“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford ~
Today is the annual review CSE/IEP meeting for my son. He will be moving into the 4th grade come September. I approach this meeting with a great deal of apprehension because this school district hasn’t created an environment of trust or assurance they are interested in meeting my son’s educational needs. Let me recap a little bit to help bring this full circle.
In response to the due process complaint, there is a proposed solution. It includes:
Compensatory educational and related services in speech, language, communication, social skills, reading comprehension, OT, math tutoring and services to address executive deficits.
The district was to immediately upon receipt of the complaint to arrange for an assistive technology evaluation.
The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDD-NOS) be restored to my son’s IEP
And, the IEP include dyslexia and non-verbal learning disability with services to address manifestations and deficits resulting from the additional disabilities.
The above proposed solution is to ensure my son is receiving a FAPE – free and appropriate educational as it’s expressed by law under IDEA 2004.
Yesterday, I received the draft IEP. I was shocked to see that all related services which includes integrated co-teaching services, speech/language therapy, O/T and counseling were removed from it. How can this be? I hope it’s a typographical error. It has to be – right? Because if it isn’t, there is no way my son will receive the FAPE he is legally entitled to.
Fast forward several hours…
Although I gave prior written notice I would record the meeting, the CSE wouldn’t permit me to video record it. In fact, he was both surprised and annoyed. I had to tell him I gave prior notice and he said it didn’t matter. He actually contacted his attorney and was advised we weren’t permitted to use a video recording device. This placed us at a disadvantage as I had no legal counsel. I did note it officially for the record, I wasn’t permitted. Thankfully, I like to plan ahead and made use of my audio recorders. I have a handheld recorder. Tony has an recording device on his computer and we used it. Recently, I purchased a LiveScribe which is a wonderful device. It works great for capturing both text and audio. So, if one recorder failed, I had a backup. It is important to record CSE meetings. I can’t emphasis enough the importance of it. I did ask the CSE chair to tell me in writing why I wasn’t permitted to video record the meeting. I asked him to show me in the regulations where it’s not permitted and he didn’t produce it.
I requested the 4th grade special education teacher to attend the meeting to gain visibility to our son’s concerns. Of course, the person wasn’t in attendance. And, of course I asked why. The elementary principal stated they haven’t identified the teacher as yet and will know in June. I will be following up so I can meet the teacher.
We got the the related services restored. And, finally Aren will receive five 30 minute speech and language therapy sessions. Aren should have received daily S/T since kindergarten. The district continues to refuse to change the classification to Autism and has yet to restore the PDD-NOS and add in the dyslexia and non-verbal learning disability which speaks directly to Aren’s language deficits. The school psychologist continues to insist that not only Aren doesn’t have an autism spectrum disorder he doesn’t exhibit the high distractibility after briefly observing him in the cafeteria at lunch time. Later on, the school psychologist was contradicted by several other team members regarding Aren’s level of distractibility. Aren needs an assistive technology evaluation which remains outstanding on the “to do” list. The chair asserts he is trying to get it done before September. Right now, it’s nothing but words. The district will continue to be in violation if they don’t fulfill this piece.
I had to ask the district why they refuse to acknowledge my son has an ASD while he receives NYS Medicaid because of his diagnosis and disability. It was necessary to tell them that because my child was adopted in NYS and has a disability, he receives the benefit. The entire team appeared shocked with this revelation. The chair immediately swung around and jumped over to the file cabinet to try and find the information in the file. He said, “we’ll have to see about that with the state!”. I told him to “go ahead”.
This district continues to attempt to diagnose my child which as far as I know, is against the law. They don’t have the authority to diagnose my child or any child for that matter. My child was considered “at risk” when we adopted him due to his race and gender. It is further compounded with having a disability. The fact is, African American boys are more challenging to place compared to girls. It’s funny how people think sometimes; how one child is more desirable compared to another on the basis of gender and race. It makes my son all the more endearing to me.
Since the school district is moving to an earlier start for the 4 – 6 grade students, I requested after school homework help. The answer is “they don’t do it”. Right now, due to learning deficits, Aren would benefit from the extra help and he should have it. The district saying “we don’t do it” is not acceptable. If Aren needs the extra attention to help with learning and reinforcing concepts, by law he should have it because it’s his individual need. Especially so when I keep showing them how poorly he is doing with the homework assignments. Aren shouldn’t be making up the work during recess. Recess is a time for a child to blow off steam. It doesn’t help him feel included when all the kids are playing and he’s stuck inside. Making my son do work during recess is not accommodating his needs plain and simple.
Alan Tepp, Psychologist who originally diagnosed Aren with PDD-NOS when he was 3.5 years old and did the IEE attended the meeting via phone conference. He is also the psychologist who felt comfortable saying our son has intellectual disability formerly categorized mental retardation. He was there to present his professional opinion against our neuro-psychologist from NYU. He stated he didn’t read the NYU report but was supposed to be presenting arguments against it. Really? I had to step in and say he had plenty of time to read it. In fact, he had the report back in October 2010. I am not afraid to speak up. I told the team that Tepp’s refusal to read the NYU report creates an imbalance and he can’t speak about it. I also went on to say that I requested he not attend the meeting as he had his time back at the October CSE meeting. Of course, the chair didn’t like what I had to say but it had to be stated for the record nonetheless. I also stated for the record, we disagreed with Tepp’s evaluation because he failed to do independent testing and yet comfortable to consider our son to have an intellectual disability. I also stated that he is a generalist in his field not an expert per se in autism spectrum disorders. He didn’t like it but again, it had to be said. Guess I succeeded in not being popular pointing out the 300 pound gorilla in the room. I couldn’t care about hurt feelings in this meeting. My focus was and is on my son’s educational needs. And, speaking the truth; keeping it real.
Our NYU expert stated we need to have a M.Ed in autism research and analysis to come in and do an in class assessment. We concur with it, feel it’s the best and most reasonable approach to resolving our differences. The CSE Chair stated he would look into it but it remains to be seen. We assert if they truly want to gain clarification regarding Aren’s in school requirements, it needs to be done.
We made some small gains for Aren today but we haven’t achieved all of the objectives. In the coming days, I will be following up. I anticipate hearing back from the CSE Chair regarding the assistive technology evaluation and IEE. I hope the district steps up to the plate and does the right thing by earnestly striving to meet my son’s educational needs. I’m here for the long haul. I will not stop advocating for my son.