Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not one of those mothers

Just passing on a link that was shared with me via a listserv I belong to, which really resonates with me.  Please read when you're able.

Not One of Those Mothers

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Guerilla mama

Lately I have been on a one-woman mission to whip my town into shape.  First the school, then the library.  I stole the title of this post from a resource a friend shared with me, which was actually Guerilla Mum since it was written by a woman from Britain.  I like the "mum" bit, it's cute.  But I digress...

So school started and with it, our high hopes for another great year of progress on all fronts for both of our girls.  But on the first day of class when we realized their preschool was down one classroom aide, who also happened to be the aide we assumed would be acting in part as the paraeducator for Hannah as allotted in her IEP services, we got a little alarmed.  After looking into this further, we learned that back in June or July, this decision to have one less adult in the class had been made and yet no one thought to share this with our family or any other family.

This concerned us on many levels, especially the lack of communication with families and the fact that with one less person, we could not see how the preschool staff would be able to meet all of the service needs of the kids in their class.  The girls are in an integrated special ed class, with over 50% of the kids attending being on IEPs but the rest of the kids qualifying to participate for some other reason that put them "at risk" like their families being at a certain income level or being a preemie, which is why Isabelle qualifies.  So there are a lot of needs in their class beyond Hannah's, and the math just didn't add up.

We asked for a meeting with the director of special ed for our district, the co-director of the preschool and the classroom teacher.  We outlined our concerns and asked that they get back to us with specific information about how, in their minds, the math DID add up and they could meet the needs of the current group of kids (and their various IEP services) with the staff they had.  We also reminded them of the equipment they were supposed to have in place at the start of the year, also on Hannah's IEP but also not yet in place.  We told them how concerned we were that this did not bode well for Hannah's transition to kindergarten, where the stakes were raised greatly since this is a full-day program where Hannah would need support in several different environments and throughout the day.  If they could not provide what they promised (and were legally obligated to provide), what would happen next year?  We let them know we were not happy or satisfied with the way the year had started and thought these were issues that should have been ironed out way before the start of school.

After the meeting, B and I concurred that it wasn't likely we would hear what we wanted to hear when the director of special ed reported back to us, because it seemed like she was lobbying hard for not adding more staff people (something about "diluting the classroom experience with too many adults blah blah blah...") .  I started to look into next steps like mediation and due process, rolling up my sleeves and envisioning a long, protracted battle.

Well, I guess it was premature to put on my boxing gloves because the SPED director spent the next two days after our meeting both taking a hard look at the IEPs of the kids in the class, and also sitting in and observing as well as having an outside consultant observe, coding response time for meeting kids' needs throughout the day.  And she came to the same conclusion we had: there was no way, with the staff they had in place, that all of the kids' IEPs could be met with the current configuration of staff.  No kidding! It's sad that this was something she had to discover after we demanded it of her, and that she clearly doesn't have a good sense of what's happening in the early ed preschool.  But the good news is that she is going to make sure another special ed teacher (not just a paraeducator) is in place for most of the day to ensure those kids that require additional one-on-one assistance are able to get it.  We are also going to make sure that Hannah's physical therapist (who acts as a consultant for the school as well) gets in the classroom to provide training to the 1 or 2 people who are most likely to serve in this capacity, again something that should have been done before school started.  And finally, we have a specific deadline by which the equipment they promised will be installed or we will follow up on their non-compliance.


Needless to say, it's been kind of intense around here as we've had to rally our energies around fighting the good fight for our girl.  But we feel like we're forcing this program to look more closely at its services and raise the bar not just for Hannah but for all of the kids going there.  And we're so relieved that we did not have a big battle on our hands.'s on to the library issue, where the handicapped accessible lift has been malfunctioning on and off since we moved to our town 4 years ago.  Grrr....