A New Hope…or is it just Star Wars?

After what felt like an epic battle, my son now attends a different public school. Switching schools meant for my family switching philosophies. In order to get out of our terrible situation, we had to compromise. I allowed my son to enter a regional program for emotional behavior support or EBS. It is a segregated class to start and it totally broke my heart.

My son needed a change. I recognize that. He needed emotional behavioral support too. When some at his old school failed to see his behavior as deeper frustrations with curriculum, and more importantly failed to act, my son’s behavior and emotional stability fell apart. We needed to give him a new start.

Still being in a segregated class feels isolating. I’ve always been a part of school life. Suddenly I’m completely on the outside. Not only that, but there are times my son feels it too. He has even asked me if he was being punished for what happened at his old school.

The new school and I just finished formalizing a brand new IEP. It took over 4 hours. We rewrote old goals, but for the first time added academic goals now armed with assessments. I feel good about the work and hopeful for the future, but I will forever be cautious.

You see the old school didn’t insist on assessments. I did. The old school wasn’t seeking help from county special education services, I was. Did I know how to do any of this? NO! I hired someone to help me. This felt like a battle to get my son safe. I’m a fighter, but I shouldn’t have to be.

There are a lot of talk in forums, non-profits, and even within the county of providing training to parents to know their rights. I agree this is important. However, I fear we are putting too much responsibility on the parents. Parents who have special needs children. Parents who work. Parents who don’t sit at home writing blog posts in their spare time. When do we start putting the responsibility back on our school systems? When do they stop being reactive and start being proactive with the tools they have?

Since when did I have to know assessments, or what accommodations to ask for with curriculum? The parent rights handbook is filled with procedure rights and responsibilities, but is it a parent’s responsibility to request a Functional Behavior Assessment, when things start going south? Shouldn’t the school be doing these type of things? One shouldn’t have to have a hired gun at an IEP meeting to get services, or be some guru of special education.

What all this means is that we have a special education process steeped in privilege. We have kids who get services not because they need it the most, but because they have parents or hired professionals navigating the system. The schools should be the ones doing the navigating to get every single one of their students the best education possible. I’m only seeing this when things come to crisis or worse a lawsuit.

My question is why is this happening? Are teachers and administrators at local schools just unaware of what services the county and state will provide? Do local schools only see discipline issues and not underlying problems associated with disability? Is it time and resources? Just as important is my final question, what can we do about it?

As our family learns to navigate our new school I’m hopeful things are getting better for my son. We know much more now about how he learns and perceives the world around him. I hope this will help his teachers address problems in the classroom. I hope the school will be proactive if my child starts to show warning signs of escalating anxiety behaviors. I have hope, but I know I’m dealing with system that is more prone to war than peace.

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