Monday, June 15, 2009

Fabio Botarelli (3rd Blog)

There is a saying in life that says “if you do not take a step out of the door, then nothing in life will happen to you, but the second you take that first step there is a fifty percent chance that something novel will come into your life.” This was the lesson that I put into practice this week when I went up to legislative assistants of each committee and asked to attend as many hearings as possible. I wanted to see how public policy was being made on capital hill, where politicians were scrutinized by the press and assailed by their opponents behind the closed doors of a conference room. Considering the circumstances, I was fortunate enough to attend four hearings, one in commerce, one in education and two in health care. But this wasn’t about the quantity of the hearings, it was about getting an insiders perspective and a thorough education of the political scene. Of all those hearings, the one that truly entitled “Education that works: The impact of Early Childhood Interventions on Reducing the Need for Special Education Services.” For those AAPD interns including myself who have struggled with one or more developmental disabilities, this was a hearing to attend. It has been studied that 85 percent of the brain’s core structure is developed before the age of 3. The ability to target the strengths and weaknesses of children often dictates the academic success of the child when they reach later years in their education. For children with learning disabilities, this is especially important. Children with learning disabilities who have gone through effective early childhood programs have been able to overcome their disabilities and attend mainstream schools without having to enroll in special education. At the end of the day, the more money that is spent on early education, the less money that will have to be spent addressing learning problems in a child’s later years. Special education, though an excellent way to address the needs of students with disabilities, oftentimes can cost a state many more thousands of dollars per child and may not be able fully mitigate the severity of a child’s disability. And unless the parents are very self-aware, children with learning disabilities are either thrown recklessly into a mainstream public school or given medication, which further complicates the problem because then you do not know whether you are dealing with the disability or the side effects of the medication. So to all of you Congressional AAPD interns, my advice to you is to take advantage of your experience. Do not be shy to ask your coordinator to attend hearings because people are not mind readers and unless you tell them and emphasize what it means to you, you might never get as many opportunities. No matter what the subject is, every hearing will teach you valuable knowledge that will make you not only more prepared to enter the field of politics but also augment your writing skills and make you a more effective advocate for the disability community. Because at the end of the day you have nothing to lose; the worse thing your coordinator could say is no.

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