Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Here We Go Again

"I'll start letting my guard down when people stop giving me reasons to keep it up."  ~ unknown

My son will be transitioning out of his current placement next year.  He's getting to be a big boy, soon to be moving on to middle school.  It's a big step for a child and especially so for a child with particular educational needs.  It's up to parent to work in concert with school districts to find the most appropriate placement that addresses those particular needs.  Having a child that learns on the Autism Spectrum adds layers that typical children are not faced with no less the stress parents go through with each and every passing year in their child's academic life.

In anticipation for the move up and over, I put in a request to the school district for referrals to several BOCES in three nearby counties.  Each placement holds something different so in the mind of a parent wanting to be as prepared as possible, it's important to weigh these placements carefully.  In order for that to happen, it's generally a good idea to make site visits, talk with the teachers and administrators, observe the setting and ask a laundry list of relevant questions.  I'm not the type to shy away from asking the tough questions and I loathe leaving anything to chance or last minute.  You see, I've learned the hard way, these special placements come at a premium.  The seats are in demand resulting from more and more children being diagnosed with an ASD and not enough seats to go around.  It's sort of like the old game, musical chairs.  The swiftest get the seats while one child is always left out.  I don't want my son to be left out because Mom and Dad dragged their heels.  No.  It will not be our fault if our son misses the proverbial boat.  Not if we can help it, of course.

Two weeks ago, I contacted the school district requesting referrals to schools of interest.  Of course, prior to making the request, I gleaned the websites of the schools of interest.  It wasn't just on a whim.  No sir - that is just not my style.  I do the required research.  I must do the research because my son will be aging out of his current placement.   Preparations must be made and it needs to be made sooner opposed to later for all the reasons mentioned previously.  These seats are like winning the lottery for our kids - sad but unfortunately true.  We come up against wait lists and we know our kids just can't wait.  Time is ticking away and the closer we get to the end of the line, the louder the ticking.  It's almost a sonic boom blasting in our ears; the sense of urgency to just get it done so we can sit back with a sigh of relief that our kid will be OK for a while.

I did digress...so two weeks ago, I contacted the district via email.  Made an assertive but polite request for the referrals.  My email was addressed to both the CSE Chair and the assistant.  It was/is important that we make requests directly to the CSE Chair for it is the Chair that makes all final decisions on our children's behalf.  I received a swift reply from the assistant much to my rather very pleasant surprise.  I thought, "wow", I don't have to hold my breath... I can breathe.  I don't have to wring my hands or sweat bullets waiting for a push back which has been my experience in the past with the district.  As those who have read this blog can note, it has been an uphill climb getting my son's educational needs appropriately addressed.

Hold on!  Not so fast!  The other day, I received a letter from the CSE chair that I will not be getting referrals until the spring 2014.  With further explanation, the letter goes on to explain that my son is due for his three year re-evaluations that includes the psych-educational evaluation.  As much as the chair appreciates my enthusiasm to get this ball in motion, the referrals will have to wait until next year.  Further, the chair has suggested the willingness of the district to provide an independent psychologist to do the evaluation.  On a side note and reminder, the in school psychologist who holds only an MA was suggesting my son had intellectual disability back in 2010 without doing any testing.  The school psychologist is not a clinician and is not a PhD.  She has no authority to make diagnosis!

I followed up with two separate emails to the CSE Chair asking if the suggested psychologist has assisted in the district previously and if I can get referrals from parents.   It seems like a reasonable request to me since I don't know anything about this person.  In a separate email, I asked the Chair why must we wait until spring to explore possible placements?

My son is significantly behind in math, reading and writing.  The last psych-educational evaluation was done in 2011 so it's up to date.  Further, my son is not going to miraculously catch up or his disability disappear.  This is the same type of situation I went through back in 2010 with a different Chair who consequently was mysteriously released from the district payroll.  The former Chair also refused to give me referrals in a timely fashion.

Right now, I'm waiting to hear back from the Chair.  I'm patient to a point.  My son has no time to waste.  I have no interest in playing games with the district.  When school districts throw barriers in parents path, they are hurting our children.  Our children are ultimately the losers in this game where our kids have everything to lose without our determined advocacy on their behalf.

"When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there."  Zig Ziglar