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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Guns Blazing

I send and e-mail to my son's special education tracking teacher to let her know that basically, the programing in place at the high school IS NOT WORKING for him.  I do not feel he is getting the best education because of all of the distractions in the large environment that are weighing him down.  Red is so focused on the couples in the hallways making out, and the groups of friends hanging out, feeling lost and left out, that he is not focusing on learning.  He spends so much time being angry about not having any friends...or any real connections at school.  He ends up getting himself into trouble, acting out of his anger.  He makes it all bigger and bigger inside of his head and that doesn't leave much space for learning and actually getting the work done.

Granted...I don't think the combination of meds he's been taking over the past year have been exactly helpful either.  Getting it right is just a maddening process.  In the past week or so however, he seems like he's on the upswing of that.  He has not been as moody and depressed.  In fact, he has been GETTING UP ON HIS OWN, and ready ON TIME every single day!  He has been working hard on self-responsibility...even doing a little homework for God's sake!  (Although, he did make me sit there and baby-sit him the whole time he was doing it.) 

So we have this ARD (Admissions, Review, Dismissal it's called here in Texas) meeting as a result of my letting them know that we are ready to pull him out and send him to private school.  The strange thing is...once the meeting begins, they start it as if it was all their idea.  "We are having this meeting because of Red's behavior, which is not safe for him or other students..." yada, yada, yada.  Really???  So if I didn't send that e-mail saying that I am ready to pull him out would we be having this meeting???  

Oh and by the way...there are additional Special Education staff who have been brought into this meeting from Red's home school.  You see...Red is a transfer student, because supposedly his home school does not offer programming that will accommodate his needs.  Was I notified beforehand that additional staff would be there and that they are actually considering weather or not his needs can be met at his homeschool?  No...we just walked right into that, totally blindsided. 

Typically...a parent should be notified of the agenda of the ARD meeting ahead of time by one of the team members.  They expect to present you with all of this information that will effect your child's future and you are supposed to make a decision on the spot??  The committee asks parents to sign on the dotted line saying that you agree with what has transpired in the meeting...btw without actually seeing the written results of said meeting.  Don't sign unless you are totally comfortable with what has transpired.

In this case we did agree, because basically this was a meeting to call another meeting.  The district will be doing a VISIT meeting where we set out a roadmap for Red's future in education and in life.  They will also be doing a new Functional Behavior Assessment, where they will look at his current behaviors and come up with a new behavior plan based on his current needs.  They will also be doing some academic assessments to see where the gaps are in reading in math.  Oh and that additional Special Education staff that they brought in from the other school will be helping them with these assessments...giving them a different set of eyes and ears to look at Red with.  Why?  BECAUSE WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING OVER THE PAST YEAR...HAS NOT BEEN WORKING.  WE ARE NOT GETTING ANY POSITIVE RESULTS.  HIS BEHAVIORS ARE NOT CHANGING, which is interfering with his education. 

I will admit that part of this sudden attention that Red is receiving is also because they have a new Special Education Lead at the high school.  She perused Red's files to see what the heck has been going on for the past year?  Why are they beating their heads against the wall and nothing is changing?  She looked at his last VISIT meeting that was done in 8th grade and saw that it wasn't very meaty and it certainly did not reflect who he is today.  Fresh blood can be a good thing.  Sometimes the status quo staff members get into the habit of doing the same thing over and over.  Well...we don't have a conventional kid...in fact, non of us do.  Each child is unique.  Status quo staff may not take into account new methods and training that someone fresh out of a Masters or Doctorate program may have in their arsenal.    

Wow! All of this...all of a sudden.  Whereas last year, they didn't want to do a new total assessment at his annual ARD because they didn't see where it would change any of his services, or programming  and they would be waisting so much time pulling him out of class.  YES...we were the uneducated dummies who went along with the OKIE DOKE!

Not only this...but heaven and earth were moved so that the top Transition Coordinator from the district could actually do his visit meeting before the week was out!  ARD meeting on Wednesday...VISIT meeting set up for Friday afternoon!  The VISIT meeting is a 3 hour plus meeting where we look at all aspects of his life and educational needs to get him to the point of relative independence.  We help him, set up a roadmap, setting goals and figuring out what HE needs to do to get to where he wants to be.  It's an awesome process.  We were so blessed to have the woman who is the best in the district to actually facilitate ours! 

We have another ARD meeting scheduled for the end of this month to go over all of the data that is being gathered and to look at their recommendations.  I'm not sure if we will come to an agreement or not,  but they definitely have our attention and apparently...we have theirs.  They have pulled out the Big Guns and that's not a bad thing. 

NOTE TO Special Needs PARENTS: Do not Agree to anything you are not totally comfortable with in an ARD meeting.  You do not have to sign anything without reading the full documentation. You may be surprised what is being left out of the documentation or what is changed, by human error or not.  Ask for a full copy of the documents and review them before you sign.  You can always call another meeting to sign, once you are comfortable with the plan you have in place.

We are often in an emotional state during these meetings.  Emotionality is not a valuable tool when you are making decisions that effect your child's future.  Remember...you are signing a legal document.  Don't sign anything you don't understand.  I always think of something after the meeting that I didn't address DURING the meeting, or think through completely.  Give your self some time to digest and discuss the the plan with your mate, or someone who has been through the process before. 

Also, it doesn't hurt to take an advocate with you to your ARD meeting to help you understand the decisions that you are making and to make sure that your rights are not being violated.  

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