Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is It Too Much To Ask?

Placate defined:  to pacify or appease

Advocating in special education requires parents to take copious notes, keep well documented records and follow up in letter form all interactions with the CSE chair.  There is an expression:  "if it wasn't written down, it was never said."  Writing letters to restate what was discussed at meetings is a way to hold people accountable.  It's very important school districts know parents are paying close attention and educating themselves.  It is exhausting and laborious work.  This is not to suggest that districts will not try to get away with as much as possible or sidestep the law because based on the experiences of many, it is a fairly common practice.  When I talk to other parents, similar struggles are echoed.  Parents break down emotionally and feel their concerns are discounted.  It is a very sad thing but it doesn't have to be hopeless so long as parents can bounce back up after each time they get knocked on their butts.

I live in NYS and can speak only to my special education experiences here.  I welcome comments from parents, professionals and teachers regarding their experience whether it be in NYS or elsewhere.  The education of children impacts the future regardless of where they reside.  I would love to read about systems that work and why.  It is also helpful to share information about resources used in public schools that addresses individual student needs.  Clearly, the system here is far from perfect.  Although the state and federal laws are clear about educating children to further their education, it appears parents continue to be in the position of fighting tooth and nail for appropriate accommodations.  And, if it's crystal clear to parents the district is deliberately being difficult and capitalizing at every turn on their naivety and/or lack of education, the burden remains on parents to prove it.  The idea of this is extremely troubling because many parents who send their children to public schools often do not have the financial resources to hire talented legal counsel.  The school districts will try to use it to their advantage.  Consider how dysfunctional that truly is in fact, it's downright sinister.  We have laws in place in protect the rights of children with special needs.  By law, public schools are expected to provide a FAPE to all students.   School districts will make every attempt of providing as little as possible if they can get away with it.  Further, the district will not positively assist parents to find an appropriate program that meets a child's needs.  In other words, if it has been demonstrated or recommended by a neuro-psychologist that a particular program such as Cloud 9 math is effective at helping a learning disabled child grasp math concepts.  The district will not only make every effort to veto the suggestion, worse still, they will not suggest it.  This overall lack of participation by the districts in not working with parents to educate children is absolutely astonishing.

Statute of limitations. Parents now have two years in which to exercise their due process rights after they knew or should have known that an IDEA violation has occurred. The interpretation of the language "should have known" will be critical.

I want to start by saying, I've been actively advocating for a change to my son's program since 2009.  It was clear to me as Aren was approaching the end of 1st grade, he was working below grade level.  I requested and received a referral to BOCES Salt Point when my son was entering the 2nd grade.  He was approved for the placement but the CSE Chair reneged on it reassuring me the district could meet my son's needs.  My son is now in 3rd grade, continues to be behind his peers from 12 - 18 months and demonstrates deficits in core areas:  math, reading and writing.

Every night at dinner, it's a chance for my kids to discuss their day at school, etc.  Every night I ask Aren, who worked with you today and what did you do.  Aren has become accustomed to these inquires and without my asking last night, he said "I didn't work in a group today".  I asked him if the special education teacher worked with him and he said "no".  Well, then, who worked with you today, I asked?  Aren said, the general education teacher did.  My son is in a co-teaching classroom and it is on his IEP that he''ll receive co-teaching in math and reading daily.  Why didn't my son receive support from the special education teacher?  And, if it's a co-teaching accommodation, does this mean the special education teacher provides services to my son willy-nilly?

Willy-nilly defined:  unplanned, haphazard fashion'

I'm not being as sarcastic here with "willy-nilly" as I'm concerned about it.  Honestly, everything needs to be spelled out for parents so to avoid any misunderstandings.  My son has special needs that requires a special education teacher and therefore, I assume the teacher with the required educational background is available on a daily basis.  This is how I  understand it on his IEP.  Or, maybe I'm wrong, or misinformed.  In either case, I have a preconceived idea that minimally, the special education teacher should be working with my son daily.

 So you know from my last post, I attended a full CSE meeting.  And, I dutifully followed-up with a letter acknowledging what was discussed, agreed upon and outstanding items of concern.  We agreed on stepping up the O/T to three, 40 minute sessions.  Or, as stated by the O/T, it will be two, 30 minute sessions and one 20 minute session to arrive at a total of 120 minutes each week.  Why is it broken down this way?  The O/T states she is contracted for 30 minute sessions, not 40.

The CSE chair agreed to "look into" handwriting without tears which is a wonderful program that actually works for my son.  Handwriting without tears will require the district to provide training for the O/T.  I have no idea if/when it will be approved and how long it will take for the O/T to get up to speed on the program.  I didn't have a chance to ask it and the information wasn't offered.  The only thing said, it will take time to look into the program.

A side note about handwriting without tears - if I hadn't taken my son for an O/T evaluation this past summer, I'm not so sure I would know about this program.  Although, I might have learned about it eventually but who's to say.  I mention this because it's very important parents talk to other parents and do lots of research about the tools available to help children with learning disabilities.  Do not rely or expect school districts to fill the void.  A school district that makes recommendations for quality accommodations is a rare gem.  And, if that describes your school district count your blessings and tell us about it here.  I want to know what a model, special education program in a public school looks like because where I'm sitting, I have no idea.  Parents need to put more energy into demanding quality education for their children.  It is not charity, after all.  We fund it through our hard earned tax dollars.  Yet school districts have a talent for making us feel so small for asking for the most obvious accommodations for our children.  And, when we receive the hard won services, we're expected to be eternally grateful.  A-hem.

Do you think it's a good idea for elementary school children to rise an hour earlier to ride the bus with middle and H.S. students - just asking.

Yesterday, my 12 year old comes home from school and shares a lovely story with me.  She told me that she overheard a conversation between junior and/or senior level students discussing in great detail their sexual encounter over the past weekend.  The conversation included choice of contraceptive used (at least some part of the brain was engaged) and explicit content.

The CSE chair agreed to provide much needed math tutoring for my son.  We talked about 2 days a week which is a lot more then offered previously.  With the pull-outs for services, we're concerned Aren would miss much needed academics.  I suggested an extended day to help fill the gap.  There was some agreement with one small catch.  The principal thinks my 8 year old son should rise an hour earlier to ride the bus with the middle and senior level students.  In doing so, my young child will receive tutoring in the morning.  In addition, he'll be subjected to a premature sex education by teenagers.  Further, my son has some sleep related issues where he doesn't exactly springboard out of bed greeting the dawn of the new day.  In my letter, I expressed my concern in which case, the CSE chair suggests my son will need to fore go specials such as art and music.  I continue to advocate for an extended day where my son can remain after school for tutoring. 

What is wrong with an educational system where parents must dismember part of the education their child will not receive due to special needs.  Why are parents placed in the position to decide their child doesn't need art or music because he needs math.?  This is why it's called "special education".  Children who have special needs require accommodations so that they can receive the same level of education as non-disabled children.  It is not my child's fault he has challenges that requires extra attention.  What I'm expecting for him is an appropriate education so that he will learn which means accommodations.  Accommodations are not expecting or asking for the best education.  It's expecting an appropriate education as defined by law; to meet the educational and individual needs of each student to further their education.

Today, my son arrived home without homework.  He needs remedial work but doesn't have homework.  He told me that the general education teacher's policy is that if a child forgets their homework folder, the following day at recess, the child must write 10 times they will not forget their homework.  Is this a type of corporal punishment?  I remember a similar practice when I was child accept back then, it was 100 times on the blackboard.  My son has issues with short term memory processing.  I think there should be positive ways to teach a child to remember assignments without punishment.  If anyone has ideas for helping a child remember assignments, I would love to hear about it.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.   ~ Benjamin Franklin ~

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments on this blog.