Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read My Hands

At the start of the second week of school this school year, I filed a complaint with my state department of education alleging that my school district was not providing the sign language support listed in Ashley’s IEP. Letters flew back and forth between the school district, me and the state department, and the result? The school district was found to be in noncompliance. In other words, they agreed with me.

So, the state department of education directed all parties to have a meeting, play nicely, and talk about compensatory services for the times that appropriate services were not delivered. The school district interpreted that to mean compensatory services only up until the complaint was originally filed – which to them meant 4 hours.

Of course, since that time, the school district has failed to provide the services for at least three hours each week, and just two weeks ago, they missed a week and a half total.

The school district contends that they have provided the services because the classroom assistant, who is a fluent signer, has been assigned to assist Ashley. My concerns arise when that person is not available (those times I listed above). The school district says they continue to provide the support even then. Obviously we disagree.

So where does this leave Ashley and her IEP? Well, Ashley’s teacher says she can communicate sufficiently with Ashley through verbal means. Ashley is profoundly deaf in her right ear and has a severe loss in her left. I believe the teacher is mistaken.

The substitute aides the school system says they provide (which I’m not sure is always the case), know little or no sign language – maybe signs like yes, no, help, hurt, if that, but definitely not enough to ensure Ashley receives appropriate academic instruction.

So here we are almost half way through the school year, and Ashley has not received the services listed in her IEP the entire time. My next plan of action includes asking for the sign language qualifications of the teacher and the substitute aides and filing another complaint with the state department of education. That will probably waste most of the rest of this school year. Ultimately, I believe we are headed for due process again.

It really, really does not have to be this difficult.


KittyDobson said...

Is what Ashley needs an EA or educational assistant? I know she would need one with what we call a Level J in Canada (special needs and disabilities support) who would have ASL skills

Ashley's Mom said...

Kitty, it sounds like the EA you describe is what my school district calls an instructional assistant. Unfortunately, at least in my state, there are not different levels of those people, and they are paid very little, so the skill set is minimal.

What Ashley really needs since she has both a vision and hearing impairment (deafblind) is what Canada calls an intervenor.

The US has been very, very slow to understand that concept. Only a few of our states, and mine is not one, even recognize that as a job type.

So what we are left with is low-paid, unskilled workers.

Ashley doesn't need an interpreter only, but someone who goes further than an interpreter - someone who helps her access her environment, someone who can help encourage peer relationships, and someone who can provide communication support.

My school district has been provided with this information since Ashley first started school at age 2.5. She is now almost 14.

little.birdy said...

I...am at a loss for words concerning your school district and how they possibly thought it was okay for your child to be without communication support FOR A WEEK AND A HALF. Poor Ashley. Is the aide assigned just to her or does the aide serve other students as well?

Holly said...

We've gone through something similar with Butterfly. She is suppose to have sign language to due to a hearing impairment, but since they say she communicates fine verbally (and she does, but has a better understanding when signing) they won't follow through.

I hope you get some progress and some support on this. We are blessed here as our district is good about training EA's specific to a child's needs and letting them go to training specific to that child.

Ashley's Mom said...

birdy, Ashley's IEP calls for an aide assigned specifically to her for the full school day. Since the school district says they can't find anyone to hire, they have assigned a classroom assistant to be with Ashley. The reality of it though is that the classroom assistant does help/work with other children.

It's been a really bad school year so far, and things are not looking like they will improve anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Beyond frustrating. You are right. Why do schools insist on making everything so difficult and not meeting a child's needs when it is so obvious what needs to happen. Keep fighting!

Anonymous said...

That must be awful. I hope that you get through to them soon.