Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Big One

Yesterday was the day.  The one I've been preparing for since October.  The one I've been warned about since The Boy's diagnosis.  The mother of all meetings:  The Turning 5.  The first of many meetings with The Committee of Special Education.  The induction into "school age" 5 - 21.   I walked in nervous, but confident since I was with "M" The Boy's teacher and "G" - our EI ABA therapist.  I went in prepared with notes, specific goals and my copies of Part 200 (Student with Disabilities) and Part 201 (Procedural Safeguards for Students with Disabilities Subject to Discipline) and the  Advocates for Children - Turning 5: A Guide to Transition from Preschool Education to Kindergarten.
Didn't matter. 

We arrived at 1pm.  And the meeting started off nicely.  The "Committee" consisted of a Social Worker, a Special Education Teacher,  a Psychologist and a Parent Member .  The Social Worker began by saying we will discuss the needs for The Boy.  The Committee were so impressed by The Boy's cognitive skills they initially thought he was could placed in a typical kindergarten class or a CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching classroom. CTT classes have a mix of students in general education and special education, and each class has two teachers, one with special education certification.)

Then they read the rest of his evaluations and determined: No Way - off to District 75!  They agreed a typical environment would be too overstimulating for The Boy.  He needs a smaller classroom setting.  And his socialization skills hold him back.  Two keys things to remember:  Socialization and Sensory Processing hold The Boy back from progressing. 

That's when I suggested the District 75 school that I toured and believed was the most appropriate.  I stated I called  a few other schools - one didn't have an OT.  The Boy cannot function in a school without an Occupational Therapist on site. 
Psychologist: No - we can't make that recommendation.  The Placement Committee does that.  Once you are placed you will have to call the school and see if they have an OT.
Me: If The Placement Committee recommends a school that isn't appropriate for The Boy, how long will it take before another is recommended?  
Psychologist: I don't know.  (She got up with a piece of paper and ran out of the room.  Ten minutes later she returned.)  Yeah, I don't know.

Me: Well -  don't you have to make a recommendation by the end of June?
Psychologist: Anytime before the end of the year. 

Me: June 15 - appropriate placement needs to be made by June 15th.

Psychologist: That date can be pushed back, we're really backed up.

Moving on...

We proceed to The Boy's related services.  The Psychologist reviewed The Boy's current related services.  She went on to approve the related services he would receive in September: Speech, OT & PT.  

Psychologist: Are you okay with that uh, uh Miss uh...

Me: Lisa.

Psychologist: Sorry - Miss Lisa.  Are you okay with that?
M: The Boy should have 2 group sessions of speech and 1 individual.  He needs the group sessions for socialization.

After a discussion, The Committee actually agreed.  But in the end it had to be changed to 3 individual  sessions because the 'new system' wouldn't approve it 2 group and 1 individual.        
My team  stated that The Boy needed OT to address his multi-sensory needs.  M stated that he NEEDED OT.  M & G agreed that The Boy didn't need PT as much as he needed OT.  Whatever his PT delays are, can be addressed through more OT.  

Me:  Currently he receives outside OT  at a Sensory Gym.  His evaluations reflect that it is a service that needs to be continued.  

Psychologist:  Whatever school he goes to, they will often offer workshops to help the parent deal with the autistic youngster.  

Um...wait?  Workshops?  Who the hell said anything about a workshop.  And wait?  Why does she keep referring to the boy as "autistic"?

Me: He has no sense of danger.  He is easily distracted.  He cannot function without appropriately without OT.  His OT services at a sensory gym need to be continued. 

The Psychologist runs out of the room again.  Returns a few minutes later.   

Psychologist:  Whatever school he goes to, they will determine what his needs are.

Moving on to goals...

This is when the fun really begins!  Apparently, the districts are moving to this 'high tech' computerized system.  So this whole time, the Special Education is sitting at a computer.  What are the Social Worker and Parent Member doing?  Hmmm...oh yeah, that's right - not a god damn thing.  Seriously.

The Special Education Teacher starts reading through The Boy's goals. 

Special Education Teacher: Norrin will demonstrate improved sensory processing in order to be more attentive during school activities.  

What the hell that even mean?
G laughed out loud.  M looked confused. 

M: Did you read through the goals from his last IEP?  Most of those could be carried over. 

The Special Education Teacher asks M to come over and type out goals.  So now, M is sitting at the computer typing out The Boy's goals.  We continue reading through.  But I have goals of my own that I want to add.  And by this time, M has gotten up and the Special Education Teacher is back in the chair typing.  But then she asks me to type in my own goals. 
I start typing.  

Special Education Teacher:  Wow.  You're fast, want to come back next week?  (giggle giggle)

They manage to skim through the rest of the goals.  And the Psychologist, Parent Member, Social Worker and Special Education Teacher clustered around the commuter trying to figure out how to print a copy for a good 15 minutes.  Then the Special Education Teacher and Psychologist start talking in Spanish and I have no idea what they're saying.  
Me: I'd like to leave with a draft copy to review with my husband before I sign off.  

Psychologist: It needs to be finalized now.  Otherwise nothing will happen.  You can read it now and just sign.

Me: No - I'd like a draft copy to review at home.  

We went back and forth for a few minutes.  Did she really think I was that parent to be pressured to sign?    

Psychologist: Okay, take the draft.  But it's final just not really final.  So let your husband read it and just call me up so I can finalize it.  

Home girl wasn't even entertaining the fact that I would have any change to it.  HA!  She's funny.  And I pretty much walked out with my draft copy because it was 3:22 and the Friday before Spring break.  Otherwise, I probably would have been pressured to sign it. 

So after 2 hours, we walked out without an appropriate recommendation for a school placement.  Without the proper support.  Without appropriate goals.  And more importantly without a Behavioral Intervention Plan. The Social Worker stated that we were there to discuss the individual needs of my child.  However the Psychologist had everything written down 

And where was the woman who originally scheduled the meeting?  The one I left 3 voice mails for.  The woman I am certain was the one the Psychologist kept running out of the room to ask. She never showed up.  I saw her as she walked out of the building at 3:35 pm while I standing outside bewildered.

It was a meeting where I heard a lot of "I don't know" which for me translates to "I don't care enough to find out."  And in the real world - where people are held accountable - it doesn't work like that.  If you don't know about something someone is asking you about the correct is: I don't know but I'll find out.

But it's okay.  If they won't find out.  I will.

(I'll revise any mistakes later.  I'm getting worked up about this all over again.)


  1. I feel for you! I had a meeting with the Special Education Committee where I live. My son is just entering school too. I got a call yesterday saying my son needs to be re-diagnosed (he has PDD-NOS) by a Psychiatrist because Quebec is the only province in Canada that will not accept a Psychologist's diagnosis. Want to know the kicker? It was the top Psychiatrist in Ontario at CHEO (children's hospital) who sent us to the Psychologist for a diagnosis in the first place because they were not certain! I am currently chasing my tail to help get my son what he needs. The head of the Special Education Committee had the nerve to say to me "BRING IT!" (Doesn't she sound like a sweet lady?) I replied "Oh, I intend to BRING IT!" I truly feel for you because I get the frustration.

    I wish you all the best! Good luck and I hope you get the outcome you are looking for.

  2. Sat through what I had hoped to be an IEP meeting for my son (then over 4 1/2) who couldn't form ANYTHING written or use scissors at all. Still can't catch or throw a ball and ran like a toddler. Only to find out that his delay isn't significant enough to warrant an IEP and well if we didn't have a 2 year waiting list for our "at risk" preschool, they could help him. This past fall-he was re-evaled (at a private OT center-at our expense) and found to be more than 20 months behind on development!!!! Still, even with 4 months of OT last year. THAT is the reason that he is NOT attending public school! I will fight through the parochial school I formerly taught at and deal with it all myself! I am his momma and will get him what he needs! Best wishes to you as you fight for your son!

  3. I can't believe that these incompetents are the ones who have a say about our children's future. A bunch of laziness and I have to say that the psychologist and other employee speaking in spanish in front of you is totally rude and unprofessional in front of anyone especially a person who doesn't speak spanish I wish they'd do it front of me that I understood it I would've let them have it. You keep advocating and keep fighting for your son don't let the incompetence of the D.O.E. get you down. I have to deal with getting extended services after EI ends in August for my child I'm sure it will be no picnic. We are the advocates for our children no one else.

  4. I seenot much has changed since I went through the Turning 5. I managed to re-address the girls' goals with the SEIT team at the girls' new school. Oh, and I went up the ladder at D75 and got the Psychologist who evaluated my kids fired so she couldn't torture anyone else. Push to keep the outside OT I cannot stress this enough!! One thing I've learned is that OTs are in short supply and come September related services NEVER start on time; and no one tells you unless you bother to ask. Historically my girls don't start getting OT until October if we're lucky....but Speech has always been our bigger issue. The group sessions for speech are actually helpful... But also realize that he's going to be picking up on speech stuff in the course of general classroom instruction. As my friend Kelli said to you, it is a trial by fire. Kick and scream all the way, the squeaky wheel does eventually get the grease.

  5. Wow! That's so frustrating. One thing that bugs me about my son's school is they won't do OT if he has no academic delays. But his sensory issues and social issues cause him academic challenges the prevent him from getting the best grades. I guess they think mediocre grades but not failing grades don't constitute needing OT.

  6. Thanks all!

    It was the most frustrating meeting EVER! A complete waste of time and energy - not to mention a day off. I am amazed at how disconnected some Board of Ed employees are. How do you go into the business of servicing children and then NOT WANT TO SERVICE CHILDREN. Sitting in that room made me realize how broken our system really is. It's very sad. And I feel bad for all those parents who don't speak english, are uneducated or don't have the courage to speak their mind.


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.