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half, there were little to no local resources for families affected by autism, so she and some other Northshore moms created SOAR in 2010. This Ponchatoula-based organization provides, among many other things, ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy, speech therapy, and social skills, plus parent support groups, education advocacy, workshops, and training for caregivers and educators. The demand is so high, they frequently have a waiting list, reflecting the fact that there’s still a shortage of these services in this region and across the state. In addition to critical judgment from other parents and the community, each of the moms I spoke with pointed to one challenge that rises above all the rest – education. One of these moms has a unique perspective because she’s not only the parent of a child with autism, she also works in a local public school. I’ve decided to call her Eve, because she was brave enough to speak candidly with me, but I don’t want to cause trouble for her or risk jeopardizing her job by using her real name. Eve spoke with me about her frustrations, both as a parent and as a school employee who frequently has to “light a fire” under her principal to come up with solutions when the system falls short. “For us, navigating the school systems has been more overwhelming than getting the original diagnosis. Awareness in the community has grown, but education didn’t keep up. The kids in my child’s school were warm and welcoming, but the services and education they offered were seriously lacking. Parents often have trouble getting the schools to address specific needs, and I wonder, are we not using resources wisely? Sometimes it feels like parents vs. schools. The schools wait for parents to advocate on behalf of their kids, and they want the kids to fit into a specific mold.” A very kind-hearted friend of mine, who’s in special education at the state level in another state, bristled a little when I mentioned these parents’ frustrations to her. I have to admit that I was taken aback when, without hearing the details of their particular situations, she listed several possible excuses: Special education only became a priority in the 70s, teachers and administrators don’t always understand the problem, and parents’ requests are often unreasonable. Her life’s work is lobbying to make things better for special needs children, so I sort of understand her defensive stance – but it also brought the parents vs. schools dynamic into sharp relief for me. She concluded with what finally sounded like a bit of a concession, “Parents have to keep fighting the good fight.” As I dug deeper into this topic, I got a better sense of how exhausting and overwhelming that endless fight must be. And I developed an immense respect for these tireless parents, who sometimes must be fueled by love alone. It’s important to point out that most parents of children with disabilities are highly dependent on public schools because private schools seldom offer the necessary accommodations and services, and even if they do, tuition

Profile for EDGE of the Lake

Edge of the Lake Magazine June | July 2021  

EDGE of the Lake gives a fresh edgy look at the parishes north of the lake and the unique people that make up our community. Expect the unex...

Edge of the Lake Magazine June | July 2021  

EDGE of the Lake gives a fresh edgy look at the parishes north of the lake and the unique people that make up our community. Expect the unex...

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