Monday, January 28, 2013

What I Have Been Doing: Part 1

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I have been absent from blogging for the past few weeks. Here are the reasons why.
After Sandy Hook, I posted this on Dec. 26th. My Random Guy was the target of a bully after this tragedy and I still don't know if I should be blogging about him anymore. He's thinking about it and I will respect his wishes.
Also after returning from winter break, which all special needs parents know is quite consuming of any spare time, I had a bomb dropped on me, figuratively speaking.
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 At the Special Education Advisory Council meeting on the 11th of this month they announced that they were going to shrink or eliminate my Sensi's elementary autism program from the school it is in and there are no plans to move the program anywhere else.
The plan was to move each child into their own busing zones around town and provide for their special education needs at a designated special education site in each zone. There will only be 1-2 Special Education classrooms at each site.
This was not acceptable to me. I had already dealt with this issue and wrote about it here: writing-effective-e-mail-to-school
I was left despairing about what I was going to do to get Sensi an appropriate education. I started researching other schools. I looked outside the district, looked at magnet and charter schools. I considered private schools, but I didn't know of any appropriate ones at the time.
Statewide open enrollment ended on Jan. 15. I had three days to find a back up plan for my daughter if what they are planning for her schooling is to come true. I talked to several school districts and enrolled her in a program about 20 min. away from our home. Open Enrollment in Minnesota means that you are considered for a spot in a school if they have room after serving all of the students they already have in the district. So there is a shot for Sensi to get into the other school, but no guarantee. 
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 We also needed to do something to fix the disastrous zoning plan for Special Education. Another parent contacted me after the meeting and we started to rally the other parents and put together an action plan. Sensi's teacher provided us with some great points to make about what makes this ASD program special and we put together a sheet of talking points. Two of the parents went to the School Information Fair that following weekend and sought out the School Board Directors to discuss this poorly planned change. The feedback we got was that face to face contact with the board directors made a difference.
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 The parents met the Saturday before the School Board meeting and discussed our plan and what we were going to say. We agreed on what we are asking from the district and what we are willing to concede, (honestly, not much.) The school is a model for a successful autism program, the only way they could improve it would be to expand it, not shrink it into oblivion.  We also discussed how the public comment part of the meeting works so everyone would know what to expect and reviewed the things to keep in mind while talking; be firm but respectful and be gracious but make sure you are heard. Say something personal about your own child, but don't talk about other children without that parent's permission. Keep to the topic about what makes our school great, and don't trash other programs specifically.  Even though the other programs are not acceptable to us, make sure they know ALL of the kids in the district deserve an exemplary program like ours.
I'll write more about what happened at the school board meeting in part II. 
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  1. I cannot believe in the middle of the school year, the district did this to Sensi and the other children!! This is unbelievable! So sorry to hear it. I'm glad you united with the other parents to express yourselves. I cannot imagine how I would feel trying to get Toots settled in a new setting, without knowing where, or having much time to get him adjusted to a new routine, knowing how important routine is to our kids. Outlandish, to say the least! I hope to hear some positive things came out of the meeting!

  2. If they change things the kids don't have to move schools until next fall, but as you know it takes a long time to prepare a kid with autism for change. I am supposed to hear something in the next week or so. We have another meeting to organize before the next special ed, "strong schools, strong communities" meeting. Thanks for your support.

  3. Wow Lori, sorry to hear what's been going on, that's so tough! It sounds like you have a great group of parents working together though, I really do hope that you can make progress to a happy outcome.