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The Special Needs Community Appeals to President Trump: 5 Lessons from Washington and Lincoln

February 20, 2017


In honor of President’s Day, we’d like to make an appeal to President Trump.

Today, Mr. President, as we honor the memories of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, we encourage you to apply their wisdom to the requirements of the special needs community.

Our reason is simple. We need your help, and we need it urgently. Our children have so many difficulties to overcome – and, especially in light of recent statements made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, we are concerned about how we as a nation will continue to support kids with special needs.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you will follow these principles exemplified by Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, both today and throughout your presidency.

Children with special needs in school

1. Work towards equality

While neither George Washington nor Abraham Lincoln brought full legal equality to all US citizens, both played critical roles in moving the United States closer to that ideal.

Today, the most important law guaranteeing equal educational rights to children with special needs is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This piece of legislation is the legal bedrock of special education as we know it in autism public schools.

Throughout the US, children with special needs depend on IDEA for their education – and their families depend on IDEA to make that education affordable. It’s a matter of fairness and equality before the law.

Yet Secretary of Education DeVos has cast doubt on whether student’s rights under this critical law will be upheld. The concern is that increasing financial support for charter schools and private schools, which is the cornerstone of her educational philosophy, may result in parents and students signing away their rights under IDEA.

Mr. President, we urge you and your administration to require all schools receiving any federal funding to abide by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

A view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument

2. Use the power of the federal government as necessary

In the early years of the United States, the national government was far weaker than in the system of government we know today. George Washington played a critical role in giving the federal government much more power.

Today, the federal government provides for the basic requirements of children with special needs – but there are reports that it may start being less active in that effort, especially when it comes to Medicaid.

Currently, the federal government works with the state governments to provide health insurance to those who have a special financial need – a system that guarantees anyone who meets the criteria for Medicaid will be covered by it. However, there is talk of switching to a block-grant system – meaning that the federal government would simply provide a certain amount of money to each state, and each state would run its own Medicaid program. For children with special needs, that shift could mean a loss of essential funding for basic services.

Medicaid is too important – our children’s health is too important – for the federal government to give up its role in ensuring we get the assistance we need to cover our children’s vital necessities.

Mr. President, we urge you to make sure special needs families get to keep their Medicaid coverage – no matter which state they live in.

3. Be truthful and transparent

While George Washington and Abraham Lincoln differed in many important ways, they were both known for their honesty. This quality was an essential part of their legacies.

Today, we are alarmed by a lack of information about your administration’s possible plans for changing Medicaid and the implementation of IDEA, especially in light of a recent extended outage of the federal government’s IDEA website.

Federal assistance to children with special needs makes a profound difference – both to the children and to their families – and if Secretary DeVos intends to change government policy in a way that will compromise their well-being, we deserve to know ahead of time.

Mr. President, we urge you to make sure your administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education are fully open, honest, and transparent with the American public about the critical issues facing children with special needs.

Mother and child with special needs at school

4. Invest in education

While Abraham Lincoln is best known for his leadership during the Civil War, he also signed the Land-Grant College Act of 1862 that expanded the federal government’s investment in education in a way that was unprecedented at the time. Ultimately, that law brought funding to dozens of new state colleges.

Lincoln understood a fact that has only become clearer over time – education is an investment that will seriously impact which direction the US economy goes in the future.

Mr. President, we urge you to continue to invest important resources in our children’s education – not just because we owe it to them, but because we owe it to the future of the United States.

5. Learn on the job

George Washington was a military man who became president without much prior experience in government. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, was a wartime president who had had minimal military experience before being tasked with heading the federal government during a war that had no precedent in US history.

That meant that, when they took office, neither Washington nor Lincoln were fully prepared for the demands they would face during their presidencies. Yet they are regarded as two of the most successful presidents in US history.

What made them such great leaders? In part, it was the way they both learned on the job.

Like Presidents Washington and Lincoln, you are now being called upon to use a different skillset than the one you have used throughout your career.

Mr. President, in order to fulfill your responsibilities, we urge you to study and learn about the issues faced by Americans with special needs.

Today, Mr. President, as we honor the memories of two of the greatest presidents in US history – two leaders who helped define what the United States stands for – we encourage you to learn from their best qualities and accomplishments.

As your cabinet nominees are being vetted and confirmed, the groundwork is being laid for the decisions that will define your presidency. And the steps you take in the coming days will undoubtedly have lasting implications, both for the United States and for the future of our children.

In the spirit of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, we urge you to help us build a brighter future for our children with special needs – including proper education, health care, and overall support.

AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for children with special needs. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracker to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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