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Voice: Courage, other special traits seen in special education students

February 17, 2002

In response to Mr. Woeten's letter "The tragedy of drug babies" one could make two assumptions from his comments. 1. That Mr. Woeten was a drug baby or, 2. That you do not have to be a drug baby to have a "mentality that will never improve."

Mr. Woeten's comments imply that all special needs children are a result of being drug babies. His comments were cruel and contribute to the problem of these children being stereotyped.

I would also question the ethics of discussing a student's medical condition with an aid, let alone erroneously announce to the world that these children are the result of their mother using drugs.

My son Tyler is non-verbal. He can only say "mama," but he certainly knows what it means. I have offered a $500 reward to anyone who teaches him to say "papa" and I can not imagine a more beautiful sound.

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Besides being non-verbal, Tyler is blind, not able to walk and requires around-the-clock care. Tyler struggles to accomplish the simplest of tasks in a world that is often uncaring and indifferent to those who are different.

Tyler is a student at the Imperial Valley Center for Exceptional Children and thankfully the staff demonstrates more compassion and care than Mr. Woeten. He seems to be loved and well cared for while at school by a staff dedicated to serving the needs of these special children.

President Bush has called upon all Americans to volunteer their service to those less fortunate. IVCEC is a good place to begin.

Tyler is not the result of his mother using drugs; rather he is a gift from God, as are all children. Physically Tyler is a very handsome young man and emotionally very happy. He finds joy in simple pleasures — sitting outside and feeling the sun on his face, having a story read to him and eating Spaghetti-O's. Tyler will never be an honor student or a hero on the field of play. He will never score a touchdown, hit a home run or score a three-point basket. But, Tyler has in his short life demonstrated more courage and character than many adults. You ask me how I spell courage; I spell it T Y L E R.

Fortunately our family is strong in our faith, have good jobs with health insurance and schedules that allow us to care for Tyler. However, many children like Tyler live in single-family homes and are not as fortunate. It is at best a difficult existence for the family.

I generally find that as parents we have in common our love for our special needs child and the continued worry about who will care for them should something happen to us, the parents. It is our greatest fear that if we do not survive our special needs children or are no longer able to care for them, they may end up in a facility and cared for by someone with Mr. Woeten's level of compassion.

It is a shame that a child may be hurt because of the mother using drugs, but this is not the child's fault and compassion is in order as well as their right to an appropriate education.

I would ask the principal at IVCEC to never ask Mr. Woeten to be a substitute teacher, and if he does let me know in advance so I can keep my child home.

BILL COLLINS

El Centro

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