A sassy, crafty mama bird from Los Angeles
raising a very sweet little girl with Autism
and a new baby boy in the Midwest... and other stuff, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is ASD the right fit?

And the "school sucks" saga continues. Yesterday, I visited one of the two kindergarten-2nd grade ASD classrooms in our school district. I'd been asking to visit this program since October, but was discouraged by the administration because they felt Little Bird would not fit in well.

Very brief catchup for those of you who haven't been following along. As of now, she's only receiving special services under a speech and language certification. Her current placement is in a mildly cognitively impaired classroom with 12 students, 1 teacher, 1 full time para, 1 part time para. We felt this would be the least restrictive environment based on Bird's social engagement and ability to communicate verbally. After a few weeks in the class, it became apparent to me that while the staff serving this program are well trained in cognitive impairment, that's not exactly what we're facing with Bird. In fact, I believe that her sensory needs, inability to attend to task, and her behavior are making this a poor fit for her. I brought up these concerns back in September, but I was assured that it's just transition and that the staff would be consulted by an ASD teacher so that they may better understand how to serve Bird. Well, here we are in fucking January and I'm still not feeling confident when I drop her off. There's a very clear increase in her anxiety (she pees in her pants at school, but NOWHERE else), and there's a regression in her behavior (she's pulling hair and not following along with the claw/teachers). Both of these points were made clear at our last IEP. Here's the IEP debrief.

Because I noticed in her most current IEP that the amount of Occupational Therapy she was receiving was diminished without warning, I'd considered hiring an advocate since I felt I wasn't getting anywhere on my own. But, what made me pick up the phone and go to the woman who is known in the entire state of Michigan as the woman who'll get it done, was the fact that I was told that there was no room in the K-2 ASD class, so they'd place Bird in the 3-5 class (if they found her eligible). Well, the bird is not even 40 pounds, and not violent or very behavioral, so it seems that it wouldn't be appropriate or safe for her to be in a class with kids at least 2 years older than she. When I expressed that sentiment, I was told that the district is not required to place a kid with other kids their age. Nice.

I feel like you should be up to speed now, but if not, just go ahead and read the whole School Sucks saga. So, I saw the classroom for the K-2 ASD program. There are 6 boys in there now (their maximum limit), but there could be a space opening up soon. Yes, the kids seemed to be a bit more affected by ASD than Little Bird. They were largely nonverbal, but I didn't see the behaviors I'd been warned against and certainly no violence like the special services admin described. In fact, when I spoke with the teacher, she said this year is a pretty quiet, calm class. The teacher seemed awesome. She's young, enthusiastic, kinda loud and definitely fun. That's what my bird needs. She's a sensory seeker, so she needs enthusiasm and excitement. I think this teacher would be great for her. Interestingly enough, this kid with the speech and language certification to receive services, might be considered "too verbal" for the ASD class.

I asked that this teacher observe Bird in her current placement and decide whether she believes that her class would be a good fit for my girl. I've requested a formal re-evaluation of Little Bird so that we look into recertification. I believe she should have either an ASD certification or whatever is necessary for her to receive the services that she really needs. While she is currently getting OT, PT, Speech, etc, she's not getting those services from the staff who provide for/have experience with kids with Autism. She's also not getting the ABA-style instruction she needs. When the kids in the CI program are mainstreamed, they go on their own, with no support- no shadow! So, obviously there aren't a lot of things that Bird can be mainstreamed for since she can't sit still or pay attention on her own. The ASD kids mainstream with support. That's a HUGE difference for me. I asked the supervisor of special services if it's required that a student be certified ASD in order to be placed in that program and she said that every student in those programs is certified ASD (not true). I repeated my question: is it a requirement? She said she'd have to ask the director of the program.

It's clear to me that not only am I dealing with bureaucracy, but they're clearly not being completely honest with me. So disappointing since it's Bird who suffers.

At this point, I think I'd like to see Little Bird moved into the ASD program and we'll see how she does there before we either move out of the district and into one where we can get her needs met- truly met- or pull her out and homeschool her.

That's where I stand right now. Still jumping each time the phone rings when she's at school; still feeling like I'm gonna vomit when I'm on my way to pick her up; still feeling like she's being failed by the public school system.

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