Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I amuse you? I make you laugh...?"

I can laugh at almost anything.  I like to joke around and I think I have a good sense of humor.  I'm not even afraid to laugh at myself.  But the other day when I called the New York State Bar Association, I wasn't expecting laughter.  

Since The Boy's Turning 5 meeting is coming up (sometime soon, who knows when) I am trying to find an attorney who will take our case at a reduced rate or (fingers crossed) pro bono.  An attorney at work suggested I call The Bar.  So I did.  This pretty much sums up on conversation.  

Me: Hello.  I'm hoping you may be able to provide some assistance...
(Blah blah blah, summed up my situation.)

Her: That's so funny.  A woman just called yesterday with the same situation.  'Money was no object,' she said.  The school she wants to son to go to costs $43, 000 - what a waste of money. Can you believe that?

Me: Um, yes.  I can believe that, the school I'm applying for is $93, 000 per year--

Her: Why so much money?  They have good public schools for autistic kids.  Such a waste of money...

Oh, I'm sorry - Did I call the Board of Education or The New York Bar Association? But thanks for letting me know your opinion.

Me: There really aren't.  So as I was saying - I'm looking for an attorney who would possibly take my case at a reduced rate  or pro bono.  

And then she laughed. LAUGHED!  Like I was Comedy Central on a Saturday night funny.  

Her: Oh no - we only have one attorney that does Special Education and he charges $450-$500 dollars an hour.  And the the first question he asks the client is 'Do you have the money?' If you don't have it, he won't waste his time. But he's such a great guy, really nice - good attorney if you can afford him.

Really lady?  Cause he sounds like a jerk attorney.  Sorry - I'm still a little bitter. 

Me: So would you be able to refer me to any one else?

Her: HA! You have no money.  No one is going to help you.  You're on your own.

I said thank you before hanging up.  I won't write all expletives I mumbled under my breath.  And then I printed out all the CLE materials on Special Education on the website. While I'm not prepared to give up my search for an attorney I can truly afford, I am prepared to really do it on my own, if I have to. 

I like to believe that parents are the best advocates for their children.  That no matter what a piece of paper says, a parent will know what their child needs.  And I also believe that if a parent has the right tools, knows the law and can articulate the argument - a judge will listen.  I need to believe that.  That when the time comes, the person in authority will take me seriously. 

I also believe that one day I will look back at this and laugh. Or at least, that's what I hope.   

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  1. Thanks for sharing. I applaud your ability to contain yourself. Not sure if I would have had the same control. That aside, you should know that my daughter will be turning 5 in june and I am going through the same process as you. Luckily for me, I have your blog and it's associated links to make the process a bit less daunting and for that I owe you a debt of gratitude. God bless!

  2. Thank you so much Cynthia! The Turning 5 process is crazy and while I know there are people in the Board of Ed who truly want to help - there are those who don't care and/or "doing their job" and complying with the greater powers. I'm glad that I am able to help. I'm fighting just like you!

  3. Oh the road of a special needs mom is a long one, my daughter is turning 19 next week and i have been to more IEP meetings then i care to count, i have hired attorney's, special needs advocates and have also done it myself. but you are right, you will always be the one who has your childs best interests at heart because let's face it at the end of the day it is your child... and not someone "doing their job" good luck... i'm here if you need an ear..
    sending hugs,
    shelley :)

  4. I am so sorry you had that experience, Lisa, but I'm glad you're not giving up. There are some good lawyers out there, no matter what that receptionist said.

    I hired a Special Ed/Disability Rights lawyer last fall because my sons'(public)school was only willing to give them half-day kindergarten and I knew they were entitled to full-day. I called the lawyer and talked to her directly. She had me come in, and gave me a FREE consultation to see if she could help me. If she hadn't been able to, I would have walked away oweing her nothing for her time. She told me exactly what I needed to do on my own and even how to do it! For free! I went ahead and hired her to do it for me because I was so impressed by her integrity, and also, because I wanted to make a strong statement to the school district that I was tired of them jerking me around and that I meant business. She wrote a few letters, sent a few emails and faxes, made a few phone calls, and attended one 2-hour, out-of-town meeting on our behalf. I was sure it would cost us thousands (the retainer alone was $1800), but it was worth it if it doubled my sons' school day. And it did double their school day, just like that. Also, she advocated to get all of the other kids the same services, which they did! The final bill was just under $1100 (I got $700+ back from the original $1800).

    I was stunned. Best money I have spent on autism-rleated stuff BY FAR (and I love that I helped 5 kids for the price of 2!). This was in Portland, Oregon which is not NYC of course, but isn't some little one-horse town either. My point is, there are good ones out there and I think you'll find one. Good luck!

  5. @ Shelley - Thank you so much! It is the never ending road. But it's nice to know that I'm not walking down this road alone.

    @ Erica - Thank you! Wow - that is wonderful that you were able to do that. And your attorney sounds amazing -- there should be more like her.

    I feel like being a special needs parents is all about trial and error. We are so willing to try everything and anything to figure out what works. Thank you all for sharing!


AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.