Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let's Say

Let's just say you need to work, financially speaking, and for your sanity, your insurance, your general well being. Let's say you're a teacher.

Okay, now let's say you have two kids. Maybe one is on the spectrum and one not.

So, your child on the spectrum tried going to the school where you work, and it didn't work out. He needs to find a place to go. Where do you send him?

Do you try to send him to the highly rated public school across the street from where you work, where he can get OT and inclusion services through pull-outs? If this sounds ideal to you, geographically, bear in mind: this is not your home school district, so your child can only attend this school as a work permit child, since you work across the street, or through open enrollment, and these stipulations mean he must be in general ed in order to qualify. BUT, you seriously doubt that your child will make it in general ed kindergarten due to his behavior issues, though cognitively he might be fine. AND, let's say your child isn't potty trained yet, but he better be in the next three months if you plan for him to go to this school. If he is tossed out, it means special ed, at the school near your home, as long as they still have the space.

Ah, the school near your home. Do you send him there? It is only about a mile down the road, has special day classes, and he is very unlikely to be thrown out there. You know this is what the pre-k supervisor will offer at your IEP. BUT, this school is very poorly rated by the state. Few of the children speak English as their first language, and your son has lots of language issues. And, let's say you have a neighbor across the street with a child on the spectrum the same age who said she would send her boy there "over my dead body." This school is at least 35 minutes from your work, farther from your husband's, and you will need a nanny for after school until you get home from work.

Let's say there is an amazing charter school that would be a wonderful compromise. It's an inclusion center, dedicated to a mix of typical kids and those on the spectrum. Let's say you get in on the lottery to go there, BUT while you cross your fingers for acceptance, you also doubt you could figure out how to get your child there and back safely and still work, as this dreamy school you're not even in yet is close to an hour north of work for you and your husband. Let's say they also expect lots of parent involvement at this faraway campus.

Okay, I know, you think, I'd look for more options. Good! Good!

Let's say you search high, low, all over. Let's say one person you respect suggests a non-public agency that they think would be a great match. It costs a minimum of $25,000 a year, and you still need the nanny for an hour or two after school. But the next highly respected person you ask about it says, "No, I'm kind of ambivalent about that place, and I think you should look at this other place."

Let's say that other place is one with a web site, so you look it up and this $40,000 school is for emotionally disturbed kids. Let's say you have never had a diagnosis suggested of Emotionally Disturbed for your four year old yet, and this school suggestion gets you thinking. You start asking all the ists and experts and people who know your child what they think of him and his school readiness. Let's say you get a very mixed bag of comments, maybe something along these lines:

"Whatever he is, it's mild. The diagnosis is autism, but it's high functioning. He's come along way. Sure he scratches kids sometimes, but four-year-olds do that even when they are typical. He's mild!"

"He's not going to make it in general ed. He is going to scratch a kid or two and he's going to get sent out. Then, what do you do? Back to square one, and with more transitions."

"I don't want to see him in a situation where he's the very best of the bunch, because we've seen he doesn't do well like that. We have seen that he does best with good models around. Look how far he's come in a mainstream setting! He needs the least restrictive environment, but one where it requires the least correction."

"You can't possibly send him to school on a van far away! Can you picture that? No way!"

Let's say every where you turn people suggest you get a lawyer. Let's say you and your husband talk it over, and you think you can find the money and time if necessary to get a lawyer. What exactly is it you want the lawyer to do?

This is really my question. A serious one. Let's say this is your child. Let's say you are willing to do whatever it takes to get him into any of these schools, whichever is best for him. Where do you want your child to go to kindergarten? What is the right place for your verbal, affectionate, irritable, impulsive, beautiful, immuno-challenged, GFCF eating, hard-to-transport, moody, sometimes aggressive, well-loved, word-salad-talking, spectrum kindergartner?


Bobbi said...

Wow, that's a big decision. I'm not a teacher, but I felt that way at one time chosing schools for my son. It's so hard. Sometimes you just have to pick something and give it a try. Sometimes you hear bad things about schools and it turns out not to be true or just that way for that person and their child. Good luck with whatever you choose.

Kate said...

Gayle - these are all such hard choices, obviously. I have a friend who's dealt with a lot of the same choices. Keeping your sanity and growndedness is so key to your life. I wish you the best as you navigate these choices.

mama edge said...

Decisions, decisions. There are so many to make for our kids: which therapy? which diet? which medications? which school? I agree with Bobbi: Sometimes you just have to try one. For example, my son is doing marvelously well with a case manager that a friend of mine calls Mr. Lazy. For me, the case manager is Wonder Man.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering... Can he attend the school where you teach with a special ed. itinerant teacher (SEIT?) I'm not sure what the California equivilant might be, but here, in NY, at your son's age, it would be a teacher (paid for by the district) to shadow him in a regular ed. classroom. Difference between SEIT and an aide, is that the SEIT is a highly trained special ed. teacher. That's what I'd ask a lawyer or an advocate. Is that an option?

Also, does super nice great too far north school have after care? Which would eliminate need for nanny?

Also, not sure what your age cut off is in California, but maybe you could also look into another private preschool option--something that would give him another year to develop, mature, before kindergarten. So wish we had done that!!

Good luck, and keep us posted.

gretchen said...

I've been through a few educational scenarios with Henry since preschool, and am far happiest with the current placement: a charter school that sounds much like the one you describe here. In our case, our district is required to bus our kids to and from school (but some parents had to FIGHT for that, before my time). Because of the long bus ride, Henry is picked up early enough and dropped off late enough that we can make it work without before or after care. His school also expects/requests LOTS of parental involvement, but I just do what I can (which is minimal). I feel that this school is the first place where my child is accepted and is learning in a positive environment.

Where is the child across the street attending school?

Niksmom said...

Oh, honey, that's an awful lot of mixed mesages and choices! Honestly, I would *not* get a lawyer yet. I would find a top notch educational consultant/advocate and put the money there FIRST. They can help you make decisions (and do research on places) based on Rooster's specific needs not on what would be most convenient for the school system. The trade-off for the schools farther from home and requiring a nanny is that Rooster's life then becomes about his special needs instead of a balance of education and family life. He does not LIVE at school nor does he live in a vacuum. An consultant can help you weigh all these factors and look at what will be best for Rooster's overall development.

Anonymous said...

Yes choosing a school is tough. I work in NYC and believe me, the best public schools near my job all have waiting lists. It's nearly impossible to get into any of the good public schools there. The next best choice is private school.

pixiemama said...

I keep coming back hoping I can figure out what to say. The school question is huge, and it seems no one ever has a perfect experience. And, unfortunately, one good year, one good teacher/classroom doesn't insure success the next year.

It's so hard to go with your gut when there are no clear answers. Trust yourself.