Wednesday, April 28, 2010

and all to be able to sit in a classroom

So. My apologies to those of you who are getting a double dose of this saga through my facebook status updates and then now through my blog posts (which will eventually also make their way to my facebook page). I just feel the compulsive need to summarize the whole ordeal in one place. So here we are.

I've talked about the ordeal of figuring out placement for Samuel in school next year and how difficult of a decision that will be. I have already been in turmoil about it for months now. He doesn't really seem to "fit" anywhere - there is no "ideal" placement. But next week I will meet with his IEP team (normally his teacher, speech therapist, principal, a representative general education teacher, and me) to discuss and make a decision. So, to be able to have my own opinion to contribute, I have felt (and also been advised by others) to go in and observe Samuel in his class and also observe a general ed kindergarten to get an idea of how he is doing, behaving, participating, interacting, and be able to compare that with how a typical "mainstream" kindergartner is behaving, participating and interacting. This seems reasonable, right?? I thought so.

Franky, I dreaded doing it. First because it is always uncomfortable to arrange for these things and go do it. And I have to find babysitters for Elisabeth - which is stressful for me. But I geared myself up for it and asked his teacher if I could do this.

She wrote back and said the principal wasn't comfortable with me observing another class, because of confidentiality and ethical reasons. So. I called the principal to see what the school policy on observing classrooms is. I then called the Special Ed Dept of the school district - who referred me to the Student Services dept - who referred me to somebody else - who referred me to someone else. I don't even remember everyone I talked to. But between secretaries, and voice mails, and phone tags, and transferring my call to someone else, and waiting for return calls etc etc., it had taken me an entire morning and I had talked to at least 6 separate people. And have I mentioned how much I really really hate making phone calls?!? I really. truly. hate. making phone calls. So all this stuff just isn't easy for me.

Anyway - I was finally told that there is nothing that would prevent me from going in to observe a regular ed class. I was also told, as I asked in passing, that I should be able to observe my own child in his sp ed class, even though there are confidentiality requirements. So then. More phone calls to the principal to finally arrange a time for me to go into a mainstream class.

This morning I wrote a note asking Samuel's teacher when I could come observe him in his own class. She wrote back saying the principal said I can't do that - and that the special ed district people supported that decision. HUH!?! I can't go observe my own child in his class?!? What the heck?!?

So, I called the principal again, practically in tears because I am so shocked that they are telling me I can't do this. She said because it's special ed and these kids have IEP's, I can't go in and just watch. I can go in and help with a party, for instance, but not just watch. Ummmmmm . . .
But she said she'd call the district again.

And I called my neighbor who is highly involved in state special ed stuff and she told me that's ridiculous.

And the principal called me back and said that they would like to "recommend" that I go in and help as a teacher's helper and not just sit and watch which "might make the kids uncomfortable." I mentioned that it would be really difficult for me to watch my child and take notes on what he's doing if I'm "helping." But, she didn't really comment on that. And then she said they would also like to have someone else (such as herself) come in with me and explain things to me as we observe. My thought was "wouldn't it be more distracting to have someone talking to me during their class time rather than just have me watch silently by myself?" But I felt like I had made enough objections already and I was feeling like I was putting up a big stink already, so I let that point slide. Bottom line is, I can do it after all.

And I just sort of wondered, wouldn't it have avoided a lot of confrontation if she had checked with the district when I asked, before telling me no, if she wasn't completely sure, instead of telling me flat out "that can't be done" when that clearly wasn't the case?? It makes me angry that I had to put up such a fight to be able to do something that really shouldn't have been an issue in the first place.

She also gave me a long lecture on confidentiality and that if she lets me do this, it also means the other parents would have the same right and I need to know that other parents might be seeing my child, too. Well, duh! I just told her that I would assume that's a given that any parent would be allowed in the classroom at any time. I understand there is confidentiality, esp with IEP's. I guess some parents wouldn't want anyone else to know their child is receiving special education services or something. I really don't know. But, seriously? As a parent, I just cannot even fathom being told I can't come in and watch what is happening in the class. I know it's a little awkward and might be distracting. But it just needs to be an option. Always.

And then she said she needed to remind me that placement is a team decision anyway and not just mine, which I felt to be a little offensive. It is my understanding that it is still my prerogative at any point to refuse services, or to disagree, or that my opinion really matters in these decision meetings. And if I am to have anything to contribute to the discussion then I need to know what's happening in the class. I need to be able to see for myself and form my own opinion. Doesn't that seem reasonable??

Anyway - that's it. I guess I'm done now. I'll write more after I actually go in and observe, of course while maintaining the confidentiality of any other students (don't attack me on that point, please). I just really don't do well with this kind of thing. Confrontation makes me shake and cry, actually. So it's been a difficult ordeal.
Oh well.
Thanks for listening. I feel better now.


Colleen said...

Ugh, gotta love red tape! What a pain!

Jennifer said...

Holy cow! That is so crazy. I thought visiting your child's class was a given. How are they expecting you to make and informed decision as part of his IEP team if you are kept out of the classrooms? I am so sorry. I am getting angry just thinking about it. Ooooh, grrrr. Good luck with it all. Deep breathes.

Megan said...

This makes me angry too! The fact that they didn't check before telling you no in the beginning, just makes me think they are lazy and don't want to make any extra effort. You would think they'd be happy that a parent cared so much about their child that they would welcome you with open arms. Just weird overall. I feel for you Kristen, but I admire you as well for not accepting no as an answer. Good luck with it all!

Tricia F said...

wow Kristen! i can't imagine having to go through all of that. Samuel has no idea how much he is loved!

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