Letter published in the Brookline (MA) TAB, July, 1997

More to PDD 'success' story

The June 3 report on the education of children with pervasive developmental disorders in Brookline tells a story of success that many parents are anxious to continue. The story misses the essential: Success compared to what? A parent looking at other school systems might reach a very different conclusion: many disabled children in Brookline are progressing far below their maximum potential.

A 1987 study on recovery from PDDs shows that about half the children who receive the right intensive program, carried out both in home and at school, recover completely by first grade. No IEP (independent education plan), no special classroom, no more disability. Most of the other half make very substantial progress. While Brookline has never provided comparable data, our discussions with other parents of children with PDDs indicates the recovery rate by first grade in Brookline is probably zero.

Our preschooler, despite Brookline's best efforts, was continuing to fall measurably further and further behind his peers. Fortunately, we studied the research, brought in independent experts and were able to implement an effective program. By keeping the spotlight solely on our son's progress, rather than the needs of the school, we achieved gratifying results: our son is rapidly catching up to his peers in all areas. One year later, he has made so much progress that many people now cannot tell he is disabled.

As an administrator informed us, "We are not in the habit of looking at other people's programs." This puts the whole burden on parents to find out what is truly possible for their children. Fortunately, there are excellent resources at hand. The organization TAP (508-478-7827) brings together parents and professionals to implement effective programs. We are also happy to assist other families (232-6388). The developmentally disordered population need not be "here to stay."

Richard and Jennifer Saffran, Brookline

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