Communication Skills

Today’s timeline:

10:32 AM – I get an email from The Boy which seems to indicate that A) someone told him drivers’ ed is not available for him – unsure if they told him “never” or “not right now,” and B) someone told him that he can’t hug girls – an ongoing issue that the school has admitted they have no idea how to handle. Two negative interactions with authority figures, and he is upset.

11:18 AM – The Boy’s Business teacher emails me and the special ed teacher to say he had arrived 15 minutes late – an ongoing issue that I don’t believe has even been addressed, other than to mark him absent (?) – and also that The Boy sat down and began to “color.” When asked to put it away, he got angry and left class. (Why they insist on saying “color” and “coloring” as if he’s a toddler, I don’t understand. It’s super dismissive. He is drawing, but I digress.)

11:27 AM – The Boy’s special ed teacher responds, asking if he returned to class because he had brought his “coloring” stuff back to her room and left again.

12:09 PM – I respond asking someone to update me, and if my son is ok.

It is now 12:35, and no one has responded to me.

If he had an aide, like he had in middle school, the aide would have known he needed to decompress upon entering Business class, and explained to the teacher to let it go this time (and indeed, would have made sure he was on time to class). If he had an aide, she might have been able to help him regulate his emotions so he could stay in class. If he had an aide, they would no where my child was. If he had an aide, maybe she could respond to me to let me know my son is safe and sound.

Three weeks ago, something similar happened when he got upset upon boarding a bus for a field trip and noticing the girl he has an interest in was absent. I received emails from him saying he got left behind, that he couldn’t find his special ed teacher, yet no email or notification from the school. When I called, the secretary kept trying to put me through to the special ed teacher’s room, and there was no one there. Finally, I sent my mom over to find out if they even knew where my son was. He had started walking toward the highway, and the new assistant principal (who kept advocating for him to just go home with my mom) didn’t alert anyone that she had him. The principal and the police liaison got in a car to go find him… After my mom arrived, SHE called me to update me, and it wasn’t until much later that the principal called to tell me what had happened.

I shouldn’t have to wonder about my son’s whereabouts and safety. I shouldn’t have to contemplate a $500 monitoring system like AngelSense because school personnel can’t be bothered to let me know what’s going on.

I think The Boy is much better communicating, at this point, than school personnel. When/if they get back to me to let me know my son is safe, I’ll be requesting a meeting, ASAP. This is beyond the pale.

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IEPs and Trust

It’s IEP season again, and we have our appointment set.  We’ve also had a curious email from The Boy’s program teacher.  She was excited to tell me that they were going to offer science and social studies in a special ed classroom next year, as well as math and language arts, which The Boy already has.  He would be with students who are “academically equivalent” to him, but in classes taught by resource teachers. He would still have access to her social skills class and his elective classes.

IEP documentationConsidering the goal of special education is to place students in the least restrictive environment, and considering he would lose virtually all access to his neurotypical peers, I politely pointed out that I did not think this would be an appropriate placement for The Boy.  His program teacher cautioned me not to make any decisions just yet, because she felt this would be a good placement for him “due to his academics”.  Curious, because The Boy has gotten all A’s and B’s this year. I told her I wouldn’t rule it out, but at this time, I didn’t think it would work for him.

I added a post-script, and asked if she thought the pilot program in which The Boy participates in the Middle School would extend to the high school, to which she replied that she didn’t think so.

Fast-forward to a few days ago, when I heard from a friend whose son is in the program, as well.  She said she heard they may not continue the program at all, as in not even for next year’s 8th graders… And the tumbler clicks into place.

Even though I trust this person with my child each day, I cannot take her suggestions to heart because I fear she has been directed to encourage me to accept this put-all-the-kids-in-resource-room plan so that they can both comply with IEPs and discontinue the program. Once we change the IEP to say he needs to be in resource, they no longer have to fund a paraprofessional to be with him in his general ed classes. It’s not what’s best for the kids, but what’s best for the school district.

Silly school district! They continue to underestimate me, because I know the law, and I know my son’s rights.  They are going to have to have data to back up that he is “academically lacking” in his general ed classes to show that he needs so much more support as to be placed in a self-contained classroom, and removed from the general ed curriculum.  And they don’t have it.

Let the games begin.

I Spoke Too Soon

The second day of school, I was working with The Man, helping him finish an interior painting project because I have not much else going on right now.  Mid-morning, I got a phone call from The Boy’s school.

It was The Boy’s special ed teacher, calling because he was refusing to do his work… a student interest inventory in math.   I told her he had done one for homework, and logically, may not want to do the same thing all over again.  After we hung up, I felt a ball of oh-no-did-she-really-just-call-me-about-something-she-should-totally-be-able-to-handle form in my stomach.  I felt like I may have been really wrong to feel relived last week.

She called later that evening sounding a bit panicked, listing her concerns:

  • There was an unplanned fire “drill” on the first day (something was smoking in the kitchen), and his teachers were concerned about his safety during the drill, because he was pacing.
  • He left the classroom at one point during the day, without permission.
  • His social studies teacher thinks it isn’t beneficial for him to be in her class because he is not doing the work, and should go to the resource room for that class.
  • He draws all the time and is not following instructions.

These were my thoughts that coalesced that evening at the conclusion of the phone call…

  • There was an unplanned fire drill and he didn’t freak out, have a meltdown, or run for the hills.  He paced.  That’s clearly a win.
  • He left the classroom without permission only onceAnother win.
  • He isn’t doing the work in social studies on the second day of schoolAnd?…  He didn’t have ESY this year, this is par for the course! 
  • He draws all the time in class, and isn’t following instructions…  Welcome to my world.

I know not all kids with autism are alike, but I would expect experienced educators to have a bit more of an understanding of the common obstacles to learning for students with autism.  I did provide multiple copies of his IEP/Testing packet that includes a rather extensive narrative from his previous teacher about how to get him to participate and do work.  The autism specialist, his special ed teacher and I did meet last week, when I talked at length about these things.

You have to have some competency, and if you don’t, you have to use the resources available to you, before you call me in the middle of class asking what you should do.

I didn’t make any friends when I emailed all and sundry in the special ed department and administration stating that he needs an aide, and only has one in one of his general ed classes.  Because of that email, though, the county autism specialist spent a day with The Boy and his special ed teacher, and gave her plenty of strategies to use.  Since then, I’ve been trying to smooth things over, but this is not going to be easy.  And they are going to get quite used to my face, voice, and the “ping!” of my emails…