Information for parents of disabled children

Friday, February 25, 2011

Power to the mommies!

American social reformer, Jane AddamsImage via WikipediaThere is no need to lie to an audience and pretend that the author of this blog is no reformer. There's no getting away from what I am. If there were a sign to carry about special education in Indiana, I'd be there holding it and singing We Shall Overcome till the cows come home. It's discouraging that this is so often a bad thing in social circles.

Reformers seldom win popularity contests. They make waves, and therefore they make enemies. If you don't believe it, ask a suffragette or civil rights protester of the sixties. To bring it into modern terms, ask a Libyan or Egyptian on the streets. These are extremes, but no less difficult is the life of the mom fighting for free and equal public education for a disabled child in today's world. Instead, moms and dads of the disabled have to be in it for the long haul. A revolution has a foreseeable end, not so with disability and education coming together.

The battle to provide services for children will be fought again and again, until our society prioritizes its most vulnerable. Before I had a child with autism, I would have assumed (did assume) that we had jumped that hurdle with disability. Now, I know better.

There is an unwillingness to "waste" money on educating kids who "can't succeed". So many in our culture never think that the problem isn't with the kid, or even the disability, but with our definition of success.

I wish I could say to parents it will get better, but I don't know that. What I do know is that to change society it will take outspoken, passionate advocates, and it will take time. Parents are the pioneers to reform because they have the most to lose. We have to embrace who and what we are. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Special education as a contact sport

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 17:  Evgeni Malkin #71 of t...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The parents of RISE Learning Center took it to the media, and here are the results. It's a whitewash. Parents are complaining again. Silly parents. Their claims can't be substantiated, I guess. Oh, but wait, they were. Key facts were left out, again. Personal relationships were cultivated and friends called in to "talk it over".

Students in this building have been routinely bullied. We had the evidence. Our claim was a lack of supervision, and we could prove it. Students in the building lack vital services, speech in particular. Autism programs were not available to autistic students, until we seriously went to war. Complaints routinely came back in parent's favor, and orders of correction were issued.

This leads us to the most concerning part of the piece, the flip response of the Director of Special Education, Anne Davis, which I read to suggest that parents just want too much. Well, these parents think she stinks at her job. She's ignoring systemic problems and couching it in terms of economic crisis. If that is true, why was it happening before the crisis?

 Dr. Tim Smith, the center of the allegations, wasn't even mentioned, and why not? These parents have presented the state with AUDIO of him erupting at parents and staff in a conference. That isn't mentioned, but it's true. He leaves the school to sell real estate. It's not mentioned, but it's true. He can't write an IEP if you hold a gun to his head, also not mentioned, also true.

If Special Services is protected all the way up to the State Director, and even a record of lawsuits and orders of correction do not point out systemic failure on Indy's south side, what are parents left to do? I guess we could move to Illinois. That's popular lately.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Separation of schools and experts; Advisory committees are getting left behind.

The Great Seal of the State of IndianaImage via WikipediaThis article is about the interlocal change over in Perry Township, but it's about far more than that. It's about a movement in Indiana to keep schools and school boards for Special Education schools separate from the vital information they need to do their work.

Parents and advocates are increasingly "disinvited" from participating in official capacities. The RISE Learning Center Stakeholder Committee was dissolved at the first opportunity and replaced with "PTA" interaction, however the PTA has no advocacy arm at that school and less to say on special needs issues than your average goldfish. How was that an even swap?

Southern Indiana's Greater Clark County Schools has a Gifted Ed Advisory Committee. Muncie school districts have parent advisory committees. Yet, in meetings with parents, Bill Dreibelbis and other school officials of Perry Township continually tell PTA members and leaders, "It's just not done". Gentlemen, it is done. Where people want good, actionable intelligence, they find sources. Without it, you're likely to go off-mission.

Parents and advocates are the experts. Teachers are the experts. Yet, increasingly, advisory committees are passed over and school boards are shrinking the influences of regular citizens in the policy making process. This has far reaching impact on the future of all education, but particularly special ed. Frankly, to continue with the metaphor, we may be headed for a Charlie Foxtrot of epic proportions.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Perry Township school board meeting

Fa├žade of Perry Meridian High School, the newe...Image via WikipediaParents of RISE Special Services students have an opportunity on Monday the 14th to discuss the interlocal with the Perry Township Board. RISE will be changing from a joint service and supply to an interlocal. This change will result in a new board for special services students. The make up of that board is crucial to parents and students. The meeting will begin at 6 pm at Perry Township Education Center.

The most likely outcome, given the political climate, is a board made up of only the superintendents of the participating townships. A choice many parents find objectionable because of its lack of elected representation. Still others would like to see parents and advocates take a role on an advisory board.

Perry Board Emails as listed on MSDPT website:
  • Rubie Alexander -
  • Ed Denning-
  • Gwen Freeman -
  • Steve Maple -
  • Charles Mercer -
  • Ken Mertz-
  • Jon Morris -

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Does primary disability matter?

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...Image via Wikipedia

The short answer is; it can.

When you get your first individualized education plan from the school, it will have a primary and secondary (if applicable) disability. This should be an indicator of where your child tested in the evaluation stage.

The primary has a couple of functions. It gives every future teacher of your student a heads up about where they are and what they need. It can also be pivotal in placement decisions. For example, kids with emotional disabilities need something far different than children on the Autism Spectrum. Typically, these kids will be serviced in far different programs and in very different ways.

Often an Autism diagnosis is needed to gain access to useful programs like STAR or TEACCH.
That is one consideration, but there are many others. The needs of the child are paramount. If you suspect your child is mislabeled and doesn't have the right fit for a program, it may be time to write out a new request for a re-evaluation. Parents can do this at any time. Though, remember the system is crowded, and the process doesn't happen overnight. Major concerns can be dealt with while the eval is underway.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Analyzing an IEP. . . for dummies.

School Open Night1Image by bestlibrarian via FlickrCase conferences. Much like the flu bug, they come every year like clockwork, and they can be about as much fun. Here is a quick list of things to watch for as you go over your draft.

  • Make sure your draft of the IEP arrived a minimum of 24 hours in advance of your CCC.
  • Note each person invited to prepare for possible requests to be excused (never the teacher or the agency rep).
  • Double check that your previous concerns have been noted.
  • Are the goals and objectives satisfactory, appropriate and thorough?
  • Pay close attention to methods of measurement, descriptive documentation, testing, teacher reports. One method isn't enough.
  • Services should be expressed as they will be delivered, ex. speech should be a weekly amount, not monthly.
  • Written notes should contain all relevant information that fits nowhere else such as previous meeting notes, parent/school contact and special requests being discussed.
This list is, of course, not exhaustive. Give yourself plenty of time to go over the draft, as this is a legal contract with all that implies.
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