Posted by Dad
on May 26, 2000 at 11:53:09:
I have come across a situation which is rather disturbing. Before any jump to advise me, please know that I am in the process of finalizing a plan to remediate the problem, and am fully aware of the legal and other implications. I do not intend on allowing it to continue. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
My boy (for those who are not aware) is autistic non-verbal. He attended public school for pre-school, and had a pretty good year, considering he had nearly no individual attention for specific therapies. When he got to spec ed K, the program was sorely lacking in substance, and he actually was showing the first signs of regression. We pulled him last November, and are working at home with him using the Lovaas model of ABA, specifically designed to target autism. He has made good gains so far, and as we add more trainers I anticipate that his progress will increase.
As part of my investigative process, looking forwards towards the almost certain probability of going through the courts, I came across an item which is troubling to say the least. I requested a copy of the second month report, which is a breakdown of all spec ed children, by county who receive services through the schools. It has a variety of other information, including budgetary items, student ratios, etc. What I was looking for was the actual number of autistic kids, which to no surprise to me, was severely undercounted. This report had my county down as have 2 autistic kids, although there were 2 in my boy’s class alone, and 3 others that I personally know. So right away there is some sort of conflict between actual and reported information. I inquired with the spec ed director about this, and she told me she didn’t know how many autistic kids were in the county (she had just accepted the position last fall). After a (thorough?) head count, she came up with a count of 12, all under the age of 10. She had no explanation as to why there were none older. I suspect, that after 7 years of inappropriate services offered, the older kids are probably placed into private programs, more than likely residential.
So the other night, I was doing an assessment with the county psychologist, and this subject came up. I commented that my boy was part of that count, and I didn’t understand why all those other kids were mislabeled. Then the psych said quietly, “your son wasn’t one of the autistic kids reported”. I looked at her incredulously and she said “he is listed under MI (mentally impaired). When my boy was in the preschool, the schools didn’t label him, and instead had us take him to the Klingberg center at WVU. They diagnosed him as autistic non verbal, with mild MR. Autism was his primary dx.
The schools ignored the recommendations for direct 1:1 behavioral intervention (like ABA) that Klingberg offered, and drew up an empty IEP, which we refused to sign, and continued to contest. They wanted a second opinion, so we took him to Children’s Hospital in Columbus OH, which is another very good PDD center. Their evaluation mirrored Klingberg’s and the recommendations were even more specific, calling for the Lovaas model as the most appropriate treatment, coupled with the speech & ot therapies (we get ours thru Easter Seals). In fact, the good Dr. commented that he saw nothing wrong with the Klingberg report, and couldn’t understand why the schools wanted a second evaluation. (The reason will be more clear down this page).
We pulled our boy from their crappy program, which served more to make him frustrated than to break his silence and isolation. Now we are dancing with the new spec ed director in an effort to get the schools to incorporate ABA as an in-house method to work with children with autism and similar afflictions. So when the psyche said he was listed as MI and not AU, despite 2 QUALIFIED evaluations by Drs. Fully versed in PDD, I couldn’t understand why. Now we get to the fun part.
She told me that the county didn’t have anyone certified to work with autistic kids. I countered with it’s time to do a little recruiting. She said they have tried, but at what our state pays, coupled with the fact that the colleges which crank teachers out like lemmings to the cliff not offering courses in this field, has left my county (and all the other counties in the state) short on this one. Of course, this is no excuse for failure to provide FAPE, and the schools know this! (Can you see where this is headed yet?)
So-o-o-o-o-o, in order to remain in compliance, the schools have placed my boy under the heading MI, for which they do have fully certified staff. It is an effort, not to decide upon most appropriate methods of therapy for the child, but to avoid the potential of lawsuit by failing to provide FAPE. It neatens up the paperwork. It keeps the state from coming in, and taking control of the spec ed program. And, for the personnel who work with these kids, for whom autism is a complete mystery and more than a little frightening, it allows them to address these kids under a more familiar heading.
The IEP represents a contract between the state and the family, specifically addressing the types, quality and quantity of services to be provided. The Feds have mandated this. The State has regs and policies to address this. The Courts have recognized the legality of this contract, and often it is this very document that makes or breaks a Due Process proceeding against the system. So, what better way to beat this, than to ensure that the IEP is appropriate? And what better way to guarantee that the services are appropriate, than to change the classification of the student from one heading (like AU) for which the county is unprepared to provide to one which they are able to?
I can tell you this. If you were negotiating for any other kind of service outside of education, they would label this type of action fraud. I can also tell you this. Win, lose or draw in regards to my efforts to work with the schools, bullshit maneuvering like this are going to stop. You can take that to the bank.