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Posted by Dad on November 08, 2000 at 00:11:35:

For those of you who do not know or perhaps remember, we had pulled my boy from the public schools last Nov to homeschool, starting the Lovaas in Feb. We have been dancing with the sped dir. since, on getting an ABA program started in house, so that 1) the district would pay for what is in essence their obligation to educate my boy using appropriate techniques, and B) the other children in the district who would also benefit from this can also have the opportunity to do so, without relying upon their parents to fight the hard fight, get all the necess. info, and have the financial and emotional resources needed to do this on their own.

Part of our decision to do so was our unease, not just with the program offering, but with my boy's growing unwillingness to go to school. When he was in the preschool program, he was very eager to go to school, champing at the bit to go down for the bus long before it was time to go. This change when he went to the sped program at our local school. It really came to a head in my mind, when after we had pulled him from school entirely, and my wife had occasion to visit the school (for a completely unrelated matter, we have a daughter their, then in first grade) with my boy in tow, he began to fight her as she tried to go in. As she related it to me, he began to smack his arm, and his head, and kept saying "no, no, bad, bad". It took her several minutes to get him calmed down somewhat, but he continued to do this, even when she did not take him to the former classroom, but to the office instead. The secretary and principal both saw him doing this, although neither commented at the time. I only wish I had been there, as I would have commented to them about it, something like "bad memories about this place, huh?" (I care little what anyone's opinion of me is, and it allows me a great deal of freedom to point out things like this.)

We have not lost touch with people in the school, either parents of some of the other sped students, or some of the staff there. We had commented several times on how they leave the door open to the sped room at all times, and the danger that it presented for our boy in particular (he is a runner, although he is getting much better about it). We never did get a satisfactory answer as to why this was. Now, perhaps, we have a hint towards the reason.

Two of the other parents have recently gone to the Principal, and have really had it out with her about the sped teacher. It seems she has been doing something that they do not approve of. I cannot tell you exactly what it was as yet, except to say that it was not sexual and that no children had to go to the emergency room. Perhaps it was "simply" verbal harassment in the form of screaming at the children. Perhaps it was restraint done in a manner which is dangerous to a MI child (all the kids in her room are listed MI on their IEP's, regardless of what their condition), Perhaps she has used some form of corporal punishment, or maybe some form of humiliation as punishment. Regardless, they are beginning to investigate her.

We also know a good number of people who are studying to become sped teachers or speech pathologists. I have given several presentations now for the local college about autism, both to disseminate firsthand information which will give them a better snapshot than the outdated info in their textbooks, and as a recruiting drive for getting the trainers for our Lovaas program. My wife was talking with one of the girls we met who is now doing sub work until a position comes open. She happens to be subbing for our former sped teacher while she is on leave (I do not know if this is personal leave or administrative leave because of the recent allegations).

This girl related how the aid in the classroom one-day last week became so irritated with one boy that she began screaming at him. This sub had to separate the two, and took the boy out of the room to the office, where she was able to quickly calm him down using methods a little less harsh than screaming. This is perhaps a good indication of why my boy did not like to go to school once he had been in that room for a while.

I write this here as a reminder to be careful watch your child. Read their unspoken communications, their body language. Even a non-verbal child can tell you things if you watch closely. Never assume that the people in the schools are not doing things that could potentially harm your child. Make sure of it! You know your child better than anyone else will ever know him/her. Sped teachers and other professionals are human beings, and make mistakes, make bad decisions and occasionally may lose control. It is very important that we not give them carte blanche in dealing with our children, but remain vigilant to ensure that our child is not allowed to be in a situation which will cause more harm than help. Never feel bad about questioning the professionals, or in request what monitoring you are permitted under state law. Most importantly, listen to your child, especially those who are lower functioning, and know that while they will sometimes "cry wolf" for whatever reasons, there will be other times when they are telling the truth. Make sure which it is before you dismiss what they are saying.

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