Friday, September 25, 2009

The Update (Ta Dum)

I'm not going to try to make this cute or sweet or funny. I'll just give you as many of the facts as I can before I pass out from a combination of exhaustion, stress, 98 degree heat at 7 pm, and cuddling with my boy while his father and sister are out seeing Fame.

The 411:

1. I did NOT get what I went in to the principal to ask for, which was a class change; she said they're at the legal limit in the only other third-grade class (small school size has its ups and downs), and so she'd have to switch him with another student.

2. On the other hand, the principal gets it. She was saying things that were exactly what I've been saying, and without me feeding them to her. Most notably, she said that N "shouldn't be punished for things he can't control." She likes him a lot; she's worked with him in small groups in the past as part of a reading intervention program, and she's so excited that he can and will now talk to her and tell her what the problem is. It helps that he is not in any way, shape, or form a behavior problem. His biggest problem is that he tries to become--and often succeeds in becoming--invisible in a classroom.

3. She was clearly disturbed by some of the things I brought up, and says she will be taking much of the responsibility for getting things back on track. She promised to talk to his now-teacher, his last year's teacher (to find out what strategies she used that helped her be so successful with N), his Occupational Therapist (to ask her to come and talk to/train his now-teacher and give her some other ideas of classroom strategies to use with N), and his speech therapist (who is his IEP leader, and who was responsible for getting the IEP to his teacher in the first place; since she's N's biggest fan and advocate, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt on this one and wait for her to call, which the principal said she'd ask her to do early next week).

4. She encouraged me to ask for a reevaluation--a full-scale, soup-to-nuts set of tests and potential diagnoses. As she explained it to me (and this may not be entirely accurate...either in what she said or in my intepretation thereof), the basis of the problem is that his IEP is not really a special ed IEP; N's considered to be a speech student in general ed. WE all know that he's in speech as a way to get him into clinical OT, but he's being TREATED as 'just' a speech student. (I don't know about the rest of the country, but for some bizarro-world reason, social skills deficits that require OT intervention--even if they have huge academic impact, as N's do--do not qualify you for services. You have to have some other 'qualifying' disability, and for him it was speech. Once speech said there was a problem, they could THEN add on OT as a secondary service. Except, in N's case, it's really the primary service he needs.)

So what does it mean that he's 'just' a speech student? Apparently, IEPs that come through speech get looked at differently than IEPs that come through special ed. His classroom teacher wouldn't normally really need to see his IEP; she'd just need to know what days to send him up to speech therapy. That doesn't explain why she didn't aggressively pursue getting a copy of his IEP once I'd implied that it was relevant and needed discussion, but it might explain why she seemed so bewildered that I made such a big deal about it in the first place.

What the principal wants to see--through this re-eval and through my seeking an outside developmental pediatrician's evaluation at her urging--is if we can't get him into special ed SOMEHOW, whether that's through an ASD or other diagnosis or through a learning disability diagnosis. (She thinks that MAYBE the IQ test will provide insight this time, since N no longer actively resists testing the way he used to. She also vehemently agrees that his previous low IQ test score is malarky.)

5. There's another reason she wants me to push for a quick, early redo of his IEP: She thinks we need to significantly rewrite his accommodations. She wants to add specific accommodations about how to deal with him when he's expected to speak or read aloud, what to do when there are group or partner activities in class (he's apparently absolutely refusing to look at or work with any other child), even what kind of discipline methods (positive only) are to be used.

6. As I told Baroy, I didn't get what I wanted, but I got stuff I wasn't expecting--like HER pushing ME on getting him evaluated again. I felt like I was heard. And I made it very clear as I left that all bets are off if the teacher couldn't be brought into line.

7. As an aside, this conference included yet another discussion with a long-time professional in either the teaching or medical profession about how N is like no other kid they've seen before; that he fits into no box, doesn't fall into line with any obvious label. She understands that his needs are both unique and difficult to figure out...but agrees that they're real and significant. There's something simultaneously gratifying and disheartening about this; we all like to think our kids are special, right? But at the same time, knowing that there's no obvious signpost, no "he has this, so try this therapy first and this other one next," leaves me so often at a loss. What do I do for him? I have this fierce and unwavering belief that he's going to be OK as an adult, but for that to come true, we have to get him to adulthood in something resembling good shape. That's the challenge.

So, I'm not happy, but I'm not miserable. It helps that N's still relatively OK with everything, overall and relatively speaking. I stopped in the schoolyard on my way back to work after my meeting, and he was chattering away about how they made masks today, and it was fun, blahdeeblahblah. I figure we still have a little wiggle room in which to get this straightened out. I'll put in the request for testing on Tuesday (Monday's Yom Kippur) and that will get the clock started. We'll see...


Anonymous said...

It seems like N has advocates for him in the school, and that there might be an explanation (though not an excuse) for the inexplicable behavior of his classroom teacher.

Good luck.

Niksmom said...

I remember speaking to an attorney once at a seminar sponsored by the state DOE. She worked with due process cases —something we were considering at the time. She gave me very sage advice which I try to hold on to when my emotions are running high:

"Don't get caught up in worrying about the specific thing you think you want. Focus, instead on what's the best thing for your child. It might not actually be the thing you think you need to fight for."

I was reminded of that as I read this post. I am so glad that your son has advocates for him at school and I hope that things do get straightened out quickly. Am holding very positive thoughts for you all as you pursue a more complete evaluation. It's difficult but so vital to have the full picture.

Anonymous said...

You used N's real name in the sentence:

"(She thinks that MAYBE the IQ test will provide insight this time, since N...."

TC said...

Thank you, Ms. Anonymous! Or Mr. Anonymous.

Meg said...

Hopefully, the teacher simply didn't realize that N's "speech" IEP was different from most speech kids. Speech often is different as it is assumed to be fixable simply by sending the child to speech and does not require in-class modifications. I hope she gets it now.

When you have N re-evaluated, be sure the evaluator understands how bright he is, even if his skills don't show it. A bright kid can compesnate for an LD, making it more difficult to figure out on a test or for the child to fall below the line for services. That is, he may have an LD that is severe, but does well enough anyway that the school says he doesn't need assistance. The bar is set pretty low, at least around here.

Ambre said...

For insight into this, you really need to read IDEA and see that it is all set up by diagnosis.

So, truthfully, giving OT and classroom accomodations for social skills to a kid with a speech diagnosis isn't required. Nor is it required for a kid with specific learning disability, which is the only diagnosis the school would really be qualified to give.

This is why people go out and ask for a PDD-NOS diagnosis. Because without that, even with an ADHD diagnosis, the full range of services and accomodations aren't really required.

Another option that I think some people have used is "OHI," which is "other health impaired." This covers medical issues that cause educational problems that don't fit in elsewhere.

Ambre said...

po said...

No surprise that "ultra-pro evaluation" me is happy that you are getting more evaluations, both within and outside the district. Seriously, it's been horrible that you haven't gotten a dx all these years. And doors DO open when you have one, so I agree completely with Ambre that if they can't find you a more descriptive one, push for PDD-NOS. It is pervasive, and developmental, whatever "it" is, so it's not like that's a lie.

Of course you'd rather know what "it" is, and how empowering to say "Okay! Now we know how to fix this!" But even after 7 years of knowing Matthew's dx, we still don't really understand completely how to help him navigate the world.

However, in dealing with the school district and getting what you want, a qualifying dx is crucial.

mc said...

You mention people within the school system that appreciate and support N. That's wonderful. Hope the teacher changes her ways.
I read your blog all the time. N reminds me of my own DB.

Green said...


That was me. I naturally compensated my entire life away. Everyone thought I was brilliant because I loved to read and snuck books into my desk to read during class. Nobody ever checked to see if I understood what I was reading. I could ask the most brilliant questions, but nobody ever realized I couldn't understand the answers.

Of course I used the same compensation skills I'd developed on the tests I was given.

So glad you are being pro-active and not letting N slip through the cracks.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check out this advocacy site. Special Education law can be so overwhelming. This site can help you navigate.

Good Luck