Friday, January 16, 2009

Only Human

One of the more pleasant surprises about our move to this area (just over a year ago now) has been our school district. We knew we were moving into a booming area, pre-housing bubble collapse, and into a school district with a good reputation and fast growth.

Still, we were concerned about Boo. He has more than benefitted from the early intervention services he received; in fact, it is fair to say he would not be the kid he is today without the years of therapy and special ed preschool and floortime programs that our tax dollars paid for. The gold standard of services, however, appeared to end at kindergarten.

What Boo's educational future would look like post early intervention became a bone of contention between us and the Powers That Be in our former school district, an uber-competitive, cut-throat environment where disabilities were still considered to be taboo. Their recommendation was to lock Boo in the equivalent of an educational straitjacket; we wanted him to have a chance with his peers, to be part of an integrated classroom. Anticipating lawyers and lots of money (neither of which we had), a job change for The Dean came up, moving us elsewhere and placing Boo in just such an integrated classroom. The result was him doing so well that The New Powers-That-Be deemed him not autistic enough for services.

Still, we're lucky - lucky enough to be able to pay for the therapies he is getting out of pocket, lucky that he's had wonderful teachers who "get" him, lucky that this school seems to be working. Still, there's always that lingering doubt, that what if next year is different, what if he regresses, what if he needs a different school environment for his needs? Then what? A diagnosis here certainly gets you a placement all right - it just so happens to be on a mandatory THIS PERSON HAS A DISABILITY state registry akin to those for sex offenders. (I'm not kidding.)

Today, in our local paper, there was an article saying that four charter schools had been invited to be considered to move forward. Among the four was a special education school. According to the story

[T]he school would have offered individualized instruction and innovative
programs to children and adults with learning disabilities. [T]eachers
would have used experiential learning and the arts to teach children with
learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

Sounds promising, right? Well, there's always next year because for school year 2009-10, this special education school doesn't have a chance. Why? The application was "incomplete," with 3 pages of a 24-page budget accidentally forgotten. Two years of work down the drain.

I know a little something about writing and preparing grant applications. It's a labor-intensive process and the guidelines are often ridiculous (there have been proposals I've submitted that required 12 separate copies of a 50 page application). Yes, the school representatives should have checked their work and double-checked and triple-checked to make sure they had dotted their i's and crossed their t's. You could argue that if those responsible for collating a proposal can't manage that, they have no business educating kids with disabilities.

And that's where you and I would part company. Because as a parent of a child who could potentially need such a charter school, I would have been comforted knowing such an option existed in a state where it's possible to become less autistic simply by crossing the state line. In a state with a reputation for less-than-stellar public education.

In a state that could have had the chance to provide children with disabilities with what might have been their only special education option, rather than penalizing them - and their teachers - for only being human.


Niksmom said...

I saw this article, too. I figure it'll never get off the ground b/c whatever district it would be in, the priciples of other schools in the district would fight tooth & nail to squash it; it would take their per capita federal dollars away.

Of course, I'd *love* to see such a school exist. Maybe then I wouldn't home school, who knows. But how to staff it when there's already a *gross* shortage of therapists —especially SLP's. My son's old school lost their SLP around teh same time we pulled him from school; it took them more than a year to fill the position —with an outside contractor!

I'm very grateful for his other diagnoses which allow us to receive services covered by insurance. Our tiney state needs a school like that charter.

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

Niksmom, I was hoping you would comment on this. :) You're probably correct about the principals squashing it - and who knows, maybe that played a role in the school not being eligible.

It's just maddening ... in so many ways.