Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A wee bit of victory

I received a phone call from the Director of Special Education last evening. I am told that once this woman gets involved, your case has officially reached "big-shit" status. This woman is usually brought in for damage control. She puts out fires, and is the be all end all. She is the Special Education Deity.

Anyway, she had me on a conference call with the special ed coordinator of the elementary schools (whom I had already been working with through all this stuff), and she asked me how she can help. I went through all of my frustrations with the school, and she was really empathetic to what was going on.

She offered two suggestions. The first being to move Jaysen into an inclusive classroom and gradually phase him into the general education curriculum. I immediately argued this suggestion for two reasons. The first being that it is already mid-January. How do you plan on gradually phasing him into gen.ed with half the year gone- and then it will be summer? And secondly, last year, he was accommodated and had the appropriate support, and he absolutely thrived. I strongly feel he can do that again, if given the proper supports.

Her second suggestion was to hire a substitute teacher, who has had exposure to Autism, to be in the gen.ed room with Jaysen. Hmmm...tell me more about this option. A parapro would have to follow the instruction of the teacher. A substitute (who is a certified teacher on her own), would be able to direct and instruct Jaysen by whatever means she feels would work for him, without having to consult or follow the lead teacher. She would be able to support the lead teacher's instruction and be able to supplement his learning needs.

Now we're talkin'.

The topic of the meeting came up. She asked me what I would like to do about it- I didn't really have an answer. She mentioned that for some reason, this "case" has been blown up to a ridiculous magnitude. That there are a lot of anxious parents that don't want their kids around Jaysen, that are demanding answers as to why he is "allowed to act that way", and what is going on. I agreed that it's gotten way out of control, and offered my speculation.

My speculation was that his teacher is extremely anxious. She hasn't been the same since she witnessed a meltdown. She's afraid of Jaysen, and he makes her anxious. She is friends with a number of parents, so she confides in them about her anxiety. She doesn't understand him, so he's made out to be this kid that "goes off" at the drop of a hat, and a volatile monster threatening bodily harm. If that were the story I was hearing, I'd be concerned as a parent too.

The Director said that she felt that was what was going on too, but hasn't seen anything firsthand, and wants to be cautious about how she handles the situation. I can understand that, but this teacher has caused some pretty significant problems with my child, his education, his faith in the school system, and my trust. She needs to be beaten with asparagus spears.

She asked if I would like another meeting with the parents, to sort of plead my case. I told her that I didn't think that was necessary, since all of the parents were informed at the meeting just last week. If the parents still had questions or concerns, I would be happy to meet with them. She agreed, and said she was thinking the same thing, just wanted to give me that option. I also made her aware that in a meeting like that- should I be asked about his behavior, my answer will be "because the school has not provided him with the supports he needs, and he is reacting to his environment", and it will blow up in your face. She knowingly laughed and said she was afraid of that. All in all, it was a good conversation. She is aware of the issues now, and Jaysen will have full accommodations in about 3 weeks- that includes the time for the FBA and all that jazz.

The addendum to his IEP meeting is tomorrow, and I fully intend to take whatever advantage I can. I'm asking for everything. Maybe I'll even have them write that they have to provide coffee for me every morning when I drop him off. Now there's an IEP goal: Jaysen will make a perfect pot of coffee with 90% accuracy. When that goal is achieved, he can move on to cappuccinos. Mmmm. Coffee.

There is a bunch of shady stuff going on internally too. Jaysen's sp.ed teacher called me, extremely upset, that they are threatening her job. They informed her that they will not be renewing her contract at the end of this year. The reason? she feels it's because she's fighting for Jaysen so hard, and the principal thinks her loyalty should be with the school, not the student. But- they're not that stupid. They're telling her it's because of how she writes an IEP, her documentation, and the fact that she is late picking students up for their Resource Room time (because she's busy trying to diffuse Jaysen). She is a wreck, and I am too. I told the Director that the sp.ed teacher is instrumental in Jaysen's education. She is the only familiar face from last year, she gets him, and he trusts her. She knows how to reach him, and he performs. I had to be subtle, and slide the stroking in where it would fit the topic of discussion, because remember...we're not supposed to be talking. So- my stress level is up once again, just with the thought that she won't be there next year. Yes, they could get another one in who's just as good, but she really fights for him. As long as Jaysen's with her, he's safe from being ridiculed and punished for his quirks. Now, don't think this woman is totally flawless, but the bottom line is, she advocates for my son while he's in school and I can't.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that little ray of sunshine peeking through- that he is finally going to get some support. Whoot whoot!


Casdok said...

"Big-shit" status - well done you!
Am so relieved to hear you have been listened to, and hopefully now on the right track.
I have also seen people whos contracts have not been continued because of thier support for me.I hope your lady is kept on, especialy as Jaysen will need a friendly face more than ever.
Good luck with the IEP and dont forget to ask for biscuits to go with that coffee!

Marla said...

There is so much going on here it is hard to take it all in. I can't imagine how nervous you must feel. I truly hope the school follows through with some of these ideas and does not cut the person who has been supporting you. Keep us up to date! Good luck and keep on the fight!

Elissa - Managing Autism said...

Really glad there is finally a little ray of sunshine for you... it's great that you've got the 'big guns' in with the Director of Special Education.

Your hard work is finally paying off - and hopefully Jaysen will get the support he deserves (the substitute teacher idea sounds excellent!!!)

Well done, and best of luck with the IEP!

... oh yes, and I say bring on the asparagus spears!


dgibbs said...

Congrats on Big Shit status!

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...


misha_k said...

I'm so happy to see some progress was made and that you were listened to. The Director of Education sounds like a wonderful woman. I really like the idea of Jaysen having a substitute teacher with him. That's a great suggestion. I don't like the idea of his spec. ed. teacher losing her job. That's not right. I'd smack the principal so hard.

Still, it's great to see Jaysen getting the support he needs. That's so awesome.

Child Person said...

I'm so impressed with your eloquent descriptions, mixed with humor for time to breathe here and there! Autism has to be the nightmare of this generation's children, and for the parents who struggle with the system the nightmare never ends, does it? Please be sure to take extra care of yourself...for your sake and for the sake of the children. I know the tendency is to say no time! No chance! And I empathize with you on that. But you MUST! Please understand the risk you run if you don't. Love to you all...
A Child is Waiting.
Take Care...Be Aware.
Nancy Lee Gray

Pickel said...

AJ's teacher was fired (let go) last year because she is also one that fights for kids and not the district. They made up a whole bunch of reasons but it came down to that very reason but never on paper.

Glad he is finally getting support. Parents should never have to be Big Shit status to get it though.