Martha Siravo



“I fight for inclusive education. I am part of this work because every student is unique and is deserving of a Public Education that is built to accommodate their individual needs.”

Martha S. and her daughter Jasmine are from Madison, Wisconsin. Martha is a single mother who is very involved in Jasmine’s education. She is president of the mother-led organization, Madtown Mommas & Disability Advocates. Martha is a well-known community leader and is Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin 2020/21. Jasmine is eight years old, in second grade, and has an IEP that provides support for her cerebral palsy and epilepsy diagnosis. Because Martha sustained a spinal cord injury back in 2002 and uses a manual wheelchair, prior to last year she would not have been able to access Jasmine’s classroom on the second floor to volunteer or assist when Jasmine had epileptic seizures if not for an elevator that was installed 3 years ago.

Jasmine is a bright social butterfly who enjoys memorizing stories verbatim throughout her day. Doctors diagnosed Jasmine with cerebral palsy when she was about 3 months old. Jasmine’s initial IEP started when she was three years old and in Head Start. Because Jasmine was diagnosed with epilepsy in a half-day 4K and medication had just been introduced, Martha requested that Jasmine re-enroll in a full-day 4K Head Start location. Martha was told by the school district that if Jasmine repeated 4K she would lose all special education services, including her PT, OT, and Speech therapies. Martha opted to deny the district’s offer to enroll Jasmine in 5K prematurely, and instead allowed Jasmine to have a full-day 4K year with a personal aid provided from Head Start. The district subsequently dropped all support services during that year as if she somehow didn’t need them anymore because she was not put in the placement they preferred. Martha felt frustrated that a child without disabilities could repeat 4K without penalty prior to turning 6 years old, but Jasmine lost her services for a year and were used as leverage to sway a parent’s decision to comply.

In the 2019-2020 school year prior to the pandemic, Jasmine attended a combination of special education and general education classes as well as occupational, speech, and physical therapies. Before remote learning, Jasmine was a part of a small group that received extra attention from the special education teacher in several general education classes. Jasmine stopped receiving this additional assistance when virtual learning started, making history and science inaccessible to her. Martha has had to learn on her own how to support Jasmine without any formal teaching training or guidance. Martha would like Jasmine’s IEP to include one-on-one assistance but her school district does not provide personal aides.

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