Friday, September 03, 2010

Signed, Sealed, Delivery on Tuesday.

So we signed all the paperwork to make sure there is always someone in the room in case Joey attempts to escape it. They kept not wanting to have a para with him in specials (art, music, etc.), but I won't have it these first few weeks. "They can lock the door" is not an acceptable answer. You expect the teacher to deal with the meltdown when he finds that door locked? What if there is a fire? The tradeoff is that for the same first few weeks, he will be self-contained half the day, so he can be in small groups or 1:1 instruction while he transitions. We'll start moving him back into the inclusion room after a few weeks.

Then, unbeknownst to them unless they read this blog, I am going to start asking questions about LRE and moving him into "regular" classrooms. Because you know what? That is where we was before. The sped-centered environment is a step backward, a regression from being with his non-disabled peers in supportive environments. Our school system fills "inclusion rooms" with kids who are borderline for services as their "non-disabled" kids- kids that really should need service, but they have issues of clear documentation of needs, because they don't have a "25% delay" in anything specific and measurable.

Andy is a great kid for an inclusion room. He has speech issues that are being otherwise ignored, he had focus and attention issues that are met by the structure required in inclusion environments even though he is technically not receiving accommodation or service, yet he has the academic and social skill strengths to really support his classmates, as well as experience with disabled peers. To push him into a faster-paced, distraction-filled environment would really... well, prove he has issues.

Yet it is into that "mainstream" that both boys must eventually go, like it or not. One day, they will graduate. The world is not full of special needs classrooms.

And you know what? I want those kids in "mainstream" and "regular" classrooms to have to meet and cope with people like Joey and Andy. They need to learn what it means to be tolerant, to appreciate people's strengths and talents, and to therefore appreciate their own foibles, their own talents, their own abilities- to learn what it really means to live in a positive, constructive community.

On Tuesday, Joey will start school with a lot of quiet spaces and an ever-present lifeguard. Andy will start in a structured room with only 15 classmates. Here's hoping everybody- including you- has a fabulous year. Happy Fall!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

School Changes and New Teachers

Well, when you have a child who suddenly dashes out the door, the best thing to do is call the school in blind panic and in tears, with words like, "bolting", "safety issue", and "HELP!!!!"

OK, seriously, we had one of those meetings I was hoping would never happen today: the one where you discuss what to do with your child who fright-flights into the street when his school is 1. new and 2. near a major highway. The school doesn't like these meetings, either, because it screams "potential safety hazard". One thing school folks want, it's safe kids.

I spent the morning basically crying, reading over the letters I had from the OT and thinking about the incidents we've had this summer, and basically panicking. BUt I pulled myself together, got the children fed, and headed out with both in tow to the school to get this sorted out. I want Joey's first real day at this school to be far better than anything he had over the summer. And I want him to be safe from Day One.

I learned a few things. For one, Joey has been moved to a different set of teachers than we originally planned. I really liked them. They asked a lot of good questions, made a lot of intelligent and meaningful comments, and kept things really focused on what would be best for Joey from all fronts- academically, socially, and of course, his safety. Ms. H came, mostly because I begged her to help because I wanted somebody I really trusted in that room. This is not an issue to tackle in a room full of people you don't know, I can tell you. She always says very important things, and sticks with realities. This is good, because our admin person was a little bit panicked and suggesting we put Joey in self-contained sped, with much "assurances" that kids "don't get bored here." But the reality is that the vast majority of kids in self-contained environments need them not just for behavior, but for academics; and being a restrictive environment, Joey wouldn't have the kind of contact with his peers that he had before. In other words, it would be a serious setback, and mark a major regression.

But then, this is a major regression and serious setback.

However, the committee prevailed in understanding that Joey's needs and goals were best met in the inclusion environment, so another solution had to be considered: a 1:1 aide. The admin tore out of the room when she knew this was the direction we were heading. An aide in this system is like the Holy Grail of Services (we already have the other Holy Grail of Services: ESY). Aides are expensive, and you can't just stick anybody in a classroom and call them a para; and a 1:1 needs to click with the student. It is something they avoid like the plague.

However, sometimes you find yourself here, with the aide on the table. Joey needs to be in a safe environment, and that means he needs a lifeguard in the room- one dedicated to his needs, and ready to take to their heels when he does. We should have the paperwork done in the next 48 hours.

Next on the agenda was showing joey his classrooms. We visited his homeroom (which will be the resource room, since we are now thinking the cafeteria isn't a safe place for him to eat, with all the noise). Ms. J runs that room, and served as one of his aides over the summer. She seems cool, and I think she's the case manager now. Then we went for a stroll with one of his new teachers, saw her classroom, as well as the regular-ed teacher's classroom (they split the class up for small groups; the rooms are across the hall from each other). He started getting antsy, so we decided it was time to go. The teacher was walking us back to the office (where the main door is), getting to know Joey a little. I stopped to thank Ms. J, and ran into another teacher I knew and said hello.

I glanced down the hall to the boys and the teacher, now well ahead of me. Beyond them was a stairwell, and a glass door to the outside. They were framed there, haloed silhouettes against the bright sunlight streaming through the glass into the much darker hall. And there was frozen moment, when you know what you are seeing is not right. The teacher was calling his name. He was headed to that door. Andy called. I called. He was still moving toward the door. I broke into a run. So did the teacher- right out of her shoes, to run the faster.

I must say, I was totally impressed. She caught him outside. But it was the speed and efficiency of her action that really caught my eye. She wasted no time- she was already on the move when she called his name. She knew she couldn't run in those shoes, and they were off her feet without breaking stride. The instant understanding of the danger, and the effort made to help my child were, to be honest, stunning.

I hope we all expect each and every teacher who works with our children to do no less; yet I remain grateful to see caring in action. Combined with the efforts and comments she put forth in the meeting, I say we're in for a good year, or at least have the best opportunity possible for one. I think we're oriented now.