Saturday, September 05, 2009

Ever so grateful!

Realizing that I was raging wildly in my last post about our school district and the fact that they had "ignored" our warnings as to where Jennica was headed in Kindergarten (self-implosion), I just want to clarify that, "No, I am not schizophrenic!" I promise. But with that said, this post is going to be a huge about-face from my last post.

I LOVE OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT!!!!! I'm shouting it from the rooftops! I LOVE OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT!!!

First of all, if you are not the parent of a special needs child or work closely in the field of special needs children, you need to understand that when special-needs parents talk, conversation is almost always negative-negative-negative about school districts. You hear a lot of-- "Our school won't give us this support or that support." and, "I have to spend a TON of time at the school nagging to make sure that this or that is actually being done for my child." and, "I hate IEP meetings." and............a lot worse. Special needs parents generally have a lot of pent-up anger and frustration towards their school district. For this exact reason, a good percentage of special needs children (especially those with ongoing dietary and bio-medical interventions) choose to home school. In my opinion, there are parents that do a great job of home-schooling, and there are parents that don't do a good job of home-schooling. There are children that do well in that situation, and there are children that don't. In our case, I am adamant (at this point anyway), that Jennica's SPD would worsen if she were in a home-schooling environment. Maybe I'll focus a post on that another day, but for now, she NEEDS to be in the exact environment that stresses her, but WITH the supports that will allow her to slowly develop the coping mechanisms she will need to be a fully-functioning member of society.

In my last post, I was pretty ticked. I thought we had done a pretty good job of "warning" them about where we were headed, and I was beyond-annoyed that my daughter had to put herself into a safety-risk situation to get their attention. However, in their defense, even professionals that specialize in SPD refer to it as "the invisible disability," so..............I'm going to acknowledge that it is hard, from a school standpoint, to look at a child that is in non-sensory-meltdown-mode, obviously fully capable of excellent speech and communication skills, obviously walking/talking/running/jumping/playing/learning just like the other kids, and be able to mentally justify the expenditure that the parent is telling you is necessary. I'm stepping back, being objective for a moment, and once again admitting that we must look like the nutty parents some days. "So.........tell me again..........exactly WHAT is wrong with your child? She looks pretty darn normal to me!!"

Now, here's where I get to the cool part. In the 5 hours that followed the end of the school day on Thursday, our school district came over to our side. They took several needed steps, and without the hand-wringing and time-consuming hmming and haaaaing about where the funding was going to come from, ya da ya da ya da. Jennica spent Friday with a 1:1 paraeducator. No time wasted there. It was needed to ensure her it was done. Period. And it bought a little time to get everyone sat down and determine a course of action.

So.......we met with the principal, our kindergarten teacher, and our school psych yesterday. First, we were told in no uncertain words that our child WILL have better supervision from this day forward. Period. Second, they had already identified several specific portions of the day that seem to be causing her some obvious stress due to the level of sensory input (our cafeteria, for starters, is an acoustic nightmare. Even I hate our cafeteria and I only go in there on rare occasions to make a deposit to our kid's lunch accounts. The person that put those squeakly stools in there should be shot!) and they wanted our input on how to best find some solutions. They already had some ideas, but wanted verification that we were okay with their solution and that it could be put in place by the time she returns to school next week. They are going to have to juggle a staff lunch period to pull it off, and they just wanted time to notify staff. We're good to go. Third, they are ordering some specialty items for Jen regarding keeping her from wandering too far again, and wanted to make sure we were okay with that. Again, we're good to go. Fourth, they wanted to start the process to make some PERMANENT changes for Jennica, and get her some better support on the longer-term. There is a federally-mandated process to put the wheels in motion, and they wanted to get the clock started so that no more time is wasted.

And, keep in mind, this was a meeting after school hours on a Friday afternoon. Not once during this meeting, did I feel like our principal was annoyed or irritated to be there. Not once did I feel like our parental input was not valued or taken seriously. And not once did I feel like our daughter's needs were not being given utmost priority. They were gracious..........they were compassionate......and they were genuinely engaged in finding solutions. We're going to have an IEP and a paraeducator in place in a very timely manner. And its going to address Jennica's true needs. Not just be some piece of mumbo-jumbo that they're required to complete. And they openly acknowledged that Mike and I are both intelligent adults and it has literally taken us almost a year of intensive work with an OT specialist to develop the level of understanding we have of Jennica's specific brand of SPD--which is going to make training a paraeducator for this specific child's needs a challenge. Its going to be a crucial factor that we not have to re-train a new para on a weekly or monthly basis, and that the para is truly engaged in being with this child. Some paras do great with physical disabilities that require wheelchairs and sign language......some not so much. We need someone that is ready to be mentally-challenged by a very smart child with an invisible, but very REAL, disability. Someone that is willing to constantly be looking for the reason behind the behaviors......

I LOVE OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT!!! I wish that we could avoided this whole thing without the safety risk, but I have to give them credit--they have responded valiantly. I think we're all on the same train and headed in the right direction now! :)

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