"So Frequently we mistakenly believe that our children need more things, when in reality their silent pleadings are simply for more of our time."
***President Thomas S. Monson (Ensign May 1994)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nothing Is Ever Simple Around Here................

Just to warn you, this is a long lengthy rant, but I just have to post it.

Last Monday morning, Chad and I went to an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting for Noah. It was with the elementary school that he'll be starting at next fall. Chad and I were there, the principal, the school's speech therapist, the kindergarten teacher and his CDS (Child Development Services) case manager. We felt like his speech therapist that he sees now should be there, but they assured us that she didn't need to come. They have these meetings to decided what kind of services the school will provide for him for speech, since CDS can't work with him once he starts school. We should have walked away from it with a clear cut plan for next fall; for example, he'll see the speech therapist 3 times a week for 1/2 hour. It would be determined by whatever they felt he needed and what the school could provide.

I knew we were really going to have to fight for Noah, because most schools feel that an articulation disorder, even a severe one like Noah has, is not going to affect them in the classroom. In other words, they'll still be able to learn and function ok in school. Since they feel that way, they won't provide services or offer very little. Noah needs these services, though, and everyone that's worked with him knows that his articulation disorder would affect him in the classroom. He sees his speech therapist right now, 3 times a week. CDS covers 2 of those sessions and our insurance covers the 3rd. The only reason CDS didn't cover all 3 is because they can only offer 2 hours/week. So, we knew that our CDS case manager would back us up on this, too. We were prepared for this meeting and knew what to expect and what to ask for.

However, we were not prepared for the meeting we had. Our CDS case manager had a family emergency and wasn't able to be there, so another manger was there to represent Noah. She'd never met Noah before and could only give the reports that were in his file. Chad and I sat in a meeting where 4 complete strangers, who had never even seen Noah before, decided what kind of services he needed. It just doesn't make sense. That might have gone ok, if they had listened to us as his parents, or even looked at the reports from his speech therapist, but they did none of that. As soon as the principal heard that he was being seen for articulation and nothing else, his whole attitude changed. From what I saw, the meeting was over at that point, even though it continued for 10 minutes more. They assigned Noah to a Diagnostic stage. We were told that they would evaluate him for a month or so, we'd have another meeting and then he would be offered services and get started after that. I was mad, but I also knew that I wasn't going to get anywhere in that meeting AND that I have the right to a second meeting, which the principal reminded us of when we left. I've never sat in a meeting for one of my children and felt like my opinion matter less. It was very upsetting.

I talked things over with Noah's speech therapist and then called the school's speech therapist, who sets up the IEP meetings. I asked for a second meeting. She asked why and I explained that I didn't feel Noah was well represented and I wanted his current speech therapist there and his case manager from CDS. Her answer, "we can definitely do that, but I don't see how it's going to change anything". I was livid! I really was. She got an ear full from me. I tried hard to control my anger, but I know that she got the brunt of my frustration. She told me that she would discuss it with the principal and that either she or the principal would call me back. I knew it would be the principal and it was. I wasn't there when he called, but he left a long lengthy message (voice mail cut it off, it was so long) about how the school system's special services works and how they have to prove that Noah's articulation disorder will have an adverse affect on him in the classroom and the only way that they could know if that's true is if they see those affects for themselves! He never mentioned another meeting at all. He told me he'd be willing to talk it over and explain things to me, but no mention of the meeting that is MY RIGHT!

I understand where they're coming from and I understand that they have their own rules to follow, but what bothers me, is that they are not willing to discuss where Noah is at with the people who have been working with him. If they would talk with his speech therapist, his case manager and the other CDS workers that have worked with Noah, they would be told over and over that his speech will adversely affect him These people are professionals, they get paid to do this, but the principal won't even meet with them???? He's only willing to put Noah in the diagnostic stage. That might not sound too bad, so I'll explain my objection to that.

According to them, it will take 3-4 weeks to complete the evaluation of Noah, then they set up another meeting to decide what they'll offer him and then he'll start his speech therapy. So Noah would be at least 3 months into school before they even start any services and knowing Noah and how reserved he is with new situations, it will take them another month before the speech sessions are really doing any good. 4 months into school before he's seeing any benefit is not ok with me, especially considering that there are professionals that have been working with Noah for almost 10 months now that could tell them exactly what they need to know and we could skip the evaluation time and he could start services on the first day of school! I understand what they need to know about Noah, I just don't understand why they won't accept the information that's right in front of them.

So, I went back to Noah's case manager and found that she was equally as frustrated. (through other means, I found out that the entire CDS office was fuming over our EIP meeting and the principal) Anyway, she said that she'd call the school's speech therapist and work on getting the 2nd meeting, which she did. She called me back and told me that it really sounded like it was the principal and not the therapist. I wasn't surprised. I haven't heard great things about him. Our case manager and the therapist decided that they would go directly to the school district's superintendent of special services and get the meeting with him. I felt better, not great, but better.

A few days later, I got a phone call from the superintendent himself. He told me that he had talked to the school's therapist and she had explained about the meeting and how things were going. Unfortunately, her version of things was not very accurate. She told him that we were told that Noah would start receiving services on day one of school and that while doing that, they would evaluate him, not true! He also told me that they based their decision on the fact that there was no speech/language evaluation in the file that they were given in the meeting, also, not true. They wouldn't have known if there was an evaluation in the file, because they never asked for one. They only looked in the file to see that he was an articulation student.

The superintendent tried to explain to me that that's what they meant by putting him in the diagnostic stage. That's ridiculous! What they told me in the meeting and what they told the superintendent were two completely different things. If they had told me in the meeting that they needed a current evaluation, I would have told them that I'd get it for them. If they had told me that he would start services the first day of school, I would have signed paperwork to agree to it. Once again, I was mad. I explained to him that I didn't want them to spend the first month of school evaluating him and why. He told me that if I'd drop off a copy of the paperwork from Noah's therapist then he'd set up services.

I went to Noah's speech therapist and told her what he'd said. She's worked with several different school districts in the area and knew what the schools needed. We used one of Noah's speech sessions to complete the testing so that they would know exactly where Noah was right now. I took a copy of that paperwork and dropped it off at the superintendent's office. In a quite condescending manner, he told me that's not what he wanted and that if I'd just give him permission, he'd talk to our speech therapist himself. So I gave him my permission. And we wasted another one of Noah's speech therapy appointments to do language testing, even though, it's already been established that Noah doesn't need help with language.

So, here I am, waiting to hear from them yet again. I've done everything I'm suppose to do and then some, but yet, I don't feel any better about things. Although I do think that they'll offer Noah services (given the testing, how could they not), I don't think they'll offer him what he really needs. I think they'll give him the very least that they can. If that is what it comes down to, then we feel that we'll have to keep him in private therapy, too. That means he'll have to leave school early at least once or twice a week so that we can take him to Portland for his speech therapy. Doesn't that have an adverse affect on him in the classroom???? It's ridiculous! I'm frustrated beyond words that something that should have been so simple has turned into such an ordeal. I'm hoping that they will surprise me and put Noah's needs first, but I'm not holding me breath.


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