Thursday, May 15, 2014

Julianna, Part 7: The Kindergarten Nightmare

Julianna's kindergarten year got off to a rough start. She was placed in a special day kindergarten class, and the school had not secured a teacher yet, so there was a substitute teacher for the first two weeks. I was not happy about this, and made sure to go observe the class, often, to make sure things were going okay. This substitute did not have any training in special education, but he was really good at playing the guitar. In fact, all he did, mostly, was gather the kids on the rug while he played guitar for them, singing familiar kids songs. So glad I was sending her to school for this.

And then suddenly, the class became a pre-k/k class, and that was not what I wanted for her. After two years of preschool, I didn't want her to be grouped with preschoolers, and plus it was not mentioned at the last IEP meeting. I was starting to see that school districts just did their own thing, without notifying the parents to see if they cared. So I started emailing the special education director for the district, regularly, who I will refer to, as I mentioned before, Mrs. Fox. She was nice in emails, but in person it was a whole different story.

So after emailing Mrs. Fox repeatedly, along with a few other parents, some changes were made: she decided to split the K/pre-K kids and we were finally getting a good teacher who was trained to teach SDC. Really, if parents had not spoken up, this would not have happened. And this seems to be the case in many school districts: if you don't know how IEPs work, or placement, or your rights as a parent, they will do whatever they want. Sad, but true. The new teacher was great, things were going better.

But there was that problem of her not being potty trained. She was "habit trained" at school, went through the motions on a certain schedule, did so at home, no progress. I still held out hope that a miracle would happen. And then more bad news: her wonderful teacher was being transferred to the high school following winter break. Really? Why did the high school need her more than these wonderful little SDC kids? I was told there would be a teacher following the break, but after the first experience, I wasn't so sure. And I was right, they couldn't find a good enough replacement, so they hired another long-term sub. I made sure to meet this new teacher and observe him in the classroom, and amazingly, he was SO great with those kids. He took this job very seriously, and really wanted to help in any way he could. He would communicate with me daily by email, letting me know about her toileting and other concerns, and was so involved. So I didn't fight it this time. But what I did fight was the potty training help.

The first thing we did was give the regional center one more chance to help. So in March of 2010, the IEP team and I put together another large file full of assessments and reports, and sent it off to the regional center, for the 3rd time. There were letters from therapists, psychologists, teachers, you name it, and we were all confident that this time, this time there was no way she would be denied. But wouldn't you know it, she was. Again! For the 3rd time. I don't even have this denial letter in my big binder--I must have thrown it away because I was so angry. I felt like regional center was a lost cause, and decided to give up for now.

Then I began talking to higher-up people in the county who were over special education, called SELPA, because I wanted to know exactly what Julianna was entitled to within her educational needs. I ended up speaking regularly with a woman who was very helpful, and told me that because Julianna was not getting regional center services, the school district needed to fill in the gaps for her. This included potty training help. So I started calling ABA therapy agencies, letting them know what I was trying to do, and they confirmed to me that school districts will pay for services when regional center is denied, though it is not easy to secure. That was all I needed to know. I began emailing Mrs. Fox, letting her know what I wanted to do, and this is when the problems began.

We emailed back and forth, I would tell her all my ideas and requests, for getting ABA therapy secured through the district, and she would say she would be happy to discuss them at the IEP meeting in June. I even resorted back to a suggestion given by the intake person from regional center, Mrs. Macon, who said Julianna would be a good candidate for the Diagnostic Center because of her complex learning and behavior profile. Mrs. Fox said we could proceed with that as well. I felt like this meeting was going to be just fine, that I had made my requests clear and undeniable. Oh, was I in for a surprise.

I began to dread these meetings because it meant I would have to face Mrs. Fox in person. This meeting, in particular, I requested what I had been doing in all the previous emails, fully expecting Mrs. Fox to say yes to each thing. But instead, I was told "no" after each request, and she would cite some special education code that exempt Julianna from receiving services that she needed. I felt my blood boiling inside. How could she be so two-faced? How could she deny that Julianna needed these services? The room became tense and heated, and I went back and forth with this woman who was supposed to be helping my child have a brighter future. There was no taking her down; I was a lowly parent, not some laywer or advocate with any power. And she knew this, and used it to her advantage, even though I am sure in her heart she knew that what I was asking for was completely legal and appropriate. The teachers in the room were silent, because to speak out against the SPED director would be the end of their careers. No matter what I said, no matter how much I cried, this woman was not going to give me that ABA therapy so Julianna could potty train. She even went so far as to say something so unfathomable that I reported it to her "bosses":

"I'll have you know that we have many children in upper grades that are not potty trained, but otherwise doing fine academically."

Did she really just say that? Did she just tell a parent that only wanted to help her child achieve a very important life skill that it's not really that important?? I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere with this evil SPED director unless I got more help. But she did agree to send Julianna's file to the Diagnostic Center, probably because it didn't hurt her bottom line.

I had never used my voice with such power before, but what I learned from this is my voice isn't always heard in the way I want it to be. There are some things that I could not do alone, as a parent, to stand up for my child. There was no way I was going to let this beautiful girl down...she was counting on me. So I had to figure out what to do next...

Kindergarten graduation, 2010

I don't remember why she was crying here.


  1. It's so frustrating--I usually can't sleep for the week leading up to an IEP meeting.

    1. Yes! Especially when you are going in asking for something and you have no idea what they will say.

  2. I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this.
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