Sarah Palin And Special Needs Children

Sarah Palin has received support from women who identify with Palin but fail to consider whether Palin supports policies which support their needs. Terry Gross discussed this question on Fresh Air today with Anchorage Daily News columnist Michael Care. On a closely related topic, I received this submission from a special needs mom who questions Palin’s claims to be an advocate for parents of special needs children:


I am an expert at raising a child with special needs. My son is an adult, 26 years of age.

Governor Palin, you have said repeatedly that you will be an advocate for parents of special needs children. It is now time for you to tell us what you mean by that statement. It is not enough that you chose to have a baby with special needs. There are thousands of us who made the same choice – and others like me who did not know until our children were born (or later even) that they had special needs. There are also hundreds of thousands of people with developmental disabilities on decades-long waiting lists for services across the country – and others who are completely unable to access services for their children because they don’t fit some arbitrary criteria.

Specifically, I want to know the following:

1. Do you support increased funding to and the expansion of Medicaid Waiver programs to ensure that people with special needs can live and work in the community?

2. Do you support making certain that all services are portable, across the states and counties – that people don’t have to get at the “end of the line” when they move to another state?

3. Will you increase funding to special education, and improve special education programs so that less parents have to “opt out” of sending their special needs children to public school because “homeschooling” is better than “no schooling?”

4. If John McCain were President, and he were to propose drastic cuts in Medicaid, what kind of advocacy would you do for special needs parents to prevent funding cuts that would put us back to the 1960’s?

5. What did you do in Alaska to improve the lives of people with special needs? Did you increase services? Did you increase funding to special education? Did you end waiting lists? Have you served on nonprofit boards that serve children with special needs? How often did the local papers in Alaska write about your advocacy for the families of Alaska who have special needs children? Do all families in Alaska have access to local, community-based programs and treatment regardless of their income because of your advocacy efforts?

6. Are you in favor of spending more time, money and attention on the horrific status of mental health treatment and services across the nation?

7. Would you be in favor of ensuring that services are provided to people with disabilities who need them, in spite of their IQ’s not being in the right “range”? Specifically, how would you address this problem?

8. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, what special programs might you institute to support the high influx new parents of special needs children who might not have otherwise given birth to those children because they felt they could not manage for whatever reason?

Governor Palin, the media has had the opportunity to ask you these questions but have not done so. You have seized that opportunity with photo ops and heartstrings to simply say that you will be an advocate for us, without being questioned. You complain that the media is against you and yet you have not taken the time to explain to the hundreds of thousands of we special needs parents who need a champion for our cause so much, exactly what your record is on special needs advocacy and what we can expect in the future if you were Vice President. It’s time now to answer the question: What is your plan?

A special needs mom in Aurora, CO

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  1. 1
    beingajoe says:

    Like most things, she in unprepared to answer. She is just trying to milk this issue to get support like McCain did last night during the debate. By the way, here is a website I found that shares all the Sarah Palin Pictures and supports Barack Obama!

  2. 2
    Trish Maunder says:

    Fabulous questions.. I too am the parent of two special needs children now 22 and 25 years old. You have said it all..thank you! 

  3. 3
    Mary o'Malley says:

    Wonderful list of talking points!!!!!! I am a parent of five children with a special needs son who is involved in both the physical realm and mental health realm.Can we get the big media to pick this up or send it to someone who could get it out?

  4. 4
    Paula Shepherd says:

    I totally agree with you. I have a 26 year old daughter with developmental disabilities which I have raised by myself since she was 2 years old. We need govt. to support us and give us the resources we need to empower, educate, get housing, and find trained PCA’s and monies to support our loved ones so they can live and grow in their communities.

  5. 5
    JIll says:

    I’m not typically a political animal, but, given the current state of the union, the proposals on the table, and how it will affect my child…I’ll ask you to forgive my cynicism and distrust in the vague generalities and inconsistencies I subjected myself to this morning.
    I’ve now heard and read her speech. Great, we’re going to freeze spending, but fully fund IDEA. What happens to other programs in the Domestic Discretionary Budget for that to happen? Pell Grants, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, WIC, clean-energy research, Section 8 housing — dozens and dozens of programs will need to be cut by an average of 6.4%. Yeah.While she hooked the ticket up to the idea of funding IDEA, there was no strong commitment to it, nor plan proposed for implementing it.
    She completely ignored the Community Choice Act (CCA) which would make $$ that is normally spent on institutionalization available for home-based care.
    She talked about ‘choices’ in education (private vs public), but made no mention of any guidelines that would prevent schools from discriminating against our children based on test scores.
    As she rightly said “For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information.” What she totally glossed over, though, is that the information comes through sources her ticket is NOT endorsing: guaranteed medical coverage for all children. Where does most of our early information about our children and their ‘condition’ come from? Our doctors. Doctors our children won’t see without insurance. Therapists that our children won’t see without coverage. Visiting nurses that will no longer ‘visit’ us because our child isn’t able to get insurance (’pre-existing’ and ‘congenital’ often are treated the same by insurance companies).
    First we have to GET information — from healthcare providers – and we need insurance for that!! Then, we need to be able to access services – and we need insurance for that!! Am I the only one seeing the disconnect here?
    I think the commitment to education is great, really, but what about EI therapies? What about AFTER school is over with? It’s all well and good to say “We’ll give you a ton of educational choices.” but it does me no good if I can’t afford medical coverage for a child who may not SURVIVE until school age without OHS; nor does it benefit me, as the parent of a 30 yo who needs day-to-day assistance to know that she ‘could have gone to private school.’
    Frankly, this speech was a disappointment on many levels. Not the least of which was the underlying assumption that education was the main concern of parents of children w/ special needs. We want them educated, yes – but HEALTHY children learn better than UNhealthy children. It has to be from the bottom up – healthy children learn better. You can’t go ‘top-down’ — you can’t ‘teach a child healthy.’
    So far, the M/P ticket has not impressed me on this issue.

  6. 6
    Mr. S says:

    I enjoyed your post, and think the mom raises some excellent questions.  I am a future special education teacher who has some experience working with Down Syndrome children.  I think it is fine that Palin would like to stand up for special needs parents (and I wouldn’t question her sincerity since she is a special needs Mom).  However, are the policies of a potential McCain administration going to help special needs parents?  Odds are, probably not.

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