To bring you update regarding us and kindergarten:
The neighborhood school he is scheduled to attend:
- Looks great – all homey and 1950’s.
- They want him in a developmental classroom with other children with special needs rather than in a classroom with typical peers.
- Or, in a new school – that no one knows where it will be – for kindergarten and first grade with other children with special needs. Think the 1950’s.
- They don’t want him to go to the out-of-neighborhood school regardless of the super awesome sound system.
The out-of-neighborhood school:
- State of the art high definition sound system that research indicates will help with hearing, distractibility, social development, language development and all around learning. This would help level the playing field for Thorin participating in a typical school setting.
- They support inclusive learning – meaning he would be in a classroom with typical peers.
- We must have permission for him to attend this school
Why is it important to write about these things?
- It isn’t a given everyone is accepted as a full member of an in-coming kindergarten class.
- Diversity in education means students with special needs contribute to their schools.
- Children with special needs sometime have more than one need and those needs are suppose to be addressed in their IEP’s (Individual Education Plan).
- Trying to do right by your child means becoming a quasi-expert in many areas including the “sound field distribution” technology area.
- Some parents don’t know they have a choice in their kid’s education.
The June 4th meeting at the neighborhood school:
Many advocacy sources suggest bringing cookies or cupcakes to meetings to set a tone of collaboration. I have two issues with this approach. One, what they really mean is mother’s should bring bake goods. Second, I don’t bake for my family why would I bake for someone else? Especially someone I wasn’t really keen on. I guess I have a third reason – WTF? As a woman, I should bring baked goods to a meeting with professionals to discuss my child’s education in 2012? Should I wear an apron, too?
What I bring instead is humor, enthusiasm, passion, intelligence and a little something I like to call “grit”. Ward brings intelligence, more grit, and me. I can skate around particular issues that make me queasy and Ward straight out said at the meeting – pointing to the kindergarten teacher, “So, at the last meeting you said Thorin shouldn’t be in your classroom. Is that still the case?”
No amount of cookies is going to make anyone feel better after that.
We take charge of the meeting. We hand out our agenda; we have Thorin’s case manager, the strategist from his pre-school and a psychologist – who we have indoctrinated in to the ‘cult of inclusion’. We present the research that says Thorin would do better at the out-of-neighborhood school given their sound technology that can’t be replicated at the neighborhood school. We ask that they write into the IEP that he attend the out-of-neighborhood school based on the school’s technology providing an adequate accommodation.*
They refuse (In a nice way actually. They seem as tired of us as we are of them.) and they tell us to take our case to the district office.
We send an email to the chief academic officer who we had sent our original out-of-neighborhood request to in April but this time we cite the literature on the multiple benefits of a dedicated sound field technology system, we attach the studies and a photo of Thorin.
He responds that they don’t write school placement in IEP’s (Not true.) and we will have to wait until the end of summer for notification of an out-of-neighborhood request (Not necessarily true).
We ask to see the policy on assistive technology** for the district that stated placements are not made in IEP’s and we let him know the neighborhood school is not on-board with inclusion.***
We get an email back telling us Thorin will be placed in the out-of-neighborhood school for the 2012 – 2013 academic year!
Given the parameters of his acceptance – 2012 -2013 – it is a TKO for the Peckner’s. (And, yes, we have already started strategizing for next year.)
Ward and I can pat each other on the back for sure, but we could not have done this without the numerous professionals from various backgrounds we called and emailed with to get information that was invaluable to us succeeding. There are resources. They are for the most part free. Each person we contacted led us to another person. The pieces started to fall together. We developed a plan.
It was not a seamless path. It was clunky. We questioned ourselves. We made errors. We corrected them. We succeeded this time.
Schools have been at this game for years. As a parent the learning curve is high. It is daunting. It is an intellectual and an emotional journey. You believe everything rides on this one thing – whatever it is at the moment.
*Always use the word “adequate” never use better or best. By law your kid doesn’t get better or best they get adequate or appropriate.
** This is a great strategy I got from a lady who works at the State with regard to due process. If someone tells you “We don’t do _____________.” Ask for the policy that states exactly that.
It’s like when I tell Thorin the sign on the door at the super market says, “No screaming or shoe throwing allowed!” Once he learns to read I won’t be able to get away with that approach and once we start questioning the decision-makers they won’t be able to get away with it either.
*** In telling a lawyer from a State agency that provides legal advocacy that we had succeeded at least in the short term he told me, “You two must have been just enough of a pain in the ass.”