Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Cogswell-Macy Act: If It Were Already A Fact in 2012

Original photo by Clare Cassidy Photography, artwork by Heather Withrow.

If the functions of the Cogswell-Macy Act were already in place in 2012, two years after Orion was born, believe it or not, we may still be living in Maryland today!

In a nutshell, the Alice Cogswell-Anne Sullivan Macy Act is an improvement on IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) particularly for students who are deaf and hard of hearing, blind and deaf-blind.

Texas is a hidden blessing, though.  It's a different kind of beautiful than I'm used to growing up in the Seattle, Washington area.  Austin is bisected by "Lake" Austin, just like the shipping canal, Lake Union and the Ballard Locks bisecting the Emerald City. Both cities don't have a professional basketball team.  Both cities have city-favorite post-secondary institutions in University of Washington and University of Texas. However, the resources available for my children are not similar to what is available in Texas.  Again, if the Cogswell-Macy Act features were already in effect nationally, the entire state of Washington would be educationally viable for my sons.  I would have had a great case for us to move to Seattle to join the rest of my family in the region where several generations of my extended family lived/lives.

Our situation in Maryland in 2012 was that with the diverse needs of our 3 children, no matter how we strategized it, only two out of our three children would have appropriate support and education in school. Our oldest son, Skyler, is Deaf, our hearing daughter is a KODA (hearing Kid Of Deaf Adults), and our youngest son, Orion, is DeafBlind.

We looked at 5 other states across the USA, the programs and services were so diverse. Coming out on the top for at least the Withrow family's needs, were the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), the Texas DeafBlind Outreach, and the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD).  Quite an impression was made on my husband and I seeing the qualified personnel working with Deaf and hard of hearing students at TSD and interveners working with deafblind students of various abilities at TSBVI.  What we saw was exactly what our DeafBlind son, Orion, needed to thrive in a learning environment!


Interesting tidbit: Thomas' father, Thomas, Sr., was born and raised in Dallas.  He graduated from Texas School for the Deaf in 1949.  He would've been so pleased he has grandsons at TSD today.  Thomas, Jr. was also born and raised in Dallas but since TSD was an overflowing district placement-only program at that time, his parents were unable to send him to TSD. Because of that, they moved the family to Maryland to enroll at MSD.  Thomas was 10.

Back to the main story line.  Sadly, the consistency and continuum in support and qualified personnel, both for Deaf and hard of hearing and deafblind students, as seen in Austin, Texas is not seen in all fifty states! 

Family members of deaf blind children in other states have contacted me (and I'm glad to help!) for advice how to get their DeafBlind child the appropriate support he/she needs. 

What is the point of having a free and minimally appropriate public education if you don’t have qualified personnel ready to help make it “stick” in a concrete, non-abstract way? 

We parents are not asking for a Cadillac education.  Even with a good ol’ Ford education what good is it if you can’t ‘see’ it in order to drive it?  That’s where trained and qualified personnel can and will make a difference!


"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."-Jane Goodall

Ah, I can dream of this happening in all fifty states, can I?  I'll dream and keep on trying to do my part for our children.  Sometimes I feel like a little speck with a little voice... but then I remember Dr. Seuss' Little Cat Z who has "Voom" in his tiny striped hat?  (In "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back", Voom went on to clean up all the mess the Cat in the Hat, plus the other cats B, C, D, etc. did! Everything!)  So, we need a Voom... no, a bunch of Vooms to make a boom for our children who have similarly-sized (a.k.a. low-incidence) "disability"! 

Who will be our Thing D and Thing R introducing the Cogswell-Macy Act on the Senate floor?
A Cat In The Hat with a mobility cane.
Illustration by Heather L. Withrow, 2016.
(Description: illustration of the famous tall red and white hat, sticking out of the bottom of the brim are black feet, black tail and a black hand holding a mobility cane.)

I know there are voomers out there.  Keep on vooming!  Deaf, blind and deafblind children should be able to get their free and appropriate public education exactly where they live. They should not have to move to the state next door or across the country.


Cogswell-Macy Act Information


Watch H.R. 3535, including sponsors by party, in govtrack.us: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr3535

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