Frustrations, Angst and Confusion

So today on Facebook one of the pages I follow (RespectABILITY Law Center) posts many interesting tips and articles.  Well today they posted an article about a 15 year old NY girl that cognitive delays being placed in a room full of  juvenile delinquents and gang raped. Now, where the administration was who knows I mean, damn, really?

I have enough trouble with the school keeping my children from getting bit by the same child every year! So how in God’s name am I as a mom to expect them to watch out for them and keep them from being molested, raped, beaten, or in their case all three?  Then come to find out that Grosse Pointe Public Schools the stellar, upstanding, top notch school they are also has the same issue.  That any student that doesn’t fit their cookie cutter mold gets shipped to Special Services, so in essence you could have a kid that has severe mental, violence or a combination mixed either with parents that don’t care or don’t know how to handle that child along with a school district who just wants to throw kids in a room and get paid and that could equal disaster.

I think after my son’s last biting episode I am a bit jaded about the district that I swallowed the “red pill” on.  This school is filled with more smoke screens and illusions than a David Copperfield show. When we moved back to MI from ME an old acquaintance of ours told us how Wonderful GPPS was that the teachers where great, blah blah blah.  I should have followed my intuition, my daughter when she entered this school district was at grade level..GRADE LEVEL! Now all of a sudden she’s not able to grasp 3rd grade math concepts? There was so much I didn’t know then because Maine had done all IEP work for me, as there they TRULY cared about the kids and their succession. They wanted to push and not hold them back. I don’t just blame teachers and administration I blame myself, which is why I know all this special education stuff now.

So, I’m not happy with Grosse Pointe Public Schools, if I had a concrete plan I would pull my kids out now. It’s interesting how Special Education is the “cash cow” for Grosse Pointe yet we don’t have tutoring programs, we don’t have anything extra that will help our children succeed like general education. It’s like regular instruction should be enough.  And they don’t want to place any of the kids in ESY because they claim that the criteria is “regression/recoupment” which that is not the only criteria that determines ESY and legally you don’t need to show regression/recoupment in order to place a child in ESY but that’s another story for another time.

The special education system is broken at best.  In the case of my district, you have kids of varying disabilities and grade levels often in one classroom, while you have a teacher splintered  trying to teach everyone on their own level not only does he or she have multiple different abilities in the room but kids from different grades and aides that are also over worked and in the case of our district way underpaid. You have parents trying to just get the district to provide FAPE (free appropriate public eduation) on a consistent basis, forget extras we’re just trying to get what is required by law.

If what is going on in special education was going on in general education, there would surely be a riot.  It’s so weird that when it comes to kids the governments seem to have their hands tied and eyes covered.

I don’t know maybe I’m over-reacting or maybe I’ve been swallowing the red pill (Matrix reference) for too long. But in any case something needs to be done about our special education system.  Laws aren’t being followed and kids are getting left behind although in our world they continue to advance them regardless of whether or not they have met their IEP goals for that year.

How is your child doing in school? How would you rate your child’s education? Would you recommend your district to anyone else, or if you could move or drive your child elsewhere would you? Sometimes it’s not worth the fight, I don’t have time to wait until my kids sink further and further into the abyss of falling socially and academically behind.

How are my kids doing in school? Not bad but not good. How would I rate my child’s education? I rate it a 3 out of a 5. Would I recommend my district to anyone else? No, Grosse Pointe Public School is not Special Education friendly, now if you have a slew of neuro-typicals it’s the district for you, unless you end up at Poupard which has the highest number of African American Children then you get the bottom of the barrel (that too is a different story). 

Use my random thought to re-evaluate your child’s current educations situation be they in general education or special education and ask yourself, am I happy with the results. Take a deep look back over all of their report cards, assessments, IEP’s, progress reports, just look at everything   If you are happy great if not then changes need to be made and either you need to try to work with teachers and administrators or leave and find another school to attend (which is a lot easier than you think nowadays) but do something.

Love and Blessings,

Charmaine

The Article that started this blog

Advertisements

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

 

 

Stepping out of Comfort

article-2060023-0EBEF2F900000578-885_634x818

Often in our world stepping out of comfort is our only comfort. Especially when you’re new to the game, it seems as if things are changing all the time.

So often I go to training  workshops and meetings to pick up information that either I don’t know or to refresh on information that I am already aware of.

The most recent workshop that I attended was through the Michigan Alliance for Families and it was Conflict Resolution in Special Education.  Now, I think for the most part that I have effective communication and conflict resolution skills when working with my children’s IEP team but, I am always willing to learn more.

This workshop went over the different types of conflict and showed that not all conflict is bad.  It often times allows the team to truly come together for the benefit of the individual receiving services.

The types of conflicts that where discussed where:

  • Relationship~negative emotions, mis-perceptions/stereotypes poor communication or repetitive negative behavior
  • Data~Misinformation, disagreement on which data is relevant or competing assessment procedures
  • Structural~ conflicts caused by external forces such as limited resources, geographic constraints, time
  • Value~ incompatible belief system, differing values
  • Interest ~conflicts occur when one or more of the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her own needs, the needs and interests of an opponent must be scarified

This workshop stressed that good communication skills were vital to working through any conflicts during an IEP/IFSP or 504 team meeting.

You can’t speak with your child’s teachers only during IEP time. The IEP/504 process is not supposed to take hours and hours, there should be a constant flow of communication going.

So step outside of your comfort zone and volunteer in your child’s classroom both general education and special education ask the teacher if they could use any help making copies or anything of that nature. Become an active part of the PTO (or PTA) just because your child is special needs and might spend some or all of their day in a categorical classroom does not mean that they or you are not a part of the school or educational process.

Become involved in ways you never dreamed of, it’s harder for them to lie in your face and mistreat your child if you’re there. Now, I’m not saying you have to be at the school everyday but at least be some sort of presence for your child as often you are their only voice. Work hand in hand with all teachers whether they like it or not, invade their space, don’t undermine them but support them so that they can support your child. Do not allow IEP time or Parent Teacher Conference time be the only times you interact with your children’s teacher, principles, therapist, school board or parent groups. Don’t just call on those sources when something goes wrong. Learn how to make them an integral part of your existence and they will serve you well.

So step outside of your comfort zone. Do more, be more and see more.

Love and Blessings

Charmaine

*I plan on posting workshop notes by the beginning of the year.*