Sunday, February 27, 2011

What I Learned from a Series of Crappy IEP Meetings: Part Two

Put that OCD to work!

The topic of this next post is one that is currently serving me very, very well. You always hear (when asking advice about meetings or anything else school related) that documentation is vital. If you’re anything like me, ‘documenting’ means you try to keep track of at least half the pages of the most recent IEP, though you may not necessarily have any clue what order those pages actually go in. It might mean that you keep a mental record of the last few phone conversations you had with your child’s teacher. Sometimes at my house, it means that I can kinda-sorta remember what was said at the last IEP meeting. All the paperwork, and all the information can be really overwhelming. As a result, for a long time I would come home from meetings and chuck the folder of papers into the nearest drawer, then not look at them again until the day before the next meeting.

As things have gotten crazier and more difficult with Jaymes’ school, I finally got my butt in gear and got into the spirit of documentation. Until I got started, I never knew how addictive it is! Documentation has got to be the perfect job for someone with OCD… Or someone like me, who gets really into something once I finally get around to it. I might be a closet OCD sufferer. If so, I’m good with that, because I am reaping the reward of being insanely anal about documenting EVERYTHING.

I bought a blue binder with some folders and colored dividers. It was a total of maybe $10 at Walmart. While purchasing these materials, I also got the excitement of seeing a very large African-American gentleman dressed in a lovely red dress and fishnets. I consider the amusement factor worth spending that $10. I was tempted to suggest that he shave before wearing said fishnets, however, because the huge tufts of man-leg-hair sticking out between the holes of the fishnets kind of took away from the overall picture. I opted to keep my mouth shut, though, and paid for my materials.

I divided up my blue binder into sections. Each section got its own divider and folder, along with a nifty orange sticky note to scribble notes onto. The sections my personal book has are as follow, but bear in mind you can add to or take away some of the sections. Whatever worksbest for your organizational purposes. Back to the point… Here are my sections:

-Current issues: This section is the very first folder, where I stick papers of relevance to the most recent problems. Sometimes it is emails, or Jaymes school work samples. Sometimes it’s specific pages of his IEP, with changes written in some funky color that kept me from becoming bored at the time. Sometimes it is just a paper with a list of stuff to talk to the school principal about, along with doodles of purple ponies and horrendous writing that even I have some trouble deciphering. Basically, whatever relates to the current battle, lives in this section. When the problem is solved, those papers are re-categorized and the folder emptied in anticipation of the next crisis. And there always is one.

-Current IEP: This one is self explanatory. I actually changed the way I do it, now I keep the three most recent IEP’s, with most recent on top for easy access.

-Communication with the school: In this folder (which is frequently stuffed to the point of near explosion) I keep copies of every note I send to school. Also, copies of every email to and from the school. Everything organized chronologically, newest on top. When I first got into this documentation obsession, I had to go through my email account (I actually have an email account created solely for email communication with Jaymes school) and print off the last bunch of emails. Now in an effort to avoid that long and painful process, I print every email immediately after sending it. When I get replies, I print those and add them in. The biggest thing with this section of the book is to keep different issues together- that takes precedence over the chronological organization. I use paper clips to keep together a series of pages printed from a long email exchange. Those emails are organized again, newest on top, then paper clipped together and put into the mega-pile to be further organized.

-Behavior charts: This one is specific to Jaymes, and may or may not be a section anyone else on Earth would have a need for in their personal notebook. Jaymes comes home daily with a behavior sheet that actually breaks up his day into 30 minute to an hour chunks. Each teacher or assistant working with Jaymes for that time block scores his behavior according to a bunch of different categories, then adds their own note and finally initials it. I’ll go more into that in another blog post, because this chart the teachers came up with is pretty darn cool. The bigger issues Jaymes was having at school before his schedule change came out pretty much exclusively in behavior charts, which were at the time “sticker” reward type charts. When the time came for the IEP meeting I requested to solve the issue, I showed up with a small handful of the bad ones (because those were all I had thought to copy) and his teacher showed up with a handful of the good ones. We kind of canceled each other out! It made me seriously regret not copying every single sheet. My point would have been a whole lot easier to make, if I had. So now, EVERY behavior sheet gets copied and filed in the Behavior Charts section of the notebook- yes, chronologically. Have I mentioned yet that my purchase a few months ago of a printer that also makes copies and is a scanner was an awesome investment? I go through a log of ink, but it’s well worth it.

-Audio tapes: This section is actually a couple of those pencil bags that clip into the three ring binder. Each pencil bag holds 2-3 cassette tapes. Yes, I still use cassettes. I don’t like the MP3 type recorders, the good old fashioned ones at Walmart that only cost $24 are a lot easier to use. Before last year, I’d never taped anything. The thought of doing so freaked me out. But after an IEP meeting last year where things were promised (but never written into the actual IEP) and never delivered… I taped one meeting. That was it until a couple months ago, when this huge fuss over Jaymes teacher came up. I realized that a big part of why I was not accomplishing much was because I couldn’t remember what had been said. I get so anxious and so flustered that I immediately forget everything. So I started recording EVERY meeting. The first couple with the principal, then the actual IEP meeting. Just a warning- few teachers and school principals will do the happy dance and smile big when you walk into a meeting holding a tape recorder. It can make things decidedly tense. While they can’t tell you that recording is not allowed, they can (and will) send someone to locate a tape recorder and tape to record for themselves. This is a good thing. Everyone has their own re-playable version of each meeting. When I get home from a meeting or conference, I sit on the couch and listen to the tape. This is the time when my mind is calm enough to take notes and really hear what everyone is saying. Sometimes what I hear tells me that I’ve been a little too bitchy. Or, that I backed down way too easily. I almost always hear things that I had not heard the first time. The other thing good about the tapes is that they make it so people who wanted to be at the meeting, but could not make it, can at least hear what went on. My husband appreciates this, and you can also send copies of the tape to advocates, lawyers, or whoever you need to send to. Big thing with these: Make sure you know how to use the darn recorder BEFORE the meeting. And don’t test it by recording yourself saying something stupid, or singing badly… Chances are you will accidentally play it for the whole room when you try to set the recording up at your meeting. Ask me how I know… Actually, don’t. I’m trying to forget that one!

-The last section in my book is for progress reports. I organize them first by year (four in the school year, I believe), then newest on top. This one is pretty self explanatory, and pretty standard, from what others have told me.

Though I have not started on a couple new sections of my book, you can come up with a multitude of others- based on your personal level of OCD. Everything from lunch menus to medical forms, permission slips to attendance award certificates. Personalize it in whatever way makes most sense to you. If it doesn’t make sense to you, you will not be able to keep track of keeping everything organized and up to date because it just gets too frustrating. I recommend being better than me, also. I have an annoying habit of making copies then cramming them underneath a random section to file in later. When later finally comes, I spend forever trying to make sense of the rubble and I curse my lazy, procrastinating personality.

Once you’ve gotten organized, documented, and are sitting in your living room the day before a meeting… I can guarantee you will look into your notebook, breathe a sigh of relief, and pat yourself on the back for your diligence.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I Learned from a Series of Crappy IEP Meetings: Part one

Team means team…

The single most important thing I have learned though all these meetings has nothing to do with tactics, with laws, or with evaluations. It isn’t something that had to be deciphered out of a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo, and it wasn’t even anything all that complex. But as simple as the concept is, it had not dawned on me- even after a couple years worth of meetings!

I didn’t realize I was a part of the IEP team. I thought I invited as a courtesy, and that the group of big talking, well dressed school staff were the IEP team. I didn’t know that as part of the IEP team, I was an equal. I didn’t know that I could disagree, that I could push for things, or that I could have any input on the goals and specifics put into the IEP. I also did not realize I could bring backup to the meetings.

As the parent (or parents), we have a unique perspective and intimate knowledge of our children. We know what makes them happy, what ticks them off, what they care about… We know why they do some of the things they do. We can tell when they aren’t feeling quite right, even if only because they flap their hands a little more slowly than usual. We know when they are afraid, by the twitching of their lips and the snarfling sound coming out of their nose. We can tell when they are going to lose their cool, just by how they are holding our hand. We live with these kids. We know what makes them tick. And because we have that huge advantage on our side, it is our responsibility to speak up for them when school staff may or may not be able to glean anything from those minute little changes that to us, are as obvious as a flaming chicken in a tree house in the middle of August.

On top of that, most of us spend a lot of time taking our kids to therapies. So when the school can’t figure out how to make little Jaymes sit still in his seat, I can think back to that last OT session, and remember that the OT was able to get Jaymes to sit and complete a puzzle by plopping him in a beanbag chair with a weighted lap blanket. From my experience, few teachers immediately think “oh, he won’t sit still. Where’s that beanbag chair?” But, again from my experience, many teachers will be perfectly happy to try that out if the parent suggests it. We cannot expect teachers to immediately jump to creative, “outside the box” ideas every time there is an issue. And since we know what has been working for our kids, and we’ve had awesome therapists who have explained the how and why of it all to us… Well, again, it is our responsibility to share that information. Unfortunately, we all run into teachers who know it all and will not bother with trying- but if we know something works… Well, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Eventually, they will be sick to death of hearing about that beanbag chair and weighted blanket and will try it out if only to shut us up. And it might do the trick and solve the problem. Or not. If not, we move on to the next idea. And the next. And the next.

We know our kids. I think it can safely be said that if the parent thinks a particular IEP goal is ridiculous, then that parent is well within their rights to try to nix it. That could be because the goal in question is too difficult or too easy. The goal could also be too stupid. An example of this would the one on my son’s current IEP as a social skills goal that says “Jaymes will learn his classmates first and last names.” Memorizing names is not a social skills goal. It’s a pointless memorization taking up room where a real social skills goal could be. Play skills, conversational skills, even just basic “how to behave in the regular kindergarten classroom” skills.

I have found that given a good enough explanation of why the goal is inappropriate, and offered a more suitable goal instead, the IEP team will usually not fight it too much. And if they do, holding out and arguing long enough can be useful. Just remember that parents aren’t always right either… If another member of the team can explain why the goal is appropriate, you aren’t losing anything by agreeing. Only if you actually agree, of course. Nothing wrong with asking for detailed explanation and the appropriate definitions if needed, either- even if you can actually see the teacher’s hair going grey as she breaks it all down into whatever size chunks it needs to be broken down into.

Finally, remember that (beyond what the state requires in the way of school staff) the IEP team can include whoever knows that child, or can offer support or a different perspective. That means other family members, outside therapists, advocates, parent educators, friends. Anyone who knows the child and can contribute positively. By positively, I mean that I would never in a million years bring my mother-in-law to an IEP meeting. I may be a pain in the rear, but even I know that one would be crossing a line.

It’s nice to warn the school ahead of time if you’re planning to bring in slew of people (or just if you’re bringing an advocate- that announcement tends to have a less than cuddly reception, but is infinitely worse when you just show up with one- ask me how I know…) as a courtesy, and so that there will be enough room for everyone! You may well still end up in a tiny, windowless, airless office with fifteen people crammed elbow to elbow… But at least the odds of a less snuggly environment improve with notice.

IEP meetings are not about the school, not about the parent, and not about “us” versus “them.” IEP meetings are our kid’s meetings. As the parents, we have the right to take the reins and help direct that meeting without feeling intimidated or unimportant. Without the parent, no IEP team could be complete.

It is so hard to go into those meetings feeling like you’re on the same level as the “professionals.” It’s something I am still working on. But until I accomplish that whole self confidence thing, I do a damn good job of faking it. As our wonderful ECAC parent educator says, I’m building that spine- vertebra by vertebra.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Introduction to "What I Learned from a Series of Crappy IEP Meetings"

I have learned a lot about IEP meetings since Jaymes started going to public school four years ago. A lot of what I’ve learned, I learned by totally screwing up. Some of those mistakes were no big deal, some of them were huge. All of them taught me something.

I remember the first IEP meeting I ever attended. Jaymes was three and just starting in Pre-K, and I had no idea what the meeting was for, or what it would be like. I was very nervous, as sitting in a room full of people with college degrees and years of teaching experience was incredibly daunting. I was so nervous, in fact, that I did not say a word. I listened, I nodded, and I spoke only when directly asked a question. I assumed that they knew best, and that I was only there as a sort of representative for my son. I had no idea I was actually part of the team, and that I had just as much right to speak up as anyone in the room.

Throughout Jaymes first year of school, I continued to not have the slightest clue what an IEP meant. I doubt I even read the actual document. At one point, Jaymes was having a lot of weird unexplained fevers. Though he saw the doctor constantly and we had a note saying that he could stay at school unless the fever went above a certain reading, the school called me regularly to come pick him up. At the time, I assumed that an IEP meeting would be the appropriate place to bring up this issue. Thinking I was being super smart in figuring this out, I asked for the meeting. And I got it. Boy was that embarrassing.

When we moved to North Carolina, I still didn’t really understand much about the process, the meeting, or the document itself. We had a couple meetings where I nodded yes and signed the appropriate places, and that was that. But then when Jaymes was in his second year of Pre-K at his current school, one of the school staff handed me a flyer for a parent workshop done by the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center. I am so, so very glad I got that flyer.

I went to the workshop, where I learned a whole lot about my rights and responsibilities as a parent in an IEP meeting, and in the school setting in general. I learned that no, all IEP’s are not cookie cutter documents, and that YES, parents have just as much say as anyone else does in the meeting.

The funny thing was that the week prior to the workshop, Jaymes had had his Kindergarten transition IEP meeting, where the team decided that Jaymes would be put in one of the self contained AU (I forget the new, more PC name for the AU rooms) classroom with no interaction with his nondisabled peers. After the workshop ended, it dawned on me that I had seriously screwed up. I started talking to the presenter, Judi Archer, about how I’d totally messed up the meeting and I had no idea he could get time in the regular education classes or that he could get such-and-such services. I was really frantic about it, in my head, I’d ruined the school year for my little guy without it even having begun yet.

Judi was amazing. She gave me a long list of things to discuss with the school. She explained what was reasonable to ask for, and what was not. She filled my head, and my notebook, with a wealth of information. It was really incredible.

That was a turning point for me. I requested another meeting. As I recall, it didn’t go well… I looked through the blog archives trying to find it, but I got impatient about fifteen minutes in and gave up. If you want to read it that badly, it should be in April, May, or June of 2008 or 2009. I honestly cannot remember.

Anyway, the point of this post is to take a look back over the last few years, and to really think about how far I have come as a mom, with all the wonderful people who have helped me- in particular Judi and Doreen at ECAC. Thanks to these great ladies, I understand (mostly) the meetings. I can read the actual IEP and make sense of most of it. I’m not afraid to speak up anymore, because I know what is and is not reasonable. I know the whole “knowledge is power” thing has seriously been overdone- but in this case, it is SO true.

While I have a long way to go and a ton more to learn about the whole IEP process, meetings, paperwork, and dealing with the school in general; I’ve decided that I’d like to do a series of blog posts offering some of the basic things I have learned, that have helped me get Jaymes the best education possible with the least amount of hassle. So consider this an introduction. The “What I learned from a series of crappy IEP meetings” series should be fun for me to write, and may be helpful to someone else out there just starting out on the crazy journey of negotiating (arguing?) with their local public school system.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

That school update I should have written two weeks ago

You may have noticed this blog has remained pretty much untouched for the last couple of weeks. First, I managed to sprain my elbow, resulting in a really ridiculous looking sling and quite a bit of pin. Then, almost exactly one week later, I sprained my wrist. This resulted in my getting the pleasure of wearing a wrist brace for the next few weeks, in hopes that things will fix themselves and I don't have to spend more money on doctors visits. Not surprisingly, not having the use of either arm kind of made for trouble typing. And writing. And eating. And driving. But now that I ditched the sling, I have decent use of my left hand, and the brace can come off for brief periods so I can type/eat/etc. I'm horrendously behind on school work... So what am I doing? Writing a blog post. You see where my priorities are. Shame.

We had an IEP meeting a couple of weeks ago, to discuss the new schedule for Jaymes for school and to try and work out some of the issues I have had with his teacher. Prior to the IEP meeting, I had a couple meetings with the principal, but as much as I like her, it's her job to defend teachers- and she does it well. Even when they are wrong.

I wanted Jaymes out of his current classroom for a lot of reasons... The biggest of which is the fact that the teacher was punishing him for every little thing, taking away "stickers" or "smiley faces" and he would come home horribly stressed and unhappy and scratch his face bloody. I did actually try to work this out with the teacher before I brought the principal into it, but this particular teacher is one who clearly knows it all, and refuses to acknowledge that maybe someone else might have some valid ideas and thoughts on a situation. She seems very set in her ways, unlike last year's teacher who was fantastic and creative. Mrs. C worked like crazy with the school OT to make things work for Jaymes- and he did well with that. This year's teacher... Yeah. Not half the teacher Mrs. C is. I finally gave up trying to deal with the woman, the constant condescension and nasty back and forth both in person and in notes to school was just too much. We'd get notes home saying that Jaymes lost stickers because "he made too many messes," "he talked at lunch time," and equally ridiculous rule infractions. When I explained to her that Jaymes gets so upset over the stupid stickers that he hurts himself, she told me that "he has to follow the rules like everyone else." Fair enough, he DOES need to follow the rules. But, when he is so distraught over a stupid sticker or a smiley face that he shreds his face bloody over it... A change needs to be made. A little compassion would have been nice, at the very least. All I got was that he has to follow the rules, then a few times denials that he even does it. Despite having had therapists outside school see it, the school bus driver see it, the teachers and staff at school see it... I mean really, what parent would make something like that up?!

Anyway, the straw that broke the camels back... One day he came home with a note that just said something like "Jaymes had a bad day." So I wrote a note back, asking what it was specifically that made it a bad day, so we could work on the issues at home. Instead of acting like a normal human being, and writing back "Jaymes had some trouble sitting still, and he ripped a book," I get a TWO page letter, literally listing all the things Jaymes does wrong. One part of the letter was written by the teacher, and it's no coincidence that this part of that letter was written in such a way that no one could take offense to any part of it... The other, longer part was written by the male teacher's aide, who said things like "Jaymes is frequently found wandering the room" "ripping things" etc... The letter ended by telling us that without the parents reinforcing things at home, the school cannot accomplish anything... Not the best thing to tell me. This happened on a Thursday, and luckily for the innocent principal, she was away until Monday. Had she been in while I was that upset, the entire school (and half of the city of Kernersville) would have heard me bellowing. I have NEVER been upset enough with any school to raise my voice. As many of you know, I'm actually pretty chicken, and have a lot of trouble speaking up. But I was ready to blast someone.

By that Friday night, I was doing my normal "oh, what if I'm overreacting, what if it's all in my head" thing, and was afraid I'd end up backing down. We decided it would be nice to take the kids to McDonalds for dinner, and I am SO glad we did. Sitting at the table next to us was the mother of another little boy in Jaymes' class. I don't know any of the other parents, so I didn't recognize her- but she recognized Jaymes and we got to talking. I didn't want to bring up my issue with this teacher in case she was a huge fan of her (that would be awkward!), so imagine my surprise when she started ranting about the teacher- FOR THE SAME REASONS! That someone else had a child coming home distraught, and hurting himself over being nitpicked the same way Jaymes was being nitpicked... well that was a turning point for me. In the past, whenever I have had a big issue with the school, I've felt guilty advocating for Jaymes. I don't like to be a witch, and I don't like to make waves. Thanks to this whole mess, I don't feel guilty anymore. I feel empowered. I am SO happy we went to McDonalds that day, or I would never have known and might have dropped the whole thing.

At this point, I pulled Jaymes out of school. He stayed home for two weeks. I met with the principal and tried to make my case... But her opinion is that this teacher is just "blunt, she says it like it is." Fair enough, she is entitled to her option. But in the real world, there is a five letter word that describes the teacher perfectly- and it is not "blunt."

Jaymes didn't end up with two weeks of unexcused absences, the timing was convenient that he got a severe ear infection right around that time and the ENT doc asked me to keep him home.

In the end, my request for him to change classrooms was denied. Not thrilled about that. I don't understand why the school stands behind teachers like this. There is a reason this particular school has a horrible reputation (in the autism community, l0cally) as one of the worst schools in the county for kids with special needs. They're one of the best for regular education- the school is beautiful, the staff are fantastic. Their scores are through the roof. You would think that they would want to work to rebuild a decent reputation in the weaker section-the EC classes. What I have seen is that unless a parent pushes, the school wants to warehouse these kids in self contained classrooms that do not even go to eat lunch in the cafeteria. They stay in those classes until middle school, where they usually end up at Lowrance Middle- a school that is (I believe) 100% EC (special ed). I have a friend with a son who started there last year, and one day his son came home with bruises from elbow to shoulder. No way in hell is Jaymes ever going there. Which is why I push so hard for him to be included in the regular ed classes too- he needs every chance he can possibly get. That school is where summer school is done, and last summer I had one of the summer staff tell me that Jaymes will never have to go to Lowrance. He's capable of more, with the proper support.

The thing is, with last year's teacher, we learned how to work together, and it ended up really, really good for Jaymes. While I doubt a lot of the other kids are getting the best education, I knew Jaymes was. This year... Not so much. Seems like he has lost more skills than he has gained, and that he's gained lots of negative behaviors as a result of being in the class with kids much lower functioning than he is. The lack of supervision is the big issue there too- if he had adequate supervision, the issues would be minimal. But even the teacher's aide who wrote me that letter confirmed what I already knew, in saying that Jaymes is often "found" wandering the room. Found? Really? That's like me saying I "found" Jaymes on the roof. I already knew this though, because all school year he has come home with his backpack stuffed with school property. Books, toys, pencil grips, etc. Things he should not have had, things they didn't even know he had put into his backpack. Now, this is a classroom with three staff and seven kids. It's not a big room, and for Jaymes to fill his backpack with stuff he would have had to walk across the room, get his backpack of of his cubby, walk back across the room, fill it up, then again cross the room to put the backpack up. How was he getting away with this? He's sneaky, and he's fast- but he's not The Flash.

In the IEP meeting this issue came up, and it sparked the beginning of a nasty back and forth between the teacher and myself. When I mentioned the lack of supervision, evidenced by Jaymes stealing, the teacher's response was to turn it back on me by saying "Well I haven't seen YOU return anything yet."

For one thing, I've tried. dozens of times. On top of the stolen stuff, I get other kids soiled underwear (Jaymes is in diapers, he doesn't wear underwear) and other clothing sent home. Sometimes I get other kids IEPs (can we say "confidential document?"). Sometimes I get other kids lunches. I try to send things back with notes, and they come right on back to me because they don't look in the backpack. Just this week, we got home some kids dirty underpants in a baggie. I stuck a post-it note on them that said "not ours" and sent them back. Guess what was still in the backpack the next afternoon? You guessed it. They're sitting in the backpack now, awaiting another attempted return. At some point, it got ridiculous to try to send home all the stuff he came home with. And being treated like crap by the teacher makes me a WHOLE lot less likely to do so. I'm sure not going to drive the giant pile of stuff over there and hand it to her myself- why do the extra courtesy, when I'm treated like that?

Secondly, why their stuff has not been returned is not the answer to the question I asked. It's a less than clever way to turn the heat off of her, and onto me. Except that I don't really care, and it made her look ridiculous. If they want their stuff back, after all the times I've tried to send it back in, they can drive on out and pick it up themselves. I didn't let him steal it to begin with- if he'd been watched, the stuff would still be in the classroom, where it belongs. Jaymes is punished every time he steals, so the lesson is still being learned.

Anyway, the IEP was a joke, and I was really disappointed that the principal didn't see a reason to put a stop to the back and forth nastiness. The teacher seems to need to have the last word on everything- right down to tiny stuff. At one point the principal and I were talking about limiting Jaymes' sugary food intake... I said that I try to keep sugary treats to a minimum because they make him nutty- which they do. Teacher pipes up with "Well I just read a study that said sugar doesn't make kids hyper." Uh, ok. Congrats on that. How about I spend a weekend stuffing Jaymes with candy, then see how his day the next Monday goes? Really, who argues about a parent wanting to limit their kids candy consumption? It's just petty.

I did end up speaking to the head of the EC department for the school district, because Jaymes was being punished for things that are directly related to his disability- and there are laws against that. He put me into contact with the zone EC supervisor... She called and left me a message, saying that she'd spoken to the school, and was told we had a great IEP meeting and that everything was solved. That if I had concerns, to go ahead and call her. I'm not great on the phone, so I emailed her. I felt like it needed to be said that the issue was not totally solved, and if we had a great meeting, I must have been at a different one. I have never been so furious or frustrated at an IEP meeting. The only thing that meeting accomplished was giving me some definitions I needed. Prior to the meeting, I'd cooled down in regards to how upset I was at the teacher... by the end of the meeting, I had a strong desire to wallop her across the head with a Mackerel. Which apparently is not legal. But the imagery made me feel immensely better. As we walked out, I made it clear to the principal that I want nothing at all to do with this teacher. I don't feel she has a thing to offer Jaymes (or any other child, for that matter), and I'm over the nastiness. She and I will not accomplish anything by meeting, so I'm just going to deal with the good teacher, Mrs. C.

Which brings me to the positive part of the whole mess. The principal did decide we needed to change something. She had the current teacher and Mrs. C work out a schedule together, and I actually really like it. Obviously, I don't want Jaymes anywhere near the one teacher, but this is the next best solution. Basically, every 30-45 minutes he switches between the current teacher's room, Mrs. C's room, and the regular ed kindergarten. He spends the majority of time with Mrs. C and Mr. H- and much much less with his original teacher. Thank God for small miracles.

Jaymes has come home every day, with a huge grin on his face. He tells me "Jaymes went to Mrs. C's class!" or "Jaymes love Mr. H!" He doesn't hurt himself. He doesn't scream and cry. He doesn't beg not to go to school anymore. He is a different child. I think that speaks for itself- the issue was the teacher. I have heard she is retiring, hopefully that is true. If she is, I'll leave things as they are this year, knowing he won't be dealing with her next year. If she will be here, there will be an almighty explosion if the school thinks Jaymes will spend ANY time near the woman next year.

The thing I hate about all this is that Jaymes was retained for a reason. I wanted him to get extra time to catch up and get ready to go out to the regular ed first grade next year. Half the year was wasted trying to work with a teacher who should have retired years ago. THAT frustrates me beyond belief.

So it's been one big, ugly mess and one hell of a headache. The teacher hasn't learned a thing from this, and the school has done nothing to show her that she needs to learn a little tolerance and compassion- or find a more suitable career. Perhaps as a high school teacher or a parole officer.

But in the end, Jaymes is better off than he was, and I am grateful to the staff who worked this new schedule out, and to the principal for meeting with me time and time again to discuss it. And really, I'm actually grateful to the teacher too. Without her tremendous failure at teaching Jaymes, I'd still have trouble speaking up at IEP meetings. I don't feel guilty anymore, and I don't hold anything back. That's a gift, especially to someone who has been "building a spine, vertebra(e?) by vertebra(e?)."

Another day this week I'll scan the now famous two page letter that set off the explosion and post it up here. I'm curious whether others who do not have a stake in the situation will get out of it the offensiveness that I did.