And So It Begins

This is a post long overdue and tonight I am finally sitting down to write out some of the things that have been going on with me and Sir Charles these last few weeks. I’ve known for the last two years that at the end of this school year there would be big decisions to be made. What I did not realize at the time was how it wouldn’t feel like I was making any decisions, but was, instead, being told what I should do with my child by a person who rarely sees him (if at all).

About a month ago, Charlie’s classroom teacher broached the topic of Charlie’s placement for next year. Charlie’s teacher is not the same one he had for the last two years–there was some staff shuffling in August and we got “new teacher” as I’ve now been calling her for seven months. I like New Teacher very much, and my complaints are in no way with her or with the other staff in Charlie’s classroom. They work hard for my boy and I know it.

This topic was broached with me because there are no special ed classes for children in grades 1-3 at our home campus. There are children in inclusion, but nothing for a child that might need to spend more time in the special ed room. While Charlie has proven himself to be pretty adept academically, he also needs to work on many other things like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and so on.

Two years ago I learned that children like Charlie are nearly always sent to a school that I will call “Canterbury Elementary.” When I say children like Charlie, I mean children who don’t go into inclusion–there are several children of varying diagnoses who have been sent from our area to Canterbury.

About a month ago, New Teacher told me that she’d started looking for a place for Charlie to go next year, and after speaking to some administrators, she thought that–you’ll never guess–Canterbury Elementary would be perfect to him. It’s a severe class. These administrators, to the best of my knowledge, have not worked with Charlie personally. They *may* have seen him in the last three years, but I’m not certain of that. This has not, however, prevented them from suggesting that Charlie attend Canterbury even when both the classroom teacher and I raised concerns about how this school would fit in with the rest of his academic career.

I’ve got a ton of reasons why I don’t want Charlie to attend this school, and I’m going to go lazy-style and just list them:

  1. I don’t think a severe class is where Charlie needs to be. Maybe he’ll get tons of one-on-one attention, but I don’t know that for sure, and my experience with severe classes hasn’t been the best. Cognitively, Charlie is very aware, and I’m just not convinced he’ll blossom when surrounded by children who are cognitively quite behind. I also think that social skills and integration are very important to the disabled and unless Charlie is disruptive, I think he should have plenty of access to regular children and classes. PS: The research backs up my thoughts on this as well. This is, however, sort of a minor complaint compared to the the two other issues, which will make life with four children even more fun (and by fun I mean difficult).
  2. This elementary school and its corresponding middle school don’t feed into our area’s Junior High and High School. This means that when Charlie hits seventh grade–a vulnerable time for most kids–he’ll be shuffled to a Junior High with a completely different group of kids than the ones he’s been in school with for the previous six years. In Fairy Tale Land I could keep him with his peers by sending him to a different Junior High and High School, but it would be further away from my home and it would be a different school than the one attended by his three brothers.

    This child's butt is so big he scoots around on it instead of actually crawling.

    This child’s butt is so big he scoots around on it instead of actually crawling.

  3. The reason they want Charlie to go to this particular Elementary School is because it has spaces available. The reason it has spaces available? Is because public perception is that this school isn’t as good as some of the others. I’d go and check for myself, but I can’t because it would violate student confidentiality. We currently live two blocks from a school with an A rating (this is some sort of state ranking thing that I don’t completely understand). They want to take him to a B school. I know it’s a little nutty, but I feel like I should be offered a school that is comparable to the one we are attending now. I had to pay more for the house by the “good” school–shouldn’t I get the benefit? Lord knows my property taxes are higher as a result.

My husband called Special Ed and asked that they accommodate Charlie at our school (this is laughable because people ask every year and every year they turn them down, but we thought we should at least ask). He was told that we’d have to wait and see what the IEP committee decided about his placement. So, they “decide” where he will attend, but then pretend that they haven’t decided when we call to talk to them about it? Stellar.

Can you see why I’m annoyed? I think I would feel better if I felt like the people in charge were looking out for Charlie more than they were trying to make sure they had evenly distributed children at certain schools.

No telling what the next step is–I have some calls to make.

Hanging with Papi

Hanging with Papi

Show Off

I found this picture from August–he’s multitasking.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, then you know that since around June of 2011 I’ve been slowly (the speed of a snail to be exact) teaching Charlie how to read and communicate. We started with giant flashcards and then gradually moved over to his iPad. It’s still very low on his list of things to do, but we regularly sit down in the evenings and review his day and I’ll ask him a few questions.

I’ve gotten so used to the this little ritual that I’ll mention to his teachers from time to time things that he’s “told” me.

One day his teacher asked me if I could bring the iPad to school and show her how Charlie “talks” to me.

I’ll admit that my expectations were pretty low. I’ve heard of other parents trying to show off their children’s skills and not getting very far. But why not give it a shot, right?

I guess I wasn’t paying attention because the day I got there I realized that this was kind of an important meeting. A woman from the augmentative communication department came with her own iPad, I had mine, and Charlie was there with his teacher and probably two of the classroom aides! Quite a crew.

Well, Charlie did his thing. He answered yes and no questions using the four square on ProloQuo, he spelled the name of a few videos he’d like to listen to, he swiped through some musical selections. I even let teacher hold his hand, so she could see that he was moving it, and not me. She could tell! At one point he was typing something and I didn’t know what he was asking, but the evaluator figured it out! Actual communication with a stranger, y’all!

In the end, the evaluator said she is going to recommend that the classroom be issued a Dynavox with capabilities similar to the iPad. She thinks it will be a little easier for him to navigate. We still have to wait and see what the “staffing” meeting decides, but hey! I think this is going better than expected.

Kindergarten

Much to my chagrin, Charlie had the nerve to continue growing up all summer and this week he started Kindergarten.

For some, this would be a big step, but for us it’s more of an inch. Charlie will continue spending most of his days in the Early Intervention classroom and will go to the Kindergarten classroom in the afternoons for social interaction.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I am a big fan of inclusion–I worked as an inclusion teacher for two years–because I know how much a child can benefit from being in an inclusive environment. I did a lot of soul-searching, however, and decided that the thing I want most for Charlie is for him to be part of his community. While I believe academics are important, I don’t think that’s where Charlie needs the most work. I’ve already taught him the basics of reading/letters/letter sounds.

So this year he’ll be working hard on self-care. His teachers will be focusing on making him a part of his routines–that whole independence thing. In the afternoons he’ll be working on figuring out how regular kids relate to one another and to him. It’s all pretty important stuff.

On the first day of school, the kids from his Kindergarten class walked down to the Early Intervention classroom and got to meet Charlie. The sat on the circle mat and he sat in a cube chair. They got a quick introduction to his wheelchair and how it works. Several of the kids remembered Charlie from when they were in pre-K the year before.

smiling boy in wheel chair

Charlie’s teachers reported that he smiled the entire time the other Kindergarten students were there.

I’m pretty sure I made the right decision on this one. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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