Our House

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Last spring, The Man and I bought a lot which would put us safely within the boundaries of the high school The Boy was supposed to go to before the district abandoned the HFA program at his middle school. It … Continue reading

This Battle’s Not for Us

I was thankful for one of The Boy’s former teachers last week. She’s the one they moved to a different school this year, and we’ve missed her sorely.It’s funny to think that when we wanted to move him to his current school, she was not in favor and didn’t think he was right for the program, and she is now one of his biggest advocates.

I voiced all of my concerns over this Occupational Course of Study (OCS) with her – that he wouldn’t be in the least restrictive environment (LRE), he wouldn’t have access to his general ed peers, and he may not be able to take band.

She talked me off the ledge. She made me see some things from a different perspective, and made me realize that if I have to choose, this program could work for The Boy. And that he has every right to be in band, although logistically, he may only be able to be in it for one semester.

And I can live with that, as long as they make the “occupational” part of it something in which The Boy has interest. He won’t be folding towels at the hospital if I can help it.

But that’s not what I’m telling the district. I had contacted the director of special ed, as she had been an ally in getting The Boy his current placement, and had earned my respect. I wanted a meeting, but she said she would call me instead due to expediency. Except that all she wanted to do was sell me the OCS program, and I wasn’t going to let her. I wanted her to explain how it was legal, without placing kids in their LRE. After she figured out I wasn’t going to be sold, she told me she would set up a meeting with the transition coordinator (with whom I already met and wasn’t all that impressed) and the occupational coordinator. She told me she would get back to me the following week. That was last week, and she didn’t.

When I emailed her again yesterday, she said that the transition coordinator had been waiting for my call to answer my questions… What?

I sent an email – you know the one. The one I crafted for an hour, making sure to sprinkle acronym bombs all over the place so she would remember that I wasn’t some ignorant parent who didn’t know anything about student rights or IDEA.

Lo and behold, she was able to set up a meeting after all. For tomorrow. Fancy that!

But, I’ll be honest. This meeting isn’t really for us. I don’t expect them to re-design the entire high school setup for us, because they won’t. I don’t expect them to wave a magic wand and put him in band all year, because they won’t. I don’t expect to hear much but placating platitudes. But I want them to know that I know. And I want them to know that I’m not going away, so that if something isn’t working, I’ll be back. And I want them to know that there is a whole host of kids coming up through their schools, and that if I know that what they’re doing is illegal, they better damn well know that those kids’ parents will know it too. And they better think about just what they are going to do about that.

high school

 

The Principal’s Office

principal's officeI was asked into the Principal’s Office yesterday, and it’s amazing how that still makes me feel in my 40s.

I think many special needs parents go through this experience more often than they’d like, and I wonder how often it’s a power play. I’m beginning to think yesterday’s meeting was exactly that.

If you have followed the blog, you know that The Boy goes to a school across the district, although we live much closer now, because we worked hard to get him placed in a pilot program for those with HFA (high-functioning autism).  We were told that the program would likely not only continue at the middle school, but would then be expanded into the high school and elementary schools.  Except that it not only wasn’t expanded, it was discontinued this year. Not only did they yank the program and it’s supports, they yanked the autism teacher out of the school, reduced the teaching assistants in the school, and left the kids hanging.  Oh and any kids who attended the middle school were now re-assigned to their home high school, putting last year’s 8th graders into a brand new-to-them high school where they know virtually no one.  Nice, huh?

And the principal and the vice principal at the middle school retired, too.

Lots of change for The Boy, yet he’s handled it remarkably well.

We’ve had to deal with increased anxiety a bit this year, as will happen with teens on the spectrum from what I hear.  He has always hated friends being absent, and had to also deal with one of his close friend-who-is-a-girl moving away with no notice.

This past Friday was a doozy of a day. They had scheduled an assembly, another one of his friends-who-is-a-girl was absent, and he had a big performance with the band that evening at the high school football game – very excited, but very overwhelmed.  It was not a good day, and the lead up to the performance was very, very difficult.  I have never seen The Boy so paralyzed by anxiety, and it was heartbreaking.

Yesterday, I had to go in early to make a slight adjustment to the IEP regarding length of time, which really only required a signature, but according to the school required an IEP meeting with three teachers and myself, and ridiculous amounts of paper.  I took The Boy in to school. As students started to arrive, he noticed that his friend-who-is-a-girl wasn’t there again, and began to perseverate, become agitated, and look like he was going to bolt.

So when I left his TA to handle it, I went to the office to handle some other paperwork and was promptly summoned into the principal’s office to discuss any “insights” I had into The Boy’s behavior as of late.

I was told he had had four “bad days” this year, which she interpreted as an escalation, and she was wondering what strategies I could offer, as she had limited staff, and basically implied that she couldn’t afford to have her only TA walking the halls the whole day with my child, as happened on Friday. And the TA was just about the only person who could “get through to him”.

Come to find out, she was counting the morning’s troubles as a bad day (not in my book, as he was already in science class by the time I had walked into her office), and another of the “four days” involved her TA being late to her bus route at the end of the day, because The Boy insisted on giving one of his friends-who-is-a-girl a high five before he got on the bus.  Problematic to be sure, but again, not a “bad day” in my book.

That left us with Friday. “And Thursday was a bad day, too,” she said.  “I hadn’t heard anything about Thursday,” I replied.  “Well, it wasn’t as bad as Friday, but it wasn’t a good day.”

As happens so often, I could only formulate what I should have said after the fact. I explained his increased anxiety as of late, and offered that a lack of communication about these incidents and disruptions to his day (like Friday’s assembly) were obstacles to The Boy’s success. I explained that the anxiety was new to us at home, as well, and that I didn’t have any magic answers. And that was about it.

I should have said that her lack of TAs was not my problem. She needs to take that up with her central office. I should have said that four bad days since August meant that The Boy was doing pretty well considering all the change the district had foisted upon him.  I should have said that if his current TA is the only one who can get trough to him, then she needed to come up with a plan to address that, as it is her school, her educational facility, and her staff. I should have said that it was the district’s policy to employ TAs as bus drivers that was the problem on the one day, not anything that had to do with me. I should have said that kids with autism will have bad days, and that if she or his teachers couldn’t handle that, then they need more training. I should have said that she needed to be approaching the district autism specialist for strategies, rather than the parent who is not at school on a daily basis.

Needless to say, the meeting left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m thinking of writing a follow up email with my list of things I should have said. I’m not sure if it’s worth my time, as it seems she is ignorant of what her role is, and of what appropriate expectations of an 8th grader on the spectrum are.

I am beginning to become resigned to the fact that dealing with the school will be a continuous struggle for the next five years, and that gives me even more impetus to find meaningful opportunities for The Boy outside of the school day, and possibly start our own business to afford him a pleasant working experience. I’m just sorry to see the rampant ignorance that still exists, even within the walls of one of the best schools in the district, and even at the highest level.  What more do we have to do??

Reprieve

Our meeting scheduled for today will not be happening.

IEP documentationI was feeling very overwhelmed, and distrustful — just what was the district doing by inviting 10 district personnel?  What is their goal, here?  Were they trying to intimidate me?  Through some calls to friends and local resources, I was directed to call the state department of ed, because they actually have a department that acts as a watchdog for parents and students, and ensures that school districts are following the proper procedures.  Come to find out, our district people had not followed the proper procedures, so I was allowed to request that the meeting be rescheduled.  And I did.

It may only be delaying the inevitable, but one of the things that they were supposed to do (and didn’t) was to provide me with a list of people who have been invited, as well as an agenda, of sorts — a statement of their intention for the meeting.  The delay will also allow me to marshal my own troops, which I didn’t really have time to do for the originally scheduled meeting.

I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I spoke with the incredibly supportive lady from the state.  I was really struggling to hold myself together that morning.  I was beginning to feel helpless and hopeless.  Fighting the system is extremely difficult, and I was feeling so alone.  But with all of the people I’ve spoken to in the last couple of days, I feel like I’m beginning to have a very real support network of people who can help me in my quest to get the best for my boy.

Tonight I can breathe.  Tonight I can get some sleep.  Tonight I can hope.

Struggling

I’m really struggling here.  I have never ever had to worry about what went on at school for The Boy.  I knew how lucky I was then, because I read horror stories of what goes on in most school districts, but we were fortunate enough to have a great program, and the absolute best teachers who fought on our side the very few times it was even necessary.

Here, I think I have sent 40 emails in the past week to The Boy’s school personnel.  In addition to three meetings.

And the hits just keep coming.  There is still no aide, although the county autism specialist sent a TA to the school in the mornings to assist.  But only for this week.  I had to walk him back into the school yesterday when I found all of the school supplies (you know, from the supply list that they make available in the summer?) still in his backpack — He’d been carrying them since the first day of school and I had asked multiple times for someone to assist him in getting those things into his locker.  He still has his PE policies parent-sing-page in his backpack, all filled out, but not getting to its destination, plus several random untitled assignments – not checked, unacknowledged.

Last night, he had written that he had science homework in his planner, but neither what it was nor was it on the correct day.  I was clueless, so I emailed the teacher, after checking her website and still being clueless.  She responded to explain the assignment, and I responded thank you and we-may-need-some-more-time-on-this.  No response.  (Mind you, the assignment was to make a list of the characteristics of a science teacher and then draw a rough sketch of a correlating picture, and they will do a final draft of the picture in class, the purpose of which is to supposedly give the teacher a sense of their “work ethic”…)

projectWhile checking websites, I checked his social studies teacher’s website.  I saw that the “hot dog foldable” had been due yesterday, again no explanation of what that was.  I remembered something floating around his backpack that seemed like it fit the bill, so I made sure he completed that last night.  I also noticed on her website that they were given a “research project” today.  I had no idea what that was, but knew I wouldn’t be able to get any more work out of him last evening, so I let it drop.  Then, I actually found the assignment in his binder this morning – it had an explanation and a rubric and everything!  The goal was to help foreign visitors understand the “key historic, geographic and economic features of a region” – The Boy’s region was apparently “London”.  They were supposed to write up a four day itinerary, and include a map, outlining the route.  Got this assignment yesterday, due today.

So on top of my son having needs that aren’t being addressed in class, due to a lack of an aide to help him attend to tasks at hand, he also has needs that aren’t being met in terms of his organizational skills, and no one helping him to keep track of assignments.  No one is modifying assignments to my knowledge.  And we have a range of assignments from drawing pictures to one-night research projects!

If The Boy didn’t love school so much, I would seriously be considering homeschooling right now.  It’s totally not out of the question…