Thursday, June 14, 2007

Inside the Belly of the Beast

We had the boys' annual IEP reviews this morning. Even though we are home schooling, the district keeps paperwork on the boys so that if we decide to send them back to public school, my guys won't have to wait months for needed services and programs to kick in. Additionally, any services that they are eligible for continue as long as I am willing to bring them to the school to receive them.

Services, as it turns out, are different from programs. So, even though the boys were found eligible for resource room (ie: small group instruction), they do not receive resource room if we home school, because resource room is a program. They are eligible, however, for the service of social skills classes. And I said that, yes, we would be interested in taking advantage of that program for both boys--I'm good, but there are certain programs even I cannot duplicate at my kitchen table...

Ben would also have been eligible for a full-time aide if he were in public school, but would not have been found eligible for the inclusion classroom. Least Restictive Environment, in our case, would apparently mean that having Joe-in-eighth-grade's mom standing next to Ben and his locker, reminding him to pack his math book for sixth period would be preferable to keeping him in the same classroom all day long without a locker while his teacher helped him develop requisite organizational and planning skills...

Not only is the stigma of having a neighborhood mom as a shadow undesirable when one is in middle school (particularly when one is socially handicapped already)...my experience is that a neighborhood mom's first instinct is to do for the child rather than to teach the child so that he can develop the requisite skills for himself. This, to my mind, is the key difference between using moms-- as opposed to teachers-in-training--as aides. Well, and the mom is less expensive. And easier to find...


So, our first half-hour was spent going over Ben's paperwork. A couple of eyebrows were raised when the idea of inclusion was so summarily shot down for him. Particularly those of the school psychologist--who had strongly encouraged this option for Ben when we met last fall for his triennial review...

His teacher actually started to shake her head, but then caught herself...

I would have been heartbroken if Ben were still in public school--and then readied myself for yet another battle, yet more lost time, more disappointments and failures for Ben before he was found eligible for treatment he legitimately needed. As it was, I just shrugged. It was so freeing: not having to take on that worry...

The second half-hour was spent talking about James. Many of the same people were present: school psychologist, resource room teacher, CSE (Committee of Special Education) chairperson...but this time James' old teacher sat to my right, replacing Ben's teacher.

Mrs. Resource Room spoke of James' willingness to work but difficulty with sequencing and organizing thoughts when writing, and also about his inability to generalize skills learned with her into the general ed. classroom. Mrs. Psychologist talked about James' positive attitude and willingness to search out help from an adult when he was confused, but also emphasized his difficulty in negotiating new social situations and his lack of eye-contact when dealing with peers.

"Is he coming back next year?" his teacher asked then.

"No, not next year," I told her. "I have the ability to help him with skills one-on-one right now and I believe that is what he needs at this point."

"But the socialization!" his teacher began...

"We belong to a home school group now," I tried to assure her.

She shook her head, "It's not the same, it's not the same! Look, we can make sure that he isn't put in the same classroom with...certain other students..."

"James may come back to public school at some point," I told his teacher, "but it will only happen when I believe the skills he needs to do well in a public school environment are in place."

"Well, you are his parent--you have the right to make these decisions for him," she replied, clearly dismayed.

Right!

...Said the woman who never contacted me to make sure that James was all right after the school bully physically and brutally attacked him two days in a row on school property--LEAVING BLACK AND BLUE BRUISES BOTH TIMES. (The same school bully who PS: according to a Dad I chatted with this weekend, has moved onto physically attacking yet another child within this woman's classroom...).

But sunshine and light. That was me. I am not here to seek retribution, to lay blame! NO! I am here to make sure that my children get whatever services they are eligible for...

...and, so, because it is in their best interests to create and maintain as positive a relationship as possible with the people involved this bureaucracy, I grit my teeth and say nothing.

1 comment:

Me in Upstate said...

"But the socialization!" his teacher began...

I am *convinced* that socialization is a word only used in connection with homeschooling. (Have I ranted about this before? If so, please excuse me.)

In James' case, socialization involved being knocked down and choked while other children and adults stood by and watched (literally as well as figuratively, I'm sure). This is NOT what goes on in the adult world, so what social skills are schools providing children by allowing this to go on?

Not a healthy or useful learning experience by any measure, despite what the experts say.