I was at a farewell party for George Miller, our local Congressman, who is retiring after 40 years. One of his office staff told me about a law change coming in January.
In the US anyone with special needs can have an Individual Education Plan. They are written contracts between the school district, the family and sometimes third parties. Offhand, probably one in every ten students in primary school or high school has an IEP. For example, some years ago a colleague’s daughter had an IEP that specified that she could take horseback riding lessons in place of the normal sports required in physical education. She became a two-time national champion, so it worked out well. It is pretty common here for martial arts students to either go to classes at their high school (when there are enough students to make it worthwhile for an instructor to come to the school) or at their dojo or kwan in lieu of PE. The usual rule is a certain attendance rate is required (90%) and the student must make measurable progress.
This used to mean the martial arts instructor had to be vendorized by the California State Department of Developmental Services. A very tedious process. Usually parents of neurotypicals pay all the normal costs of training. Whether the school charges the instructor for space on campus varies a lot.
Besides teaching normal students, vendorization makes it possible to teach those with special needs. Usually in this situation the school pays for students aged 4 to 22. In theory, a special needs student could spend all day training, but two hours is more typical. The Department of Developmental Services has local offices called Regional Centers that approve or disapprove of such classes and also set the fees.
Things will change in January.
Parents may request a Self Determination Program and a Person-Centered Plan. These are Federal – not just California. In the case of Silver Wolf Wushu, students with autism present some formidable challenges:
1. they usually cannot speak, so it is not easy telling what is going on
2. they are typically taking three strong drugs – like Prozac
3. they often have allergies to dairy, gluten, and cleaners
4. diabetes, heart disease and dementias often hit them 20 years earlier than the general population
For many children with conditions like autism the IEP might specify not only a special school but actually what is to be learned. After age 22 school districts are not really involved but there are IBPs (individual Behavior Plans) that work in a similar manner. These are contracts between Developmental Services and the family and the
group residence, day care center or some other facility.
With the new Self Determination Program families have more control and flexibility over the services they need. They can specify an Individual Budget to purchase unique services with providers who do NOT need to be vendorized by regional centers. A family might budget $250 per month of state money so the student could spend $50 a month on clothing and weapons and $200 on tuition. The amount is up to the instructor and the family. For adults with autism it is almost always stipulated that they must be accompanied by an aide. Usually 1:3 ratio so a sensei or sifu gets some help in class.
We have arranged a curriculum so that a student can get a real college degree. In our case, the program revolves around Chen style: a student must demonstrate proficiency in 18 movements, dual batons (sometimes called maces), Lao Jia, Xin Jia, saber, sword, staff and spear to get a bachelor’s degree. For a master’s degree one
adds double saber, double sword, long pole, kwan dao, Lao Jia 2 (cannon fist) and Xin Jia 2. Besides health and socialization benefits, I would think the goal of a college degree and recognition by martial arts superstars would be a big selling point. For parents of someone with autism having their son or daughter in a photograph with a grandmaster is what we call a mantelpiece moment.
In our case we film all students every day and grade the sets (0-4 for each move). With parental permission the scores can be emailed to identified doctors so decisions like which drug, what dosage and when given can be assessed against numbers. If the scores go up the medication change was probably good. This numerical analysis can also be applied to sleeping hours, bus routes, diet …
Most of the time when students are in class we project videos of the
Grandmaster doing the relevant set on all four walls so no matter which way the student turns there is an image.
Once a week everyone dresses up in the semi-formal black cotton outfits with the white trim. No images on the walls this time. These movies are sent to professional judges for grading.This keeps the local grades and local teaching from drifting away from the standard.
Usually once a month or so everyone dresses up in silks and we do a group presentation to show off what has been learned and welcome special guests.