Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Kingfisher

~ Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. ~  Pope John XXIII

I love that my kids have an interest in artwork.  As a self taught artist, I know it's important to enjoy the process.  I try to teach this idea to my children.  However, Aren tends to be super inpatient about many things.  He frustrates easily when things are very challenging.  The message I send is do your best.  That everything newly learned takes practice.  It is a mantra in my home "practice makes better".  I don't like saying perfect because, perfection is added pressure.  I want my children to enjoy learning and the process of discovery.

Aren recently learned about the Kingfisher bird.  I think he heard my daughter mention it's her favorite bird.  Aren looks up to his big sister and in many ways, she is a good role model for him.  Jade, my daughter always carries a book or two wherever she goes and so does Aren.  It's a very endearing thing.

This drawing is Aren's first of a Kingfisher from his memory.  I asked him to explain his process to me.  He said, he made the body like a "gun".  I thought that was interesting and clever.  The gun image in his mind helped him although I'm not an advocate for guns of any kind.  I didn't want to squelch his excitement with my sensibility about guns so I told him it was a good approach.  Aren felt very excited about his first effort.

My kids see me when I create art.  I look for images or photograph my own as reference material.  Aren asked me to find a Kingfisher on the Internet so he can create another drawing.   He wanted to make another piece by observation and I fully encourage it.  I did a quick search and found this image:

The following is Aren's impression of the above photo:

There was a time when Aren had a very difficult time making shapes.  Artwork is a combination of different shapes.  When I create art, I focus on the shapes and teach my kids to do the same thing.  The drawing above for Aren is an excellent effort in my opinion.  In fact, for him, I think it's impressive.  Well, Aren didn't agree with me.  He became extremely upset and completely melted down.  He cried and carried on for about 10 minutes that his drawing looked nothing like the photo.  He said, "it's horrible"; "it doesn't look like the picture".  This reaction is typical for Aren when he finds work challenging and out of reach from his point of view.  My heart goes out to him but I try to tell him the efforts he makes are very important and if he doesn't give up, with practice he will improve.

Children with special educational needs often require different tools to learning from kids who are neuro-normal.  The perspective of the child on the spectrum is often unlike the child who doesn't have the disorder.  To this day, my son continues to play with his toys in a repetitive manner, IE lining up his trucks and cars.  Challenges that an average kid might take in stride, is greatly amplified for my son.  I don't want my child to feel defeated.  I want him to have the tools to help him succeed and help him feel good about himself.

At the beginning of the school year, on Aren's composition book, I placed a picture of him standing next to the wax figure of  Kareem Abdul Jabbar with the caption, "Defeat Is Not An Option".  When I put it on his notebook, Aren asked me, "what does defeat mean?"   He couldn't pronounce defeat so I had to help him with it.  I told him it means not to give up; to keep trying; to do your best.

"When someone tells me there is only one way to do things, it always lights a fire under my butt. My instant reaction is, "I'm going to prove you wrong!"  ~ Picabo Street ~

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Hate School and What Day Is It?

"When I was a young coach I used to say, "Treat everybody alike." That's bull. Treat everybody fairly."
~ Bear Bryant ~

Yesterday, Aren came bursting through the door declaring, "I hate school".  He then continued in a very whiny voice which at first was difficult to understand, "I had to do math at recess".  And, "it was hard"; "I don't understand".  I asked him why he was made to do the work at recess and he told me because he got it wrong during class time.  My son's upset made me feel very upset, in fact, I felt angry about it.  This is the 2nd time this school term, my son was made to do make up work at recess.  And, today was the 2nd time I requested for the teacher to stop this practice.  This is another example among many where this district disregards the parents input regarding the education of their child.

Aren feels punished and singled out even if he's working in a small group when other kids are having fun at recess while he isn't.  Math is an area of significant weakness for my son.  By making him do the work when he rather run and play will only instill resentment.  The resentment will potentially lead him to being turned off and he will tune out completely from learning it.

My son has PDD-NOS and the disability affects his short term memory.  Last night at dinner, Aren asked "what day is it".  I know that sometimes this is an issue for him so I ask him to tell me "what was yesterday?"  He tried to remember but couldn't.  Aren wanted to know if it was Friday.  My son is allowed to buy ice cream on Fridays which he never forgets.  When it comes to sweets and desserts, Aren is first in line.  So I asked him, "did you have ice cream today?"  Of course, he said no because that is definitely something he would remember.  As much as I tried to get him to recall, it was challenging for him.  We finally told him, it's Wednesday.  This morning, Aren did it again.  He asked, "what is today?"  Although he was told just last night, it was Wednesday, he couldn't tell me that today is Thursday. 

The memory lapses are splintered which is typical to his abilities and disabilities.  There are days when I use deductive reasoning with him, he'll arrive at the answer on his own.  And, then there are other days like yesterday and today, where he struggles to get it right.

"The existence of forgetting has never been proved:  We only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them."  ~ Friedrich Nietzsche ~

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Child Needs This But He's Not Getting That

"To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to."  ~ Kahlil Gibran ~

I watched the HBO documentary:  I Can't Do This But I Can Do That, with my family last night.  As I watched it, I couldn't help to think of how my son's educational needs are inadequate in the current setting.  Aren has dyslexia in addition to PDD-NOS.  He could benefit greatly from assistive technology such as speech to text software tools.  Aren has significant problems getting his thoughts down on paper.  His efforts are at first grade level.  The constant realization is making me feel very raw.  When I think on it too much, I feel depressed and at times, sob uncontrollably.  Last night, was no exception, I cried as I watched.

Aren is well aware he is behind his peers.  It bothers him a great deal and I know it's affecting his self esteem.  When we were watching the program, Aren seemed engaged.  He was able to see there are other kids having similar issues and they are learning to work with it.  In fact, some of the kids are able to celebrate their differences.  They have the added benefit of being in a school environment that have the tools to help them work to their potential.  I wanted Aren to see that with the appropriate tools, his learning difference can be addressed.  As we watched, Aren said to me, "I have dyslexia, right?"  I acknowledged him and he started to feel sad but I immediately reminded him that he learns differently and with the right tools, it will make it better for him.

Yesterday, part of his homework assignment was to choose 5 words from the spelling list and write 5 sentences asking a question.  My son could only muster up 3 sentences and each one began with "what" and were 3 - 4 words in length.  Why is it that he is in 3rd grade and only able to produce rudimentary work.  Well, as expressed in my earlier posts, his educational needs are not being adequately addressed because of a mindset that my son is "slow to learn" and this is the "best we can hope for".  If indeed a child is "slow to learn" that doesn't mean a teacher takes a holiday.  It means there needs greater effort on the part of the educators and to bring in added resources to get the job done.  This is called an IEP:

A plan developed for an individual child who through educational testing is determined to have learning disabilities. By law, the child's educational plan is modified to accommodate the child's unique learning requirements
After coming off a horrible CSE meeting in June, I had Aren extensively evaluated over the summer.  In addition to the medical evaluations, we took Aren to the highly regarded NYU Child Study Center in NYC.  We were fortunate to have Aren seen by Dr. Elizabeth Roberts and Dr. Melissa Nishawala.  The doctors have a respectable educational background and expertise with children who have autism and learning disabilities.  The evaluation consisted of 3 intense days.  The first day was the 3 hour parent intake interview.   Following the initial interview,  Aren had two intense days of testing.  In fact, the testing was so thorough that by the end of the 2nd day, he was physically and mentally exhausted.  His immune system was compromised  from the stress and he developed flu like symptoms, IE headache, fever, nausea, etc that lasted for a couple of days.

On many levels, I felt badly I had to put my son through so much.  It seemed almost cruel and unjust.  Not to mention, the financial sacrifices we had to make.  We had to take our son for O/T over the summer and spent $888.00 in therapy fees and transportation.    That amount is small compared to the NYU study fees.  However, I knew my son wasn't mentally retarded.  And, I know his needs are not being adequately met in the current setting.  We were placed in the position to prove and pinpoint Aren's challenges.  In doing so, we expect to have Aren's educational needs appropriately addressed.  Aren needs to be in a smaller classroom with his peers; children with similar challenges.  As shown in the documentary, there are many benefits to an inclusive  placement.  Aren would have more opportunities to focus, receive intensive intervention and educational tools to assist in strengthening weak core areas.

Although I have been advocating for my son since infancy, I've been turning up the heat since Aren entered this school district.  As a parent, I know my child best.  Many parents will tell you when something is out of sync.  It's often referred to has a "gut" feeling.  I'm not interested in making problems for this school district, however, all dirt comes out in the wash and that can't be helped.  I want my son's educational needs met before it's too late.  His needs should have been attended to yesterday but I can't reverse the past.   I have to worry about now and the foundation or lack of it in the present.  I need for these issues to be resolved today.  I can't have my son's educational future short circuited due to a one-sided mentality or preconceived ideas about him.  I worry if race enters into the equation regarding the established mindset in this school district.  Disproportionately, African American children continue to be under educated compared to whites.  Statistically, African American children are diagnosed with autism and learning disabilities later compared to whites.  Yes, I will bring up the race card because, in this situation it might be a very important piece not to be overlooked.

"There also appears to be more confusion among clinicians between autism and other disorders in black children, compared with whites. In this study, black autistic children received more misdiagnoses than whites, and they were more likely to be misdiagnosed as having organic psychoses, mental retardation, or selective mutism. White autistic children were more likely to have been misdiagnosed as having ADHD"  ~ Nearly Two Year Delay In Diagnosing Autism In Blacks by Mary Ann Moon ~
I have to make a case for my son because he needs me to do it.  He can't do it for himself; at least not yet.  I will begin preparing him, however.  Although he is only 8 years old, he needs to understand how to advocate for himself.  I will not wait until he is 14, 16 or 21.  It begins now.  I can't shelter him from the realities of what his parents are required to do on his behalf.  It is his right to be part of and observe the process.  In doing so, he will begin to learn and understand.  I do this because, I'm his mother and I love him.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Will Have to Agree To Disagree

Effective teamwork is all about making a good, well-balanced salad not whipping individuals into a single batch of V8.  ~ Sandra Richardson, OD Consultant ~

What does it say to you when you're advocating for your child and all you're really asking for are a few accommodations and the CSE chair responds with "we will have to agree to disagree"?  And, all the while he was saying it, he was shaking my hand and smiling in my face.  For me, it felt like I was slapped in the face.  How dare I even consider to ask for the smallest thing such as Cuisenaire Rods to help my son with math.  Or, to increase the O/T to twice a week in a 1-1 for my son who has handwriting issues.  These are some of the requests I made at the CSE meeting this past June that were denied.  Like the quote above, I felt as if I was whipped into submission.  By the way, I first learned about cuisenaire rods from Dr. Tepp during the IEE interview.  And, for whatever his reasoning was, he failed to add it to his report.

I have a kind of post traumatic stress response to that statement because I just can't get the image and words out of my head.  It's awful because those words and image tell me this school district only cares about their agenda exclusive from parents.  Under New York State special education regulations and federal law, the first people at the top of the list on an IEP team are the parents.  That's right, the parents.  It sure didn't feel that way to me or my husband at the June meeting.  We refused to agree to the IEP.  In fact, the school district is using an IEP that wasn't signed by me and my husband.  I wrote several letters in June with copies going to the special education associate in Albany requesting a team resolution that went unanswered.  We continue to be in disagreement and it is now the end of October.

What to do.  What to do.  I'm not an idle person.  I don't like the feeling of grass growing under my feet so I got busy during the summer months.  Aren was a real trooper.  He endured quite a lot.  I needed answers that couldn't wait and I had to make a V8 out of my kid because, his permission wasn't an option.  I did need him to participate and for the most part he did.  I dragged him to an O/T and had him evaluated.  Yep, it was conclusive, Aren's handwriting was immature for a kid approaching 3rd grade.  I took him to a pediatric neurologist where blood work was ordered.  My son is absolutely terrified of needles.  It is heart wrenching seeing how he reacts to it.  He cries and screams.  He has to be repeatedly consoled and sometimes held down.  It is emotionally draining for everyone.  My son had to endure an MRI of the brain with sedation; another needle but this time it was an IV.  My son had to be wrapped in sheets and held by me and a nurse in order for the other nurse to insert the IV.  My kid was in panic mode.

All of the testing was necessary because according to the district, everything was honky dory for my kid at school.  He is simply a kid who is "slow to learn" and his performance is the "best we can hope for".  Another aside:  "best we can hope for" is a statement that was made by Dr. Tepp.   Thank you, Dr. Tepp for failing to see my son's potential.  If you read this blog,  I want you to know how much more difficult you have made it for us to advocate for our son.

At the June meeting, the school psychologist suggested we change the IEP classification from OHI - other health impaired to MR - mentally retarded.  I can only imagine the look on my face when this label was suggested to me.  I'm sure it wasn't good because I just don't hide my emotions very well at times.  I really need to learn to have a better "poker" face.  Note to self - work on poker face.  I managed to take a deep breath and said, we'll just need to revisit that at the end of the school year.  Right now, I'm not comfortable making that decision.  The school social worker looks over at me with a "sympathetic" look on her face and says, "I know it's difficult to think of our children as being mentally retarded".   Are you kidding me, lady!

I want you to know, we never got to discuss goals for Aren.  Parents have a right to write goals in to the IEP but that never happened.   In fact, before the meeting was concluded, the P/T and the classroom teacher got up and left with some excuse they needed to be elsewhere.  When I think back, the only people left in the room beside me and my husband was the CSE chair, social worker, psychologist and I think the special ed teacher but she may have disappeared as well.  I have been to a number of CSE meetings over the years and never once did anyone leave before the meeting ended.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Son Is Not Mentally Retarded

"If you start from the perception that someone is mentally retarded, the expectations for that individual aren't going to be very high".  ~ Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Complete Guide by Chantal Sicle-Kira, Temple Grandin

I'm anxious to get this blog going because I want people to know how difficult it can be for parents raising a child with special needs.  I also think the challenge is greater when our child comes to our family through adoption.  Those who aren't in the adoption community might find the idea difficult to grasp.  One must first have the experience before they can begin to understand.  I will go out on a limb by saying, my challenges are greater because my husband and I chose to adopt outside of our race.  And, our situation is compounded by living in a homogeneous community.

Nevertheless, due in part to the legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination, African Americans as a group remain at a pronounced economic, educational and social disadvantage in many areas relative to European Americans. Persistent social, economic and political issues for many African Americans include inadequate health care access and delivery; institutional racism and discrimination in housing, education, policing, criminal justice and employment; crime, poverty and substance abuse ~ Wikipedia ~
It is my perception that institutional racism is a significant concern regarding my son and the school district where I live.  There are subtleties of this type of racism.  For example, when we first entered this district, my son was starting kindergarten.  I was eager to see the classroom prior to the first day.  When I went to look around, I saw children's names set up like a train.  My son was the "caboose".  Now that might not seem important but if your child is a minority, it might send up a flag.  It's something I noted in my mind that left a lasting impression.

Since the beginning, Aren has been labeled by the special education teacher as "slow to learn".  She is also the one who consciously or subconsciously decided my son is the "caboose".  This teacher also told me that my son's IQ would go down.  Did she have it set in her mind, my son would not succeed.  And, in doing so, help to justify that she need not put as much energy into his education?  At a CSE subcommittee meeting last year, I overheard this same teacher saying, "I don't get it" as we were advocating for better services for Aren.  What exactly didn't she get pray tell?  Was it difficult for her to comprehend that we, Aren's white parents were fighting so hard for a child that not only was not of our blood but also not of our race!  Again, if you don't know what it's like being in a multi-racial family through adoption living in a homogeneous community, this might be difficult to appreciate.

This past April, I advocated heavily for the school district to provide an IEE - independent education evaluation.  I was able to get the district to pay for it which is no small feat.  Basically, I wanted an assessment of where Aren was at and what would be needed to help further his education.  Aren continues to demonstrate that he is behind by 12 - 18 months which is unacceptable.  I thought, let's get the evaluation to help establish where the gaps are so we can address it.  It seems simple enough, right?

I requested Alan Tepp, MD a clinical psychologist who diagnosed Aren with PDD-NOS when he was 4 years old.  Please keep in mind as I move forward, the district paid for the IEE.  The initial meeting with Dr. Tepp consisted of a family interview and a separate interview with Aren.  The entire interviewing process took approximately 1.5 hours.  Then the psychologist visited my son's classroom where he spent 1.5 hours observing.  The "evaluation" didn't consist of separate, independent tests or measures of any kind.  Following the interview, Dr. Tepp provided his "findings:" in a report which he prefaced by telling us "we will be disappointed" with it.  Disappointment was an understatement.  The good doctor essentially, lifted test scores from my son's IEP and based on those and the interviews decided to change his original PDD-NOS diagnosis to mentally retarded!

You might be thinking at this point, what's the big deal.  It's only a label.  It makes a huge difference when it comes to perceptions of an individual and how their educational needs will be served or not.  My son isn't mentally retarded.  Aren's IQ is adversely affected by his autism spectrum disability.  Further, my son was seen by several professionals(past and present) including a recent in depth study by the NYU Child Study center who's findings do not point to mental retardation.  To add insult to injury, the CSE at the last meeting refused to change the IEP classification from Other Health Impaired to Autism.

How does a school district come to decide a classification?  Usually, under less adverse settings, the classification is decided based on professional medical evaluations and the parents.  How can a school district justify not changing a classification when evaluations are compelling?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Working As A Team

"Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts".  ~ William Shakespeare ~

When my son was "officially" diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, we were living in the Carmel School District.  We had to meet with the CPSE to discuss an appropriate placement for Aren.  I was told good things about the St. Francis special education program so we started there.  Aren was there the first 2 years of pre-school but thought he wasn't coming along as well as we hoped.  At the end of his 2nd year, we met for the end of year meeting.  We advocated for a different placement in a school that would require Aren to travel approximately one hour away from home.  It was the Hawthorne Country Day School and they use ABA - applied behavioral analysis approach to learning.  As Aren's parents, the commute for our son was well worth it if he meant his educational needs would be met.  That is what an FAPE is intended for - an appropriate education that addresses a child's individual needs.  I emphasize this because special education is not intended as a one size, fits all approach.  We were not looking for the best education because 'best' isn't intended under the law.  We wanted an appropriate placement to help Aren's disability.

After much discussion and negotiation explaining why an ABA program would address Aren's needs, the CPSE chair was in agreement to the placement.  It wasn't difficult although every special education meeting tends to be stressful for parents.  The decisions made in the meeting influences the resources our children will receive or not.  In this district, we didn't have to write dozens of letters, recite the law or bring in an parent advocate.  It was clear Aren needed more then what the St Francis placement was able to provide.  The CPSE chair showed consideration to my son's indiviudal needs.  He recognized, our son's needs would have a better chance of being met in another placement.  This is what we call "teamwork".

Each child's individual needs must be addressed as according to the law.  An IEP team as defined puts parents at the top of the list.  Our concerns must be given respectful consideration - not an illusion of consideration.  The difference is obvious when the committee chair says to a parent, "we have to agree to disagree".  That statement doesn't show respect for a parent's concern.  That statement says, I heard your concerns but I'm not listening.  The district's agenda is premeditated regardless of what the parent brings to the meeting.  A premeditated agenda doesn't consider the individual, educational needs of a child.  The district is thinking only about their own needs, IE. cost of out of district placement, large egos who arrogantly dismiss parents concerns as some form of hysteria and refuse to acknowledge the fact the child's performance might improve elsewhere if only given a chance.  This is the thing I'm facing now in the Webutuck School District where I live with my family.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I Am More Then An Artist...

"If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security:  we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us."  ~ Nena O'Neil ~

One plus one doesn't equal two is a blog about a mother's challenges having a child diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  By way of introduction, this entry post will be relatively long.

Several years ago my 8 year old son, Aren, presently in the 3rd grade, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified)  He is high functioning however, his abilities are "splintered".  Aren's IQ is borderline and this is a result of his disability.  It is not a fair assessment of his intelligence rather it shows how this disability can affect IQ testing scores.  Aren can be quite clever about things on his agenda and has an extremely determined nature.  He can be one tracked and has a difficult time taking 'no' for an answer.  In fact, he can be relentless in his pursuit to getting what he wants.  I do not cave in however, because as his mother, I know in the long run, this will not serve him well.  I am Aren's number one advocate.

I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and neighbor.  I juggle the many sides of who I am.  However, more energy is put into one aspect of my life over another at times.  Some days, especially lately,  it's challenging to find balance in my life.  It's especially so having a child with special needs.  It can be all consuming when not only must I raise my children (I have two) to become well balanced contributing members of society, I must fight tooth and nail with the school district to ensure my son receives a FAPE - free and appropriate education as it is defined by law.  This is what this blog will be about; parenting a child with special needs.  Through this live journal, I hope to provide insight and information for anyone who wants an inside view of what it's like having a child on the Autism Spectrum.  I hope to offer a window to the hurdles parents must overcome advocating for a child's special education under adverse conditions.  And, challenges many parents face navigating their way through the special education system.

In this journal, I will strive toward frequent posts.  I will try to write daily if I have something to share.  I think it's important to discuss these things because it might be helpful for other people experiencing similar challenges.  Having a child with special needs in the public school system can be a daunting experience.  There is so much parents must learn and understand so that they can be the best advocate for their child.  It's exhausting work and a full-time job.  Looking for resources and information feels like being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no buoy or life boat.  It can be extremely overwhelming.  Further, when parents enter the special education system, they usually don't enter it well armed with a plethora of information.  In essence, they don't start out in a position of strength.  Naively, they think, the school will guide us and provide the education their beloved child requires.  It's an assumption that many parents make and in many instances, it is 100% incorrect.  Schools are not in the business to lay out a rosy plan where your child will benefit to the fullest.  In fact, often the opposite it true.  So unless you understand what your child needs and how to get it, don't depend on the schools to provide or expect they'll lead you down the path of knowledge.  It is not that simple.

It's important to provide a little background so you can get a better picture of my challenges and all the beautiful sides of my son.  Aren is not just a person with special needs; he is someone who enjoys many things, has a zest for life and loves to laugh.  Aren can find amusement in the simplest of things at times.  His favorite subjects are Pokemon, dinosaurs and cars.  Once Aren gets started on talking about Pokemon for instance, it's challenging to get him to change the subject.  When he becomes disappointed about something, he can severely melt down and be explosive.

We are a multi-racial family formed through adoption.  My daughter was born in China.  My son is African American.  My son has been with us since he was an infant.  He was fussy in the beginning but was a sweet baby.  He has developmental delays so I was able to get him started with early intervention.  Basically, with early intervention, clinicians visit your child at home and provide services such as speech and physical therapies.  My son needed both types of therapies.

When Aren aged out of early intervention, I enrolled him in a mainstream pre-k program.  I thought after early intervention, my son was "good to go" although deep down inside, I had unanswered questions and concerns.  Part of the ambivalence is the unwavering desire for everything to be 'ok' with your child.    After only two weeks into the program, I was told my son couldn't remain without a "shadow" or one on one aide.  My son was difficult to manage, didn't comply as the other children and would run out the door.  I was crestfallen thinking my son was being kicked out of pre-school.  I realized right there and then, I had to have him evaluated further for special education. 
Since we weren't clear as to the nature of his challenges, we had Aren evaluated by a highly regarded pediatric neurologist, Martin Kutscher.  Dr. Kutscher thought my son was showing symptoms of PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder or ASD.  Later on, due to behavioral issues at home, we sought a another opinion from a child psychiatrist.  The opinion of the psyhchiatrist was that Aren was showing symptoms of PDD.  So, now we had two professionals arriving at the same conclusion.

When Aren was approaching age 4, we decided to take him to yet another professional, this time a child psychologist.  We needed to know for sure as if it wasn't enough to know our child was on the autism spectrum.  Now, this doctor also said, PDD-NOS but wouldn't say or use the word Autism.  However, to be very clear, PDD-NOS is an autism spectrum disorder.

That was the beginning of what would be a long journey of advocating for my son.  We took our reports and entered our first special education meeting known as a CPSE = committee on preschool education.  At the time, we were accompanined by our case manager who helped to advocate for Aren's placement.  With the case manager's assistance, our first meeting was relatively seamless.  Our son was approved for a pre-school special education placement and we were on our way.  I want to point out that we lived in a different school district from where we are now.  This is a very important piece to remember because as you'll find out later on, the school district where we live, is not being compliant when it comes to my son's IEP = individual education program.