To the editor:
I am writing this for not only our son, Thomas, but for all the other children with intensely high support needs who need the services at Fircrest in order to be healthy and safe. Thomas is 18, he’s a Shoreline resident and attends Shorecrest High School. Last year for Christmas the only thing he wanted as a Shorecrest Sweatshirt.
Many of you may know Thomas. He grew up in Seattle but I can’t tell you how many daily trips we made to Shoreline for years for his speech and occupational therapy programs. Shoreline is his community and Fircrest is his home. Thomas is a good example of the fact that one could never know the level of intense supports he needs in his daily life by looking at him or seeing him out with his support person. Yet, Thomas needs the level of care at Fircrest to manage his multiple medical and developmental disabilities.
Given that Thomas has a rare type of neurodegenerative disorder also, we realize he will not be getting better and cannot be cured. Yet, he has such a charm and exuberant personality and sense of humor that he is the light of my life. Thomas has been the spark to my fire in fighting for our most vulnerable citizens who cannot make their own voices heard.
I understand that Shoreline has extra costs in the School District related to having the benefit of educating our wonderful children. I fully support measures from the legislature which will fully reimburse Shoreline for the education of our amazing children.
What saddens me is that our children are considered “burdens” by the Shoreline School District Superintendent, Sue Walker. In the February 2012 “Superintendent’s Message”, Ms. Walker states an option might be to provide educational programs at Fircrest similar to those for juvenile inmates in an adult correctional facility. There are several other references that Ms. Walker has made with regards of the need to segregate our children.
Did Ms. Walker miss the Superintendent’s educational conference on IDEA? The Federal Law - Individuals with Disabilities Act and the Free Appropriate Public Education Act (IDEA and FAPE) clearly state the possibilities that Ms. Walker suggests are against the law.
Not only is Ms. Walker attempting to segregate our children – a major step backwards for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities but she is also assuming they live in a correctional facility and are inmates in need of rehabilitation. These are the RCWs which she refers to when speaking about Fircrest and our children.
Our children are not criminals and they are not confined at Fircrest to be segregated from others nor are they are in need of rehabilitation. Our children have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities which require extremely high levels of support to maintain their health and safety. They are also living at Fircrest for habilitation – a very different term than rehabilitation. Our children are lifelong learners. They are learning basic skills every day – skills that the rest of us mastered long ago. Our children deserve the respect that every other Shoreline resident receives. Our children are not the cause of the Shoreline School Districts financial issues. Stop making them the scapegoat again.
Cheryl Felak, RN, BSN
Because We Care - Beyond Inclusion