RI parents rally for creation of special education ‘watchdog’


WARWICK — Moms and dads of exclusive-needs students spoke with emotion at a rally on Saturday, recounting the lengths they have gone to in battling for their kid’s education.

Some drained retirement price savings and took out second mortgages to shell out for attorneys and education and learning advocates. Some others watched relationships fray thanks to the pressure as they endured their children’s repeated hospitalizations and, for some, even suicide tries. There had been tears, frustration and misplaced work opportunities. 

“It could have broken us, and it broke us fiscally,” said Walt Steenbergen, whose 19-year-previous son, Charlie, is on the autism spectrum and is identified with neurofibromatosis.

Priscilla and Walt Steenbergen with their son, Charlie, 19, speak at Saturday's rally in support of legislation that would create an independent special education ombudsman.

Steenbergen, his wife, Priscilla, and Charlie had been amid the 50-plus men and women rallying Saturday at the Warwick Centre of the Arts in aid of legislation that would generate an unbiased particular education ombudsman to enable moms and dads of exclusive-desires little ones navigate what can be a complicated and discouraging approach. 

“We all know that we need to have a specific schooling ombudsman in Rhode Island. We all know the method is broken,” reported Joanna Scocchi, director of The Arc Rhode Island, a family members advocacy network for kids with mental and developmental disabilities.


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