Parents Support One Another @ MyOutOfControlTeen.com/support = I need help with the following issue:
My son was suspended for pulling fire alarm at school in the main gym. He has 1:1, the alarm was pulled 3 times over multiple weeks, no adult ever saw him do it. Besides the aide, there is a gym teacher and assistant. There are 3 fire alarms in the open main gym. The class is small (20 kids). He is 12. A girl who is "a tattler" per my son said he did it the last time. The other times, no kids knew who did it. My son is high functioning autism, can't speak quickly, is 12/going through puberty. The gym teacher called him a brute and the assistant principal claims he "confessed". They sent the police to house and they grilled him for 1/2 hour. He was consistent and cooperative in telling what happened, where he was, that he didn't know who did it, that he did not do it himself. He ran away from the school at 3 p.m. just after the incident because he was afraid they would send him to juvenile hall. The assistant principal called me and screamed abuse that I was a horrible mother because I asked her to release him to walk home as per norm since it was time for school to let out and I was stuck on conference call where I was the host. My son showed up as I picked up keys to go to school to get him after breaking up the meeting early. The police showed up shortly thereafter. The claim was that I "happily laugh while spanking my son", which caused my son to snort and choke on glass of water while laughing, and that I'd "refused" to get him, which was not true. I merely said I couldn't come immediately.
The officers concluded that the school was clearly off in their judgment and suggested I put my son in private school as solution!
Seems to me my son has a right to an education without harassment and I have a right to raise my family without false accusations being thrown at me and in being treated in such a fashion by school personnel.
What can or should I do now? My son started to act out and actually held a chair over my head and restrained himself from hitting me with it after the incident even though I merely told him that it was best to not blame others if one did something wrong, it was best to just 'fess up, make amends and move on, and that I didn't know if he did it or not, it seemed a bit strange, but he should have stayed away from the fire alarms since he knew that it was a sore point with the school at that juncture anyway.
Suspension was for 3 days so obviously my contending it wouldn't accomplish much. He missed the last 3 days of school. He missed the school party because the aide told him she'd be there so he didn't want to go. She harasses him, but school refused to remove her.
Ideas on what to do now? Situation is broken, my son will get in trouble whether or not he is doing something wrong, it’s an unhealthy set of relationships that can't be good for his schooling.
I am a single, sole supporting Mom and I just finished winning a major legal battle with regional centers for him that maxed out my finances, my strength, so I need to move on in caring for my family and working, getting healthy again.
Appreciate tips. This is all beyond me.
We recommend that your child get an IEP. An Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is an educational plan for your youngster. If your youngster receives special education services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that your youngster have an IEP!
If you are like many moms and dads, when you receive a telephone call or letter inviting you to an IEP meeting, you respond with anxiety. Few moms and dads look forward to attending IEP meetings. You may feel anxious, confused and inadequate at school meetings. What is your role? What do you have to offer? What should you do? Say? Not do?
Because they are not educators, most moms and dads don't understand that they have a unique role to play in the IEP process.
Moms and dads are the experts on their youngster.
Think about it. You spend hours every week in the company of your youngster. You make casual observations about your youngster in hundreds of different situations. You are emotionally connected to and attuned to your youngster. You notice small but important changes in your youngster's behavior and emotions that may be overlooked by others. You have very specialized knowledge about your youngster. This also helps to explain why your perspective about your youngster may be quite different from that of the educators who only observe your youngster in the school setting.
Why do moms and dads feel so anxious, inadequate and intimidated in school meetings? Most moms and dads seem to believe that because they are not "trained educators" -- and don't speak "education jargon" -- they have little of value to contribute to discussions about their youngster's education.
The "Parental Role"
Perhaps we can explain "parental role" more clearly if we change the facts to illustrate our point.
Think back to the last time your youngster was sick and you saw a doctor for medical treatment. You provided the doctor or nurse with information about the youngster's symptoms and general health. They asked you for your observations -- because you are more familiar with your youngster.
Good health care providers elicit this kind of information from moms and dads. They do not assume that unless moms and dads have medical training, they have little of value to offer! When health care professionals diagnose and treat kids, they gather information from different sources. Observations of the youngster are an important source of information. The doctor's own medical observations and lab tests are added to the information you provide from your own personal observations.
Do you need to be medically trained before you have any valid or important information to offer the doctor about your youngster's health? Of course not.
Decision-Making: Medical v. Educational
To diagnose a youngster's problem and develop a good treatment plan, doctors need more than subjective observations. Regardless of their skill and experience, in most cases doctors need objective information about the youngster. Information from diagnostic tests provides them with objective information. When medical specialists confront a problem, they gather information -- information from observations by themselves and others and from objective testing.
Special education decision-making is similar to medical decision-making. The principles are the same. Sound educational decision-making includes observations by people who know the youngster well and objective information from various tests and assessments.
In both medical and educational situations, a youngster is having problems that must be correctly identified. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is similar to a medical treatment plan. The IEP includes information about the youngster's present levels of performance on various tests and measures. The IEP also includes information about goals and objectives for the youngster, specifically how educational problems will be addressed. The IEP should also include ways for moms and dads and educators to measure the youngster's progress toward the goals and objectives.
Now, think back to that last time your youngster was sick and needed medical attention. You left the doctor's office with some sort of plan -- and an appointment to return for a follow-up visit. When you returned for the follow-up visit, you were asked more questions about how your youngster was doing -- again, you were asked about your observations. This information helped the doctor decide whether or not your youngster was responding appropriately to treatment. If you advised that your youngster was not responding to the treatment and continued to have problems, then the doctor knew that more diagnostic work was needed and that the treatment plan may need to be changed.
Special education situations are similar to medical situations - except that these decisions are made by a group of people called the IEP Team or IEP Committee. As the parent, you are a member of the IEP team. Before the IEP Team can develop an appropriate plan (IEP) for your youngster, the youngster's problems must be accurately identified and described.
To make an accurate diagnosis, the IEP team will need to gather information from many sources. This information will include subjective observations of the youngster in various environments - including the home environment and the classroom. The information should also include objective testing. Objective testing needs to be done to measure the extent of the youngster's problems and provide benchmarks to measure progress or lack of progress over time.
If your youngster receives special education services, you know that a new educational plan or IEP must be developed for your youngster at least once a year. Why is this?
Kids grow and change rapidly. Their educational needs also change rapidly. In many cases, the IEP needs to be revised more often than once a year. Moms and dads and educators can ask for a meeting to revise the IEP more often than once a year -- and new IEPs can be developed as often as necessary.
The youngster's educational plan, i.e. the IEP, should always include information from objective testing and information provided by people --including the moms and dads and educators -- who observe the youngster frequently.
WHAT SHOULD BE IN MY YOUNGSTER'S IEP?
The IEP should accurately describe your youngster's learning problems and how these problems are going to be dealt with.
Present Levels of Educational Performance
One of the best and clearest ways to describe your youngster's unique problems is to include information from the evaluations. The IEP document should contain a statement of the youngster's present levels of educational performance. If your youngster has reading problems, the IEP should include reading subtest scores. If your youngster has problems in math calculation, the IEP should include the math calculation subtest scores. To help you understand what these scores mean, you should read our article '.
Goals and Objectives
The IEP should also include a statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks and short- term objectives. The goals and objectives should be related to your youngster's needs that result from the disability and should enable your youngster to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum. The goals and objectives should meet other educational needs that result from your youngster's disability.
The IEP goals should focus on reducing or eliminating the youngster's problems. The short term objectives should provide you and the teacher with ways to measure educational progress. Are reading decoding skills being mastered? How do you know this? An IEP should include ways for you and the teacher to objectively measure your youngster's progress or lack of progress (regression) in the special education program.
In our work, we see many IEPs that are not appropriate. These IEPs do not include goals and objectives that are relevant to the youngster's educational problems. In one of our cases, the IEP for a dyslexic youngster with severe problems in reading and writing, included goals to improve his "higher level thinking skills," his "map reading skills" and his "assertiveness" -- but no goals to improve his reading and written language skills. This is a common problem -- IEP goals that sound good but don't address the youngster's real problems in reading, writing or arithmetic.
If you take your youngster to the doctor for a bad cough, you want the cough treated. You won't have much confidence in a doctor who ignores the cough -- and gives you a prescription for ulcer medicine!
Measuring Progress: Subjective Observations and Objective Testing
Let's return to our medical example. Your son John complained that his throat was sore. You see that his throat is red. His skin is hot to the touch. He is sleepy and lethargic. These are your observations.
Based on concerns raised by your subjective observations, you take John to the doctor. After the examination, the doctor will add subjective observations to yours. Objective testing will be done. When John's temperature is measured, it is 104. Preliminary lab work shows that John has an elevated white count. A strep test is positive. These objective tests suggest that John has an infection.
Based on information from subjective observations and objective tests, the doctor develops a treatment plan -- including a course of antibiotics. Later, you and John return -- and you share your ongoing observations with the doctor. John's temperature returned to normal a few days ago. His throat appears normal. These are your subjective observations.
Subjective observations provide valuable information -- but in many cases, they will not provide sufficient evidence that John's infection is gone. After John's doctor makes additional observations -- she may order additional objective testing. Why?
You cannot see disease-causing bacteria. To test for the presence of bacteria, you must do objective testing. Unless you get objective testing, you cannot know if John's infection has dissipated.
By the same token, you will not always know that your youngster is acquiring skills in reading, writing or arithmetic -- unless you get objective testing of these skills.
How will you know if the IEP plan is working? Should you rely on your subjective observations? The teacher's subjective observations? Or should you get additional information from objective testing?
Your Youngster is "Really Making Progress"
We have worked with hundreds of families who were assured that their youngster was "really making progress." Although the moms and dads did not see evidence of this "progress," they placed their trust in the educators. After their youngster was evaluated, these moms and dads were horrified to learn that their suspicions were correct -- and the professional educators were wrong.
In one of our cases, Jay, an eight year old boy with average intelligence, received special education services for two years -- through all of kindergarten and first grade. Jay's moms and dads felt that he was not learning how to read and write like other kids his age. The regular education and special education educators repeatedly assured the moms and dads that Jay was "really making progress." The principal also told the moms and dads that Jay was "really making progress."
After he completed first grade, the moms and dads had Jay tested by a private sector diagnostician. The results of the private testing? Jay's abilities were in the average to above average range. His skills in Reading and Written Language were at the early to mid-Kindergarten level. After two years of special education, Jay had not learned to read or write.
When educators tell you that your youngster is "making progress," that teacher is giving you an opinion based on subjective observations. As you just saw in Jay's case, opinions and subjective observations may not give you accurate information.
If you have questions or concerns about whether your youngster is really making progress, you need to get objective testing of the academic skills areas -- reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling. After you get the results of objective testing, you will know whether or not your youngster is really making progress toward the goals in the IEP.
The IEP: The "Centerpiece" of Special Education Law
The IEP has been called the "centerpiece" of the special education law. As you read through this article, you will learn more about the law -- and the rights that insure that all kids who need special education receive appropriate services. You will read about cases that have been decided around the country. Each of these cases is having an impact on the special education system today -- improving the quality of special education services for all handicapped kids -- including your youngster.
After you learn about the law, regulations and cases, you will know how to write an IEP. If the IEP is written properly, you will be able to measure your youngster's progress.
We said this earlier -- and it bears repeating. If you measure your youngster's progress -- using objective measures -- you will know whether your youngster is actually learning and benefiting from the program. If objective testing shows that your youngster is not learning and progressing as expected, then you know that the educational plan is not appropriate and your youngster is regressing.
If your youngster is not learning and making progress -- with this progress measured objectively -- then the IEP needs to be changed.
It will help you to read this article several times. You should also read our companion article: Understanding Tests and Measurements for the Parent and Advocate. After you understand the information contained in both of these articles, you will be on your way to developing good quality IEPs for your youngster.
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