So this week I had a frustrating moment. I was asked to speak with my son’s vice principal about an upcoming meeting. During our conversation he told me that they were planning on cutting back mr. L’s visits to his brother’s mainstream school. The vice principal tried to explain that changing my son’s 2 visits a week to once a week was a good thing because they were going to lengthen his 1 visit by 30 min. Needless to say I wasn’t convinced or impressed.
After further questions the truth came out, the obvious problem of finding enough staff to take my son on his visits was the actual problem. Mr. L has been trying to visit his brother’s school twice a week for months to help him learn how to handle going to a mainstream school. My son currently goes to a special needs school but he has surpassed his classmates academically and verbally.
What does this mean for mr. L? It means he doesn’t have any kids that he can talk with. Only the staff can meet his need for verbal interaction, but they can’t always do that because they need to split their attention with him and the other cute children in his school. This also means that his verbal skills are missing opportunities to learn and grow from verbal peers.
My son is not willing to learn at his academic level either because he sees what his classmates are working on and he would rather do what they are doing. The only way he will do school work at his level is if an adult will sit with him, and again the staff need to share that attention with the other students.
Mr. L could benefit from peer interactions where they would challenge him more. So when his vice principal told me they thought it was best to cut his visiting hours I knew something was amiss. My kiddo has had zero problem behaviors during his visits, except he wanted to be the line leader once and ran to the front- not a big deal.
But I’m glad the vice principal gave me a heads up for the following day’s meeting because it gave me time to think about how to respond and try to help my son maintain his visits, because honestly I was hoping to extend his hours, not lose them!
So the following day little miss A and I went to mr. L’s school with a bag of toys including my daughter’s toy cell phone, real tape measure, sunglasses, a mini package of Oreos, and her water bottle. To meet with my son’s teacher, principal, vice principal, school psychologist, the school social worker, the mainstream’s principal and mainstream’s teacher my son visits… Just a few people 😜
The “Data Review” meeting started with the usual introductions, then we listed mr. L’s strengths. Then they jumped right into discussing cutting back on my son’s visits and tried to explain how it was a good idea. I then countered with requesting the visits we already had to extend to full days and asked to add days instead. If we were going to negotiate, I was going to go big.
Needless to say, they didn’t like those ideas. So I told them that I didn’t think that they were taking the student’s needs into consideration. I didn’t think that they were considering his academic, social, or emotional needs, and then I asked what they were so afraid of. It was immediately obvious that the mainstream principal did not like being called out and started telling me how none of them were scared of anything.
I stepped out with little miss A at this time to take her to the restroom (because she is potty training and that kind of thing doesn’t wait for anything 😉). When I came back the room of professionals tried to explain how my ideas were not reasonable, so I “compromised” with keeping his current days (not losing them), and requested adding art class to the first visit of the week, library time to the second visits, and adding a safe space that my son can start using at the mainstream school if he gets overwhelmed and needs a break.
The mainstream principal tried to push these visits off for a week and since this previous month my son only got 3 visits because of various reasons, I negotiated that his longer visits start this week. And to help insure a greater chance of my son getting these visits, I volunteered to drive him to and from the two schools so they only had to provide half the staff that they previously needed more for.
I’m grateful for my son’s team at his special needs school for being open to negotiations, compromising, and listening to my ideas and my side of the table. I have felt push back from the mainstream school from the beginning, but mr. L’s team for the most part have been very willing to work with and help my son succeed. From what I’ve seen from social media, that isn’t the norm and we’ve been blessed to have a caring school staff.
I was very surprised by his school even considering less visits because that was not what was best for his path of success. They must be feeling pretty strained for staff help, to even consider cutting his mainstream experiences. I hope they get the staff help they need soon!
How do you handle IEP or data review meetings? Have you ever had to advocate to an entire board of professionals for your child before? Or advocate for yourself?
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