by Lauren Turman | KRCG13 | Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Original news can be found at KRCG13 this post is a repost from the original news story
Karen Mayer Cunningham, Founder and CEO of Special Education Academy and a special education advocate, known on her platforms as the ‘Special Education Boss”, is fed up with states across the country giving dyslexic and other special needs children less than what they deserve.
Her clients are made up of teachers, students, and their families, based on her own story.
“I came into this space because I had a child with a disability, and I just assumed that you send them off to school with their lion king backpack and lunch and that everything would be fantastic,” she said. “I found out immediately that it wasn’t.”
Cunningham travels across the country to get answers from school boards and state officials on what she says have created complications in the lives of special needs children.
“If we valued this population, which is 12.9 percent nationally, then we wouldn’t have young adults and adults that can’t work, that can’t hold a job, that can’t manage their time, that can’t be successful living alone or working,” she said.
According to the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE), for a child to qualify for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), they must meet the qualification of being “special education” to keep making progress in school. Cunningham says that based on her clients, these requirements are not being upheld.
“Unfortunately, you go into a school board meeting, which sounds great on social media- nothing happens,” she said. “The school board members don’t speak to you; you have 180 seconds to speak. If you’re not on the agenda, nothing happens.”
The state also says that paraprofessionals, or aids, that assist teachers with special needs students must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. In many cases that Cunningham has seen, parents mistake them for certified special education teachers, which are not provided to public schools in many districts. The Missouri School Board Association did not comment on these issues.
Cunningham says that through her work and her educational messages on social media, she wants to continue supporting teachers and students in classrooms where they are more than likely not getting the help they need.
“I could care less about the state test and any test. What I care about is that kids win, and we make them feel successful, and we give them tools so that they can be amazing adults,” she said.
To see all that the Special Education Academy offers, click here.