Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tranquil Thursday: Koi Pond

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Koi in the Japanese Garden 
by JazzyKris, Sep 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Transitioning into Middle School - Failure

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Transitioning your special needs kid to Middle School is a daunting task. Having no way to make it successful, I was left searching for a new plan. I had tried to get my son ready for the transition to Middle School far ahead of time. We worked on it with his therapist and his social worker at his elementary school. No amount of preparation could have saved us from the result of poor planning by the school district, lack of a coherent bullying policy and lack of professionalism. The following is from my on-going notes documenting his transition to Middle School.

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I should have had an idea of what was to come when I tried and tried to get a representative from the middle school to attend  the IEP meeting in the Spring before the transition for planning purposes.
After my insistence, we finally got a middle school staffer to attend, but I was not able to get Random's schedule of classes before summer started. It is documented in his IEP that he needs to have a written schedule for him to refer to so he can feel secure in knowing what is going to happen and therefore reduce anxiety. We did take a preliminary tour and got a map of the school before summer break.
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I called the school once teachers returned from summer vacation; we needed Random's schedule, to take the tours and get his locker as planned.  When I reached the school to complete these steps with my middle school contact, I was told she had left the school. In fact, the SERC,(Special Education Resource Coordinator,) social worker, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) case manager and principal were replaced and/or new to the school. I worked for two weeks before the start of school to get all transition pieces in place. I asked for tours to go over where he would be when, (hard to do without a schedule,) and a locker assignment with a lock to practice on so he would be comfortable going to his locker when all the other kids were swirling around him. I requested a five minute pass as many other special education parents suggested. I also tried to get Random his homework help as outlined in his IEP too.
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I was asked by the new SERC what was more important to me, social or academic development? She told me I would have to choose. I was also told that there was a problem with the scheduling "algorithm" and that all the student schedules were having to be done by hand. (I didn't really believe that.) I was not able to get follow through on even one part of a transition plan until the last work day before school started when I was told Random could be in the Transitions class first hour of each day. So he knew he where he was supposed to go for the first hour of the first day. That was all I got from them for proactive planning and transitioning. I asked for 5 minute pass for Random as he was having anxiety about his lock on his locker. Our request was deferred, we were told he would have to show a need for it by being late.
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As much as I tried to get Random's schedule, he did not get his class assignments until halfway through the school day on first day of school. Needless to say Random didn't attend school that day. Apparently they re-ran the scheduling program and were able to get the kids and teachers the necessary information they needed to go about their day, by the second day of school.
There is no homework help on his schedule, even though it is written in his IEP. He will have to show he needs more academic help by getting a D or worse in his classes. I was informed that it would be addressed by the time we would have parent/teacher conferences. Instead, he has what is called Transitions class, this is his only option for some extra help. Essentially it is a smaller first hour class to help get him organized for the school day. 
Random attended school Wednesday without any incident. Thursday he was bullied in science class. I reported it to school the next morning, when Random tells me what was said to him in class. Random attends school Friday, he's bullied again, this time by multiple kids in multiple classes. I get call back from science teacher apologizing for the bullying in her classroom. She says she will keep an eye out for Random from now on. Random has anxiety so severe he cannot attend school on Monday. That is when he reports to us the bullying that happened on Friday.

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I go to school with Random the following Tuesday to devise a plan to keep Random safe from bullying during the school day. I ask to meet with the Social worker, she cannot be found or contacted, I wait. The SERC is in a meeting and is not available. The speech/language specialist arrives to help me find the social worker. The speech teacher said the thinks the social worker has a walkie-talkie so they can contact her. (I find out later that the social worker does have a walkie-talkie, but she leaves it on her desk, because she doesn't want to carry it around with her.) 

Once we found the social worker we all sat down in her office and I explained we are moving Random to K-12 on-line school  and will need discuss transition and IEP hand over before the move. We then start to discuss the the bullying and I am questioned, "Which classes are the problem?" I reply that all classes are the problem except Transitions, due to it being a Special Education class. Also, his Transitions teacher is supposed to be his case manager as she is a designated ASD teacher. The social worker still doesn't know definitively by the second week of school who his assigned case manager is, and that it needs to be a designated ASD teacher.

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I convey that it is the utmost importance that my child is kept safe from bullies. I am told by the social worker, “He's not in any danger of being shot or stabbed, the kids might use words...” I pointed out that was not acceptable, as bullying can be bad enough for children to harm themselves.
We agreed there would be another staff member in each of the day's remaining classes to observe. Teachers would then be instructed as to how to reduce opportunities for bullying based on the day's observation.
Also I requested the 5 minute pass again, and was told that it shouldn't be a problem, although he still didn't received one. I requested the pass a third time the following week. Finally, teachers were notified by the social worker that Random gets to leave class 5 minutes early, and a permanent pass was put in his planner.

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I had a chance to talk with the principal when she called back my husband from his complaint call.  I reported the shot or stabbed comment. The principal told me the bully had been identified to staff by my son, and the student was talked to. She said there was "...resolution to the problem, now that the first layer of intervention was completed." I was told by the social worker that the principal had told her that there was no more action needed by her. I do not agree with that assessment.

I talked to the social worker on Wednesday and was told that there was little or no peer interaction seen during the observations. I was told that there is an education assistant in his 7th hour class for an extra set of eyes for social interactions. The solution suggested for now is to have the teachers write a comment each day as to how things went, essentially a parent/teacher communication book. The social worker then focused on homework workload, and told me that there would be no homework for reading and math classes, no homework from his first hour class either. I was to check the organizer/notebook for any other homework assignments. Teachers would be instructed in using the communication notebook. As of a week after this apparent instruction, I have seen one comment in his organizer/notebook: " Good Day!" followed by the teacher's name. This is the school's idea of homework help.

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One bright spot in all of this was being contacted by the social worker from Random's elementary school to ask how Random was doing in his transition. I explained it was not going well. She offered to be a resource for middle school since she is familiar with Random and to help them get to know him better. I shared her contact information with the middle school social worker.  I will also use her as a resource for his transition to K-12, as the staff in the middle school have no clue as to how to help Random through a transition.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013