In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
It was the second day of the new school year in Puerto Rico, but 7-year-old Angel Torres wasn’t in class. He was at a physical therapy session, struggling once again to stand on his own, when the boy’s therapist asked his mom how school was going.
“Bad. Terrible,” Brenda López said, frustration spilling out. “The classroom isn’t suitable for him.”
A year after Hurricane Maria changed almost everything on the island, hundreds of parents like López were left struggling to find classrooms, teachers and therapists for their children with autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. What had been a daunting task before the storm — finding a place where their special needs children could thrive — had become vastly harder afterward, as the government shuttered more than 250 schools and the education department scrambled to relocate students and staff. The Department of Education said in late August that it still needed to fill 132 vacancies for special education teachers. And that meant some kids like Angel, who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk on his own or talk, were left in limbo.