This July, students at Reach Every Voice Summer Institute spent a week learning about advocacy and collaborating to advocate for cause that gets them fired up. Over the next few blogs, we will share students' advocacy projects with you. Please share away and help these voices be heard!
Today: Ethan, Jack, and William advocate for educational access.
We are three non speaking autistic teenagers who spell to communicate. Gaining access to age level education has been life changing for us but there are thousands of children being denied that right.
Hello, my name is Jack Allnutt and I am seventeen years old. God had a different plan for. my family and I. I born with non speaking autism. The caveat of not speaking is that the general population believes that I'm not cognitively sound and that includes the majority of the education sector. As you read this you might wonder how a non speaking autistic can express their story so eloquently. I'm someone who types to communicate. However, before I learned this my education reflected my lack of speech. I was put into classrooms with low expectations with little to no teaching of the common curriculum. One of thousands of students who had no access to an appropriate education. Every student should be given the same opportunities to learn and become successful adults.
My name is William Assimakopoulos. I used to spend every day in a self contained autism classroom and it slowly became torture. The adults who worked with me were so kind but I was treated like a toddler no matter how many years passed. Finally getting access to age appropriate education saved my life.
My name is Ethan Tucker and I’m a 17 year old junior at Walt Whitman High School. Prior to gaining access to traditional education I was enrolled in a self contained classroom here basic concepts were taught over and over. Back then, I was unable to communicate meaningfully and demonstrate those basic concepts due to a brain body disconnect so it was assumed I didn’t know those concepts. Day after day locked away with so many thoughts to share. Not until the end of elementary school did mom get me into a pilot program with kids my own age- non verbal typers like me. Finally, learning to type opened doors. Now, I go to my local high school, take age appropriate classes with other teenagers and earn straight A’s. My sights are set on attending college in the future.
We are asking for age appropriate access to a meaningful education for all individuals with disabilities as research proves that everyone benefits.
Speech shouldn’t be the factor that dictates what so many find as appropriate education
training for all students and staff about presuming competence
According to regulation there are laws put in place to ensure that those with different needs receive an education with the least restrictions to be as fulfilling as the general population.
Individuals With Disabilities In Education Act:
Each public agency must ensure that to the maximum extent
appropriate, children with disabilities...are educated with children
who are non disabled; and special classes, separate schooling,
or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular
education environment occurs only if the nature or severity of
the disability is such that education in regular classes with the
use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved
satisfactorily. (IDEA Sec 300.114)
COMAR regulations state:
Program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be
provided for the student to enable the student to: (i) advance
appropriately toward attaining the annual goals; (ii) be involved in
and make progress in the general curriculum; (iii) participate in
extracurricular and other non-academic activities; and (iv) be
educated and participate with other students with disabilities
and without disabilities. (COMAR 13A.05.01)
Ethan is a 17-year-old autistic high school student in Maryland who communicates the importance of presuming competence one letter at a time.
Jack is a high school student who has opinions and isn't afraid to use them.
William is a sixteen-year-old guy who communicates by spelling and is navigating the fourth year of mainstreamed education.