrome, I'd do it in a second. I'd stand before a crowd, tickle my son, and watch everyone "awwww" as he laughs with a glow that could light a stadium.

      I don't mind her using her son, I mind what she's using her son for.

      •  I know what you mean... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pedmom

        I can shut my eyes and see the loving faces of my  former special needs students.  The experience of letting them into your heart is trans-formative.

        "So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it."- Willie Wonka

        by crystal eyes on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:23:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Cold neglect (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eru, crystal eyes, auroraborealis, pedmom

      I work real closely with my kidlet's teachers, just as Lollardfish sounds like he/she does.

      And that is what is so exasperating, the teachers care, every darn one of 'em.  But somehow that trickle of needed money to support these kids just doesn't make it to the kidlet who needs it.  It is just so frustrating at times.

      We, as parents, may be hard working, frugal and try to be smart, but sometimes we need that help in place.

      Speech therapy is a hot button with me.  I'm not equipped to help my kid to the depth of "fricatives"?  I mean, come on - I got him to walk, I got him to go up and down stairs in time for junior high.  I've copied his homework into bigger fonts.  We finally got him on the "b" honor roll after years of fighting the math and the lack of interest in reading. (Hey, he's a teen boy...)

      Prompting to get the IEP scheduled, bringing my own agenda, communicating constantly with the teachers.  Active in the school district.

      It's just frustrating!  (Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest).

    •  Her body language is very odd.. (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe it's just some media conspiracy, but I've yet to see a picture of Palin holding her baby that shows any kind of connection between them.

      The baby seems to always be asleep, and she seems to carry him around like he's an accessory.  Her own children seem to show more affection for him than his mother does.

      Maybe I'm judging her too harshly, but there seems to be a lack of warmth.

  •  special needs issue is not political (0+ / 0-)

    the issue is not political...but during her
    speech she constantly made it political talking
    about mccains and her programs to not tax people.
    She made many references to "her opponents" and
    their "tax increases".
    A good person would have said that we need these
    programs for special needs childrenand adults..
    its not to be a partisan issue...lets all work
    together to get these programs mandatedand
    funded..
    instead this idiot made it a political speech
    and lost all credibility.
    nice try but next time sarah realize weall
    are for programs to helps those people

  •  Let's not be hipocrites (0+ / 0-)

    Can everyone here honestly say you would submit these exact same comments if Obama or Biden had a special needs child?

    •  I would if I thought they were using... (0+ / 0-)

      their child.

    •  I would if I thought (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      empathy

      they were offering politics instead of solutions which is exactly what this diary points out Palin is doing.

      Proud supporter of Barack Who's Sane Obama

      by Blue VA on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:23:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But don't you think (0+ / 0-)

        that a diary (if one would be written) about a Democrat with a Down's baby would be written from a different viewpoint? Without any political connotations? Wouldn't it be more of a human interest story like Obama visiting his grandmother where all the comments would be warm and understanding? And therefore there wouldn't be any negative comments.

        •  You don't get it. (0+ / 0-)

          She is using her little boy as prop and putting his health in jeopardy especially his hearing. Her speech was a bunch of bull with no solutions, no new policies just platitudes about how we should all love special needs children, as if anyone would disagree.  This speech was one of the most shallow, calculated pandering that I have ever seen.  It was shameful and I would not put up with it if Biden or Barack were allowing their special needs kid to be flown around the country when he or she should be in a school and getting professional care.  Early intervention is the most effective and will have the most lasting impact on Trig's development.  She's trading that for possible sympathy votes and that is disgusting.

          too soon old--too late smart

          by idahospud44 on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 10:16:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I can ... (0+ / 0-)

      say that I would post the same thing if Biden or Obama tried to make this about earmark reform and tax policy.

      •  You're braver than I thought (0+ / 0-)

        You sound passionate and I'm sure you would indeed write this on some other site about Obama or Biden if the tables were turned. However, it's hard to believe that it would be written on dKos since the point of this blog is to elect democrats.

  •  As the father of a Sp. needs child I call.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kfred, empathy, drmah

    BULLSHIT on Palin. She still has no clue, what she's in for. Her child is still an infant. Try wiping the ass of a 16 year old who isn't potty trained.

  •  I may be cynical (0+ / 0-)

    but Palin reads a good speech. How much of it reflects her true sentiment I am afraid I am doubtful.

    John McCain Sarah Palin! = Panic! Jail harsh con man.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:22:56 AM PDT

  •  If she believes what she says, why is she REP? (0+ / 0-)

    The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are most vulnerable.

  •  I still dont think it's her kid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah

    23 Oct 2008 04:33 pm
    Palin's Medical Records

    Surprise! Despite Palin's gaffe to Brian Williams last night, the records will not be releasedany time soon. Or rather:

    "When medical information related to Governor Palin’s health is ready to be released we will make that information available."

    "Related" to her health?

    The records were part of the vetting process. There is absolutely no reason why they couldn't be released immediately or why Palin's obstetrician, Catherine Baldwin-Jones, could not be allowed to talk to reporters about the evidentiary facts of Palin's controversial story of her last pregnancy. And yet we get this crap:

    Comella declined to give any more information about when the records might be released or whether there were any particular issues holding up their release.

    The truth, of course, is that the campaign has already refused to release any medical records, let alone any actual confirmation of the Down Syndrome pregnancy. Such confirmation will not, I bet, be provided before the election. Or ever. But I would be delighted to be proven wrong.

    Or maybe this is a moment to holler back at Mark Salter's accusation that I have lost my "fucking mind."

    23 Oct 2008 11:19 pm
    The Nephew And The Sister

    A momentary lapse into realness from Sarah Palin:

     

     "Yeah, and personalizing this also, my sister, Heather and I have talked a lot about this. It kind of makes me cry thinking about it. When Karcher was first diagnosed, Heather knew that for Heather and Kurt, her son Karcher was going to be her life. She's kind of put her career aside - she still works full time - she's kind of put career aside so she can nurture and teach and help Karcher. But she has asked to, I remember she asked with tears in her eyes, she says, what happens when Kurt and I, though, are elderly, then what happens to Karcher?"

    A fascinating and moving insight. The full and true story of Sarah Palin's family has yet to be told. Perhaps it never will.

  •  Thanks for addressing the real issue (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    auroraborealis

    in such a compassionate way.

    I'm in the midst of navigating the IEP process for my son. We've got some great school staff on our side who are trying their best to meet IDEA guidelines admist nearly crippling budget cuts.  It's tough.  My son doesn't have the intense level of special needs that come with Down Syndrome, for example, but it's still frustrating trying to pull together resources that are stretched so thin.

  •  So why did she (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah

    cut the funds for Special Olympics in half in Alaska

  •  She hasn't a clue about raising special needs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maren a, drmah

    children yet. She has been busy running around the lower 48 states and passing her child like a trophy and parading her other kids on stage who look lost and confused most of the time. As we have seen so far she seems clueless about what awaits her as a parent and grandma.

    She has to consider the safety of the child a year from now when he starts to walk and run around. Many children irrespective of their special needs be with autism/Asperger's, Downs Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Tourette Syndrome and many others pose a variety of challenges to the family. The emotional tool on the family is huge. The family's lifestyle's choices are limited. Theoretically a whole lot can be done but practically it is a rude awakening in many ways.

    Early intervention through intense and extensive therapy must be top priority. Families with resources can give the care their children need, but what about those families who don't have a clue where to go and even if they do how to pay for it. Time is of the essence in the early years. Without therapy their chances of progess so they can at least care for themselves is slim.

    A speech therapist could cost $150-200 for a 45 min session. With 8-12 session a month that could cost $1200 a month at a minimum. Not to mention the Occupation therapist and Physical Therapist if need be. There is a huge financial toll on families.

    We need a healthcare plan that will get special needs people esp. children the care they need. There is an epidemic esp. with autism around the world and how will we as a society deal with it and live with ourselves if we don't serve those that are most vulnerable.

    •  I agree with most of what you say (0+ / 0-)

      Your last 4 sentences I agree with. I myself have a granddaughter with chromosome problems and know first hand that early intervention is vital. The doctors thought she wouldn't live out her first year so they didn't do any surgeries. When she proved them wrong, she started to get the healthcare she needed. She is now about to reach her 10th birthday after 8 major surgeries, not to mention various therapies, to the big surprise of those doctors.
      Having said that, I take issue with your first paragraph. I don't think you will be able to convince me that you would have the same comments if Sarah was a democrat and Obama's VP. Somehow I believe your tone would change and she would be applauded for bringing the issue out in the open. As far as Trig being a trophy, what would you have suggested? Not have him brought on stage? Would the cry then be that she is ashamed and hiding her son? I'm afraid she can't win that argument no matter what she did. As far as her kids being clueless, come on, you know as well as I do that suddenly being thrust on the national stage is not something anyone is used to, so cut them some slack. And finally as far as Sarah being clueless as a mother and grandmother. Please, don't belittle her because she hasn't had a previous special needs child or has not had a grandchild before. That's not fair at all, and you know it. Maybe she doesn't know the full ramifications of what a special needs child requires, but does anyone really until they have one? It's one of those "you have to be there" kind of experiences. And frankly, we don't know the inside story of what she knows about it, only what we are shown in the media. Therefore, if, by clueless, you meant she just hasn't experienced it, then ok, I'll believe you, but if you meant it any other way, then I take issue with it.

      •  just for the record (0+ / 0-)

        I don't have a problem with candidates talking about their kids. We need to have a real conversation about special needs and special ed. But the answers don't happen to be, conveniently, Palin's standard talking points (earmarks, Obama taxes, etc.). They are more complex.

      •  I think my statement is clear just the way I said (0+ / 0-)

        it.

        As we have seen so far she SEEMS CLUELESS ABOUT WHAT AWAITS HER as a parent and grandma

        Please, don't belittle her because she hasn't had a previous special needs child or has not had a grandchild before. That's not fair at all, and you know it. Maybe she doesn't know the full ramifications of what a special needs child requires, but does anyone really until they have one? It's one of those "you have to be there" kind of experiences

        You've presumed quite a bit in judging me, yet you don't know me. I have personal experience raising a special needs child. My post was my opinion based on what little I have seen of and heard from Palin. So, I don't see how I have belittled her for being a parent of a child with special needs.

        I don't think you will be able to convince me that you would have the same comments if Sarah was a democrat and Obama's VP. Somehow I believe your tone would change and she would be applauded for bringing the issue out in the open.

        I choose to vote for a "Candidate" and not any party. I don't see it as a popularity contest. Electing a President has serious consequences as most of us have seen in recent years. My decision is based on a candidate who looks at the big picture and solves issues that includes the majority of people.

        Neither Mc or Palin hae addressed the issues in a way that benefits most of the people in this country. As far as Palin is concerned the fact that she cut 30% funding in Alaska for Special Olympics is an action that spells out clearly her stance when it comes to people with special needs. Maybe raising her son will open her mind and heart to this matter in the future. IMO, She speaks a lot yet has little of substance to share which doesn't sit well with me in general. Personally, I don't care for her style of politics that is divisive and inflammatory at best.
        My issue with her bringing her baby to the rallies is not so much about whether she should or shouldn't have him there but more from the concern for the child's distress in these noisy settings. There is absolutely no reason for a baby to be seen at rally after rally, is there? Most people would understand that NO BABY needs to be put in a noisy public setting at such a young age particularly one that could feel distressed in that environment.

        As far as Palin parading her children, bringing them on stage during the convention is understandable and expected. But why are these children on stage rally after rally (they clearly seem lost and uncomfortable so why put them through it) instead of attending school? Just bec' their mother is running for VP on a ticket doesn't mean they ignore their education and run around with her to political rallies. I don't recall other candidates parading their children on stage during campaign rallies in previous elections either. JMO!

  •  Fruit flies have more brains than Sarah Palin n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Anthropologists for human diversity; opposing McCain perversity

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 05:29:22 PM PDT

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