Sunday, September 2, 2007

Another year - more battles?

School will be back in session in just a day and a half, and for three of my four children, the new year will start off on a positive note. However, for Ashley, I’m not sure that will be the case.

Even though Ashley’s IEP (individualized education program) calls for a one-on-one instructional assistant for the entire school day, an instructional assistant who is “sufficiently proficient in sign and speech so as to provide a language role model” for Ashley, last year was the first time that service was provided, and it was only for a portion of the school day. By mid-year last year, I had battled hard enough with the school team to have the IEP reflect that such a service would be provided for the entire school day. But having it written in the IEP and actually having the service provided are two different things.

Ashley had a wonderful instructional assistant, one who was fluent in sign language, for six hours of each school day. Because the school district did not provide the service for the remaining 45 minutes of each school day, they did agree to compensatory services over the summer to make up for the missed time. Such an arrangement is not, however, acceptable to me this school year.

Ashley MUST have someone who speaks her language – sign language – for the entire school day. If she does not, she becomes quite frustrated, can begin to exhibit self-injurious behaviors, and gets no educational benefit from the school lessons. The wonderful assistant from last year has agreed to work with Ashley but only part time. She will be with Ashley from the start of the school day and will stay until 2pm. School does not dismiss until 3:15pm. So, who will provide the services Ashley requires for the last hour and 15 minutes each day? That is the question that worries me about the start of school.

I understand that the first week of school is hectic for teachers and students. But it is unacceptable to me that even during that first week that Ashley will not have the language support she needs to be successful. So, my attorney and I are closely monitoring the situation, and will not hesitate to take action.

I really wish the start of each school year could be a positive experience for Ashley – a time to look forward to making new friends, seeing old friends again, learning exciting new things, and anticipating happy times – times like my other three children will have the opportunity to experience.

People who have not experienced the battles I have faced over the last 10 years of Ashley's education would probably tell me to just wait and see, assume the school district will do what it is supposed to do. Parents like me, those who have endured the battles over and over again, just can't wait and see. The history of inadequate education for our children, especially those with severe disabilities, has been written and rewritten many, many times. We are way past the wait and see stage. It just might be time for my mad face..

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