Friday, October 12, 2007

Split Court

The Supreme Court split on a court case in New York. The focus of the case was, in brief, are parents required to try out a demonstrably inappropriate IEP before challenging it?

Note the words: demonstrably inappropriate.

And the court split.

I am so angry I could spit.

It's not just a matter of not giving the public school a chance. This is about the school offering an inappropriate program, and then telling you if you don't like it, sue us.

The point of the IDEA is to provide free and appropriate education. As in, knowing that your program is inappropriate means you need to make some changes and adjustments or even create a new program so the child can get an appropriate education. As in, not offering appropriate service means a child will not have a chance to be properly educated and have a shot at independent living.

When a school offers an IEP, it is supposed to take the parent as an equal member of the forming committee. It is far more comon that they present what services they want to offer your kid, and you have to decide to take it, leave it, or threaten to sue (which can lead to actually suing). Often, parents are not told about services that would be appropriate for their child (even if the services are being provided to other students!)

The problem is the school is given both the responsibility for providing services AND the responsibility to remain within small budgets. Everyone who has the power to provide the service also has the pressure of the purse strings. And folks, those people know who signs the paychecks, and parents are not that person. We can scream "taxpayer, paying your salary!" all we want, but ultimately, it is not our name on that check, but the name of a person pressured to spend as little money as possible. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, ABA, floor time, one-on-one instruction and testing... and anything else you can think of... costs money. It is far cheaper to not offer these things, and to get away with not offering them if you can. The chances of that parent suing, and winning, are so not good that it is worth a chance to offer services known to be inappropriate, inadequate... and cheap.

When you can demonstrate that an IEP is inappropriate, why should your child be subjected to that known inappropriate placement? I don't care if the kid has "time to waste" or not (does ANY child have "time to waste" in education??? Life is short!). Our money pays for that inappropriate service and placement- and therefore wastes our money! It wastes time of the teachers, the service providers, the admin, the lawyers, the parents... it wastes resources that could be appropriate for another child.

How on earth can anoyone be split on this?? How can you think it is in any way the right thing to subject a child to inappropriate program and service? How can anyone possibly think the law is intended to force kids to "try out" a demonstrably inappropriate placement?

That, folks, is how kids get abused.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Talked with Joey's teacher today. I really have a lot of confidence in both of Joey's teachers. He is having a fabulous time at school and clearly coming along. But I have to say, testing is a crock.

It would be one thing if the goal of testing was to understand what a child knows and understands, and what requires more work. When I give a test, this is what I am doing. Testing is a tool. But most testing in the schools is not geared to understanding what children know. It is geared to finding out what non-disabled children can recall within a certain format.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has implemented something called the Standards of Learning. I sure there are many excellent blogs on the subject, pros, cons, and everything in-between. I will say that having looked over the SOL goals with some care, there are pros and cons. The main pro is that kids have definite things they are learning throughout the year, following set "guidelines" so that I as a parent can determine what my child is learning in school in any given month, and can support those lessons at home. And they are good lessons, like learning about the senses and the world and the basics of academics. The con comes from a lack of flexibility, overwhelming children with material, and the measurments used to determine whether the children are learning the lessons. Testing my child with a verbal-heavy test where he has to carefully fill in little "bubbles" isn't going to help much, other than to tell me he's not very good at that kind of a test because of the auditory processing and the question processing. I already know he's autistic, thanks. What I want to know is does he know the material? And do we have an effective way for him to communicate that information and use that information? Another con is that the standards are so set and inflexible, Joey ends up having to do what to him is busy-work. He already knows his shapes, colors, numbers and letters. Yet here they are again. Is he not answering these questions about community helpers because he is bored? Or because he can't process the question format? Or because he genuinely has no clue what a fireman does? It is impossible to tell.

We do have some basic accommodations in his IEP, like one-on-one testing, visual prompts, and flex-testing (if he's clearly not going to test well, or gets tired, the teacher can stop testing for that day and try again later.) I think I'd feel better if more signing was used and permitting during testing, but I don't think the teachers are trained and know enough sign to do that. I just fear people who are not special ed folks- ie, most of the school teachers and admin- are going to dismiss him as stupid because of state-mandated tests which are poorly designed (at best) for students with special needs. This child is not stupid, and assuming he is will only frustrate him.

I think what I like most about this teacher (the one I spoke with today), though, is her assumption of competence. She expects Joey to do what she knows he can do, and she knows he can do this work and understand what is going on. Now we just have to figure out how to communicate effectively- both ways.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Midterm Whinefest

Ah, midterms are upon us. The Whine commences. I should have bought more cheese.

I won't go into details. Let's just say that there is nothing that gets me grumpier than students who want to make-up assignments they forgot to do, email me AFTER an assignment is due- by DAYS- to please can they turn it in now? students who suddenly want the midterm in a different format (I'm supposed to get those magic accomodation letters the first couple of weeks of school, or at least a couple weeks after they are granted, not the morning of the exam). Except one thing. Students who call/email/show up the morning after the exam is due wanting to make it up. Email is available 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, why not drop me a line when you get home and say "Oops, I had an emergency?" instead of waiting until the assignment is over or... ?

I'm wrong. There is one more thing that makes me even grumpier than any of that. Students who get belligerent when I tell them "sorry you forgot to take this... but no." For some reason, students think nasty emails are going to soften my position on the matter. I have no clue why. If they think they have nothing to lose, they are quite wrong. I am happy to forward threatening and nasty email to my department chair and dean of students.

Taking college classes? Be polite and respectful to your professors. Making professors grumpy is a bad idea. Look at it this way: I went through college AND grad school. And guess what? When I forgot an assignment or slept through a test, I got a zero on it. Suck it up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


You've got to get in on this meme.


1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car)
Hubert Magic Mitten Windstar. {I am so not a cool rock star.}

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)
Peppermint Stick Brown Sugar Scotch. {I didn’t fare much better as a gangsta.}

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name)
AGuy. {The joke continues…}

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal)
Green Owl. {That’s not so bad…}

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born)
Corinne Baltimore. {That works…good thing I kept my original middle name when I got married…}

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first)
Guyam. {Could be worse. Now if only I could do mind tricks…}

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
The Blue Fresca. {No, that doesn’t work.}

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers)
Richard Leroy. Leroy Richard? {How about grandmothers? Marie Mary? Mary Marie?}

9. STRIPPER NAME: ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Anais Toblerone. {That works.}

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names )
Ann Robert. {That will do.}

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter)
Merritt Madrid. {I need more women’s names in my life.}

12. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower)
Autumn Dahlia. {I do usually still have dahlias in October. But not this year.}

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + "ie" or "y")
Mango Hoodie. {OK, that sounds just weird.}

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
Yogurt Sugar Maple. {Groovy.}

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”)
The Needlepoint Thunder Tour. {Why can’t I have a cool hobby, like pottery?}

Go ahead. See what you get!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Midterm Reports

In our schools, kids get a report card every nine weeks. However, at five weeks, they get a "midterm report." This report grades the kids as "Successful", "Progressing with Effort" or "Needs Improvement." I don't know if the report cards are going to use normal grades.

When I was in school, you were graded according to what teh teacher felt was your potential. I will grant you, this was subjective; but at least my parents had an idea of how well I was doing compared to no-one else but me.

Apparently, Joey is graded against his peers. The grades reflect how he is doing in comparison against other, non-disabled kindergardeners. He has two Ns: social studies and science.

We are working on figuring out what this means. Is he not understanding the work? Or is he being graded according to his ability to answer questions about the subject?

We're very concerned that he is being evaluated based on his ability to answer questions. For one, this would tell us exactly nothing. We already know he has a communication disorder. What does he know about social studies and science? Secondly, what accomodations are being made so that he can be evaluated appropriately against his peers? After all, you wouldn't fail a blind child in reading just because she can't see the book.

I tried to go in and ask (today was open-conference), but the teacher I needed to talk to wasn't there today. So I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


It's official- the check is in the mail.

This past spring, I opened a little shop through Cafe Press, JoeyMom's Autism Awareness Bazaar. Today, it actually made money. I have a check for $28 coming my way!

What is $28 to us? With the insurance, it's a session of speech therapy for Joey, or most of an OT session. It is two weeks of school meals. It's 1/3 of my groceries for a week. It's a complete new outfit (minus shoes) for Joey or Andy. It's a month of Preschool Art classes for Andy, or two months of his Wee Time program. It's 3 hours of free time for me, because Andy's babysitter isn't a specially trained respite worker, so she only gets $9 an hour.

Thank you for supporting our family, all you wonderful people who bought t-shirts, buttons, mugs, magnets, bumper stickers, and journals, sporting my autism awareness designs. I promise it is money well-spent.

A New Washing Machine

Our washing machine died.

Normally, this would be a minor blip on the screen of life. HTe washer dies, you use the laundromat for a few weeks until the dent-and-scratch sale, you get a new washer. No big deal.

Except I am in a house with one child who still gets bouts of diarrhea, sometimes miss-aims the pee or forgets to wait until he's completely done, and has thrown-up in bed without warning twice in the last two weeks. That's just one of the two kids, remember.

I must have a washing machine.

Apparently the appliance business around here has really gotten hot. We got a washer from Lowe's. It was the cheapest place in town (WTF?) andwe ordered it yesterday (a Saturday) and they called to apologize for not being able to deliver it that day, was it OK to deliver it today (Sunday)?

And they delivered it. On a Sunday. I am washing clothes right now. Life is good.