Information for parents of disabled children

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who watches the watchmen?

A graffiti similar to those who appear on the ...Image via Wikipedia

On February 24 of this year, the South Indianapolis Star ran a story on RISE Learning Center. In it, Anne Davis, who is the director of Indiana's Division of Exceptional Learners, was quoted. 

All parents want the very best they can have for their children. I believe that schools are doing the best they can to provide the best services for their students, but sometimes those two pictures don't match. Everyone comes to the table with the best expectations, but their perspectives change.

This is the woman who defines the state of Indiana's special education. She thinks it's okay, and schools are doing all they can;  except that it's not, and they aren't as a whole. Rise Special Services, soon to be South Side Special Services of Marion County, is chief among the offenders.

Parents can present evidence for how this happens, and have. Procedure gets a little devil-may-care. Parents don't know what's happening and when. Recommendations go unmade and testing undone. Then, the IEP stands with minimal services "offered"to that child. Anne Davis has a responsibility to see that IEPs like this are never written in the state of Indiana. That is best done through the training of administration on those same procedures and making it policy to get testing done as a matter of course.

This year, testing policy was loosened to allow schools to skip it, if it's not needed. It's often unneeded by a school's estimation. This was done, as so often is the case, because of a shortage, schools claim.  Testing puts documentation in the hands of parents and leads directly to program and service decisions. 

This year, Anne Davis also granted RISE Special Services' request for reconsideration of the findings in a complaint found for the family of the student allowing them to skip training for all administrators in Perry Township of Marion County and only train two administrators at the Learning Center.

Special education can be costly, but avoiding the expense now only leads to more expense and loss later, even if you ignore the loss of quality of life for students. We can continue to ignore parents, pretend they are being over-emotional basket-cases, or we can fix the problem, plan for the future and try to serve each individual.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

How do you say it?

Subject: Quinn, a boy with autism, and the lin...Image via WikipediaIn a couple weeks, I'm due to meet with the Indiana Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Tony Bennett. This week, I'm agonizing over how I'll say it. How do I convey what it's like to watch a school go downhill? How do I explain that it's not about the idea that school is the cure, but whether my son is valued as a person? How do I tell him about the human cost of bad schools in Indiana?

What if it's all about the bottom line?

Here's the saddest question floating around in my mind this morning; What if he doesn't care? It's been our family's experience that this is the biggest obstacle between our children and education. People don't always care, and, yes, sometimes they care about Darrel even less. After all, what will he be when he grows up? Autistic.

RISE Special Services may have individuals who care and work and strive, but the organization as a whole doesn't have the mission. It's lost in the pressure to cut costs and "include" because it's cheaper. True supported inclusion is expensive as any advocate or professional will tell you. It requires trained staff and equipment to make sure kids have what they need to be successful in Inclusion programs. Unfortunately, that's not the only problem RISE has.

Where do we go from here?

Last year at RISE Learning Center, the school that should be the training hub, I sat in a classroom of non-verbal students and found they never worked on reading. No one worked on communication systems of any kind, and there was little accountability on the part of the administration. That teacher is elsewhere now, but the "culture" that led to the oversight remains.

My son's IEP marks the first time in the history of RLC that an autism program has been implemented in its walls. You read that right, but I'll wait to let you look at that sentence again. . . .  Yes, my son's STAR program marks the first time in 30 years of serving students most severely affected by Autism that a program for autism has been implemented. NO staff in the school are trained in ABA at all, and the school hires out for that service at great cost.

How do you reform hearts?

Those are the problems, or at least, a few of them. How do you make someone care about your child if they don't? That's not to say he doesn't. Maybe, Tony Bennett is the one in a hundred. Maybe, I'll walk in there and see a man committed to fair implementation who is outraged at the years of lost opportunities.  Maybe, or maybe not. It's possible it will be just like it always has been when I leave.

My husband is out building a bridge this morning. The kids are off to Perry schools in the city, and I'm sitting here agonizing over education and how to change it. It seems odd. When we realized D would be different, that our lives would be different, I don't think I truly understood what it meant. I thought it meant we would grieve for the life D won't have, move on to struggle through the one we have and rejoice at the small victories each day like every other family with disability.

In addition to those things, I find myself in a crusade to reform a school for all the children who have become so special to our family, classmates and friends. How do I get people to sign up for the mission into which we were drafted? What can I say that will make them look twice at what we're doing, right and wrong? If we don't value the most vulnerable children in our society, how on earth can I make this argument effectively? It all hinges on where our hearts are.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A not so quiet crisis

Cover of "Hoosiers"Cover of HoosiersIn Quiet Crisis  
Follow this link and you will find stories of families and individuals facing disabilities with few services and true grit. Advocacy for persons with disabilities is on the rise in Indiana. It's a sad development because it means disabled Hoosiers need advocates.

Get involved with your local advocates today! Developmental disabilities wait for no one.  Autism, Downs syndrome, and other disorders happen each day whether or not we're prepared to deal with them.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Corrective actions at RISE Learning Center

In spite of the STAR report to the contrary, action against RLC is actually occurring. Our family filed a complaint in January. This snapshot of the complaint outlines the outcome of the investigation. Portions stricken from the report are changes made by Anne Davis at DOE at the request of Mr. Dreibelbis who asked for a reconsideration. He was, not surprisingly, granted one.

The change made to this corrective action will have far-reaching results, I fear. Instead of training all special education administrators, Mr. Dreibelbis need only train the few directly involved with the school itself on the grounds that this complaint doesn't prove systemic failure. If there were not already a collection of complaints in the archives, I could agree with him. However, there are more complaints, a fact Mrs. Davis decided to dismiss.

While families contend the school isn't doing the job it's tasked to do, Mrs. Davis goes on record stating that the school's vision of education and the parent's sometimes don't look the same. Job descriptions, however, should be fairly plain. Parents at RLC continue to contend that officials connected with the school are not doing theirs. Training is dismal among the teachers and staff, especially in the area of special ed. law.  Instead of responding to the demand for training, staff have been ordered that only teachers may have direct contact with parents. Wonder why?
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