If you are a regular reader, you know we’ve been struggling with The Boy’s new school since day one of this school year. They seem to have precious little experience with autism, or even with IEPs, modifications, and accommodations, which cannot be remotely possible, but here we are. I have felt all along that their hearts are basically in the right place, they are just ignorant… with one exception. The Boy’s social studies teacher has repeatedly demonstrated contempt, if not for The Boy himself, then for the extra effort he requires. She is the type of teacher who follows the textbook as if it were a bible, and pushes those 6th graders as if social studies is their only class, and their one true avocation in life. Her assessments have little to do with the content learned, and seem to have been added as an afterthought, possibly when an administrator asked her to expand her resources to other sources than the textbook.
I received a note home from her in the planner, mid-week, that explained that The Boy had been given a modified test, and even with extra time had completed very little of it. OK, Problem Number One: I looked back in his planner, what is supposed to be our primary method of communication between school and home, and there was no mention of a test. I went on this teacher’s website, and there was no mention of a test, I looked back in my emails, and there was NO MENTION OF A TEST. So I emailed the teacher immediately, pointing out that I had no previous knowledge of a test to be given this week, and was there a review sheet? She emailed back the next day, saying she had looked in The Boy’s planner and it had been written at least four times in the last week that there was a test Wednesday… This was an outright lie! I had made a copy of the current page of the planner, because I like to document these notes of hers (this was not the first) that seem to imply she’s doing everything she can and The Boy is being somehow disobedient by not complying. I emailed back to say that her statement was incorrect, that I had made copies of his planner pages, and there was nothing written in the social studies slot in the planner during the last week. She responded, apologized and blamed it on the 11 year-old girl who helps The Boy write things in his planner, saying she had either written it in the wrong spot or had not copied exactly what was on the board.
Can you feel the anger rising in my throat by now?
We’ll get back to the outright lie in a minute.
Problem Number Two: She explained that there had been no review sheet, that the students were supposed to study from their “chapter work,” and that due to personal issues and being out for a few days the previous week, she hadn’t updated her website. Well, The Boy didn’t have any “Chapter 3 work” to study — it had all been turned in. I had requested review sheets from her starting with the first test (this was their third already), so that I could help him prepare and focus for the test, and again she had disregarded The Boy’s needs.
Problem Number Three: “Extended Time” as an accommodation does not mean an extra ten minutes within the same class period, and I explained this to her. I also explained that he is entitled to take his test in another location, have his test read to him, and all of the other testing accommodations that are in his IEP. I asked her if he could bring it home to take it and she didn’t respond. She just keeps giving it to him every class period and expecting him to complete it.
In my opinion, this has gone beyond a teacher “trying” to provide my son with modifications and accommodations. This is now willful ignorance. She has a history of not communicating with me about upcoming tests. With the first, we had one day’s notice, and with the second and third there was no notice at all. And for all three tests, I have seen one review sheet. She has a history of not providing modifications to his assignments, and when I requested more time for him to study before the first test, she refused. And now, not only did she lie to me about there being four notes about this week’s test in The Boy’s planner, she had The Boy and his helper go back and write in the notes after I told her there was nothing in the planner. She got my email, waited until the next day in class, had them write things in the previous week in his planner, and then claimed they had been written there all along.
I have requested a meeting with the principal about this, even though I am hopeful that we won’t have to deal with this too much longer.
What have I learned?
- Document everything. I had a feeling I should copy those planner pages the night I wrote my email. Unfortunately, I only copied one. But at least I have that, and I have every email she has ever written which shows this pattern of a lack of communication and a lack of willingness to accommodate my son’s needs.
- Don’t assume every teacher has your child’s best interest at heart. It pains me to say this, and I don’t think this is true for 99% of the teachers out there, but I’ve learned this the hard way.
- Don’t avoid confrontation about something like this. I could take the easy way out and just bide my time until we can get out of the school, but I know there are other kids with autism in this teacher’s class, and I can only imagine how they and every other kid with an IEP who has ever been in her class have been treated. It’s not right, and she needs to be called on it.
Totally agree with your three conclusions, especially the first one! I don’t get how some teachers can be so wilfully ignorant. The accommodations for an autistic child in mainstream school are not rocket science and benefit the whole class. And my doctor begged me to challenge every problem as and when it came up so it didn’t all boil up inside me and the school didn’t wonder why I went off on one (to them) insignificant thing, which was usually the straw that broke the camel’s back and not the main problem…
Those are the exact words I used when I emailed the county autism specialist and his special ed teacher – “modifications are not rocket science!” And you are right – a little more patience and flexibility could probably help all of her students! I have my meeting with the principal this afternoon. We’ll see what happens…
I hope your meeting with the principal went okay!
It did – he’s a reasonable guy and it’s his job to calm me down and find a solution to the problem, which I think he’s doing. I still have lost all respect for this teacher, and I still want a better placement for The Boy. Trying isn’t enough.
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