Meetings for Moms!

So today was the monthly Maximizing Autistic Potential mom meeting and today it was held and my house.  I wanted to do something a little different and make some homemade cleansers.  In my search for multiple cleaners, thank God I found one on the Facebook page for Natural & Frugal:Raising 6 Kids    it was for an all-purpose cleaner! Well hot dog I thought this was exactly what I was looking for.  We ate laughed and made household cleaners.  I love things that I can do myself, that will save me money and that will stop any further toxification of my home.  I try and clean and cook green as much as possible and I try to  make our environment as healthy as I can when I can.  It was great to be able to share what I had learned with other mom’s so that they could change their environments also.

Long story short, the meeting was great, the ladies that attended were fun as usual and made some great food and we laughed way past closing time.  So if any of you wonder what is this mom’s meeting that she speaks of. What it is, is that each month a group of mom’s that have children with challenges namely Autism, come together.  We spend about 3 hours, talking about our children’s challenges  triumphs and just our struggles or triumphs.  It’s great to know that I’m not alone. We are from all walks of life but everyone is positive and supportive of one another, I love when a group of women can get together and  support one another.

If you are the parent of a child or loved one with a different ability please find a support group.  Many times we don’t think that connecting with other parents is important because no one understands who we are, who our children are and what we are going through.  When actually we are closer than we think.  Although, none of us experiences our recovery of our children in the same way we are able to celebrate with one another and lift each other up in times of struggle.

Connecting with another parent that either has, or has had a child with special needs will be vital to your sanity.

Wishing you Health and Wellness

Charmaine

 

 

Participation

It has come to my attention that our local Parent Advisory Committee (or PAC or Partnership for Different Learners or PDL) is in a bit of disarry.  Old Charmaine would have jumped in tried to save them her way, meaning great ideas but not so great delivery.

I’m not sure with all that I have going on that I really want to be bothered now (for lack of a better term) but I would love for the situation of the PAC in my local district to get better.  Am I really ready to stick it through and do it all myself? Because when you take on a project of that nature you have to be prepared at some point to do it all yourself.  I mean yes, there is parental involvement but things happen and people’s lives change. I’m not quite sure of what road blocks the current board has run into or what exactly is going on that makes them want to leave.

Part of it I know is that it is really only three women running the whole thing.  So because they really don’t have help the meetings are pretty much held (In my opinion) when it is convenient for them which is every other month.  I can’t blame them because I would do the same.  The other part is that because they have be doing it alone for so long that new help being offered is often confusing  (for lack of a better term)  They are really a great group of ladies.

I don’t think I’ll get involved as I once intended.  I will not be running for President, Vice President, Treasurer or Secretary.  Not right now.  I will though, help where I can and do what I can.  I will continue, to offer my support and services to whomever is in office. But, I don’t want a position of power, not really of interest to me at this time.  That’s not to say by our May meeting I’ll feel differently but for right now it’s a no.

I don’t need another position as I am a board member in several places in regards to Michigan Special Education so for now I’m good.

So many parents want their parent group to “give” them something. How about you give back? You don’t have to be a board member to call the President of your local PTO or PAC and ask do they need any extra help. Participate where you can. If your help is spurred then you have done your job of trying.

Until next time

Charmaine

Wayne RESA Meeting January 10, 2012

So tonight I went to the Wayne RESA meeting in Wayne, Michigan and tonight’s speaker was Dr. Eleanor White and she spent over 45 minutes doing Q&A and it was great as she is a very engaging speaker.

Dr. White explained that Special Education is an entitlement to services and programs for children with disabilities  It is not a gift but an entitlement, and I think that we as parents and school administers and teacher need to remember that.  Don’t let your district “punk” (my words not hers)you into feeling like they are doing you a favor, most likely they are not, they are following the law and doing what they are legally obligated to do.  Her next point was to inform us that OSE (Office of Special Education) is a regulatory agency so they only deal with things that are mandated, things that are law.  They can’t help with busing problems, teacher training or para pro training, unless there is a state or federal mandate for it. That I thought was a great point to know because then it lets you know not to spend your time calling OSE for problems with your child’s bus route or the qualifications of you para-pro.  She also touched on Feedback loops, she said that is is EXTREMELY helpful to them in the OSE Office when parents call, write or email with questions, concerns, complaints  it allows them to know what is going on, what they might be doing wrong and where they could possibly help.  So to please continue filtering information to her office.  She touched a bit on the State of Michigan’s disproportional problem, she stated that each time a special education student is sent home for a behavioral issue that is should be documented so that the state can react accordingly. A question was asked about a child that is consistently being sent home because of behavioral issues, she informed the parents to keep a journal of how many times that they are sent home and to have the school do a behavioral assessment   Her last note was on funding and she stated, “There is NO extra money for special education in the state of Michigan”.

Now I asked her two questions, the first being:

  • Does the state conduct financial audits of the school districts on what is done with the money given to them, if so where would I find the reports and what is done if a district is not spending the money the way that they should. She stated that the state does conduct audits of school districts on how their money is spent. That I could obtain the report from our district building under FOIA (freedom of information act) so I will try that and she stated that if they school district is non-compliant with how their money is spent then funds are taken away from them but they do not keep a report of districts that they have had to take money away from
  • My second question was regarding the training of teachers and para-pros and she stated that is a school by school thing not a regulatory item.

She also pointed out that there is no mandate stating that there is a certain percentage of special education children that need to be mainstreamed. She stated that it originally started as a memo but it was never turned into a mandate, that districts took it upon themselves to create rules about a child’s placement but there is no law stating that. She also was very vocal about not always having a adult shadowing a child, if a child is able then they must learn to navigate their natural environment and that is difficult to do with an adult traveling behind you all the time. That whenever possible peer supports should be used.

This was one of the most informative meetings that I have been to in a while. I loved how open and honest she was and how approachable and non-judgmental, this meeting was definitely worth the drive. I made some wonderful connections to other parents. Now remember if you are reading this and not in the state of Michigan this is truly a state of Michigan post so sorry.  I will have some resources on my resource pages that will be extremely helpful to all.

The rest of the meeting was welcoming new members, the treasurer report and all that good stuff. I hope I have inspired you to learn more, do more and be more.  Please become involved in your local Parent Advisory Committee become the change, so many laws have changed as of late in our state in regards to special education, actually the laws changed years ago, they have just recently put them in black and white so that they could be followed and according to Dr. White more changes are to come as they are working on a new rule package now. So, parents, loved ones and care givers stay vigilant  continue to communicate with your team, find your allies with other parents, teachers and administrators. Learn the law or at least some of it because it will make you a better advocate for your child and perhaps allow you to help someone else on their journey.  Remember we are all in this together, band together with other parents as we can do more as a group than we could ever do alone.

Love and Blessings,

Charmaine

 

 

What is a “PAC”?

pack-mentality-1

What is a PAC? Well of course a pack of wolves is what I think of but that is not what a PAC is according to the State of Michigan standards in regards to special education.

A PAC ~ Parent Advisory Committee is a federally mandated parent organization that is supposed to work directly with the school district that they are in to be a resource to parents.  Each intermediate school district in the state of Michigan is mandated to appoint a Parent Advisory Committee composed of representative from each of its constituent districts. Now, I’ve heard that this applies to every intermediate school district in the country but I have not researched that yet so I’m not sure if every state has a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) or Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA), I’m sure they do, not just under those names.

Now in the state of Michigan these PACs are supposed to meet on a regular basis to offer guidance, resources and support to fellow parents, the school district in turn is to support the PAC. Unfortunately not every district supports their local PAC as they often see them as an hindrance, an expense or just a plain old pain in the a**.

PAC’s could truly change the face of special education in Michigan if we all banded together. If we became one collective voice then no district anywhere would be able to stop us. Now, I’m not talking about neck popping and threatening  I’m talking about coming together as a group of concerned parents.

For some reason across this great country having a special needs child is often chalked up to bad parenting or something the parent did (I know old news right, thought that changed with the women’s movement).  So often parents spend a lot of time either trying to make their child “normal” so society can accept them or they spend a lot of time doing nothing because of shame, guilt, lack of resources or what ever the case may be.  No one tells a parent that they should be PROUD of their child with different abilities. No one tells a parent  that they have support, if they do 9 times out of 10 they don’t say where the support is.  Most of the times when a parent joins a support group they still feel alone because so many others are just concerned about their current issue, not saying that is right or wrong but that’s just what is.

I would love to see us as parents of differently abled children come together as one voice as it would truly make the PAC seem like a pack, as it would make parents feel connected, it would make us feel like we have a voice somewhere.

My challenge to you is to connect in some way shape or form to another parent of a different learner, go to your next local PAC meeting, listen and see what is going on. Don’t automatically dismiss another parents problems as unimportant, I have been guilty of that because I was on my own agenda and missed out on so much. Remember that you are connected to that other parent, it’s a brotherhood of sorts, often in speaking with someone you have the same war wounds even if it’s from a different war.  Stop for a moment and realize that this system of Special Education is a great money maker for all school districts. Do not allow them to treat us as typical when we are extraordinary.  Be a voice so that funds are used as required by Federal Law on the education of our children, don’t let the words budget cuts scare you, special education is an entirely different pot of money.  Learn where that money comes from and how much your district and school gets, it will be important to you trust me.

If you don’t think your PAC is doing what you think they should be doing follow these steps:

Start there if you haven’t started at all, make special education a conversation starter not the elephant in the closet. Until you do you will never receive what you’re supposed to receive, you will always be afraid to speak up or take your kids to community events. Celebrate your child and what they can do, they sooner you do the sooner they’ll be able to do more.

Love and Blessings

Charmaine