Teacher and IEPs
A couple of things before I get started on the newsletter. We have two families with us who are going through some trying times right now concerning their add/adhd children and the law. I want to wish these families the best of luck and let them know that my thoughts and prayers are with them. I am hoping that when everything is okay and their children are out of harms way that they will share their thoughts and experiences with us.
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN…
Where many parents look to summer camps and military schools to help their children. Don't do anything until you check out this site http://www.jps.net/btsoap/brma/beware_brma.html and others on choosing the proper placement for your child.
Information on ADD/ADHD
For informational articles and webcasts on Attention Deficit Disorder check out http://adhdnews.healthology.com/focus_index.asp?f=adhd_comprehend&b=adhdnews
Teachers Speak Out
I received a couple of letters from teachers who are tired of seeing negative comments regarding the experiences many of us have had with those who teach our children. Some have felt that some of the tactics we use and feelings we have are uncalled for and that instead, we should be praising these teachers and showing gratitude for the efforts they have put forth into teaching our children.
I have thought about this and one of the biggest issues that comes to mind is that if a majority of teachers out there were doing all that they could for our children then sites like mine wouldn't be necessary. The horror stories I hear from parents on a regular basis would cease and our children would no longer have their rights ignored and their education jeopardized.
I will admit the burden doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of the teachers, teachers only have so much power and then one has to look beyond the teacher to the principal and the district. I will also readily admit that NOT all teachers fail our children and that some teachers are indeed doing all they can for our children… but I will ask… WHERE ARE THEY?
As many of you know, I have my daughter in home school. She does all her work at home, and reports to a teacher once a week and spends 2 hours once a week doing computer work at the home school room in town. She has done wonderfully and her teacher is nothing short of fantastic and I'm so impressed with what he has been able to accomplish with my daughter that I approached him about teaching my son through the home school program. During our conversation it came to light that he is a former principal, let go from that position in part because he filed a due process hearing against HIS OWN DISTRICT when they failed to provide appropriate services for a child attending his school. I asked him to attend my son's IEP to determine if he could handle a home school curriculum given his learning disabilities as his skills in math have begun to decline and my efforts to get him in a math class at a time when his meds are most affective have failed for the last two years.
His special ed teacher has claimed since he was in 6th grade that there is no way to give him math at a more appropriate time then either 4th or 8th period. Both of these times place my son in the class that is most difficult for him when he has no benefit from the medication that he takes and also places him in larger classes which are more difficult for him to learn in.
IMAGINE MY SURPISE at last weeks IEP meeting, with my home school teacher at my side, when in response to his requests for a more appropriate math setting for my son, my son's special ed teacher reveals that she has been operating a math class during 6th period (an optimum time for my son) with only 2 students in it. Shocked that this class even existed (as I have been told for 2 years that it was impossible to have) and even more shocked that once the class was formed that I wasn't notified, I was extremely displeased, and verbally so, and the rest of the IEP meeting was spent with mass apologies from his special ed teacher. When I looked to the other special ed teacher responsible for my son, the buck was passed and fingers were pointed as we began the game of "place the blame".
MY biggest and loudest statement at each and every IEP meeting is that the subjects which are the most challenging for him MUST be given to him when his medication is at it's optimum level. This means first and second period and 6th period, are the perfect time to teach him those subjects which give him the most trouble. While the school readily complied with placing him in an optimum reading class, the special ed teacher battled and refused to give in on the math issue citing that the school REFUSED to allow math at any other time for students his age. She has claimed that this is a steadfast rule, put in place the principal.
TEACHERS: You have a special ed student that has severe learning disabilities that make math an extremely difficult subject. For two years, you've insisted that he attend a math class that is unsuitable for him in size and time of day, despite his parents request to the contrary.. Large classes and teaching Math at a time when he is not under the benefit of medication has made his ability to learn, and your ability to teach him poor. As a result, his education in math has gone from the 5/6 grade level to the 3rd grade level. he is not progressing, he is struggling, is not meeting his goals and in fact is regressing in this subject. Other classes that are more appropriate exist . WHY NOT PLACE THE CHILD IN THE MORE APPROPRIATE CLASS? WHY KEEP A CHILD IN A CLASS THAT HE IS NOT LEARNING IN AND CAN'T LEARN IN? What is the thinking here? Why do you find this acceptable? WHY DO YOU ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE TO THE POINT THAT A CHILD'S EDUCATION BEGINS TO DETERIORATE?
Currently my son has lost two years of his education. His math skills have declined severely and all my son and I have to show for it is an "apology" from his teacher. I doubt an apology will help him get a job as an adult, nor will an apology undo the damage that has been done.
So, I sat down and re-evaluated my site and it's mission and have decided that the need for parents to educate themselves and advocate for their children is more strong today that it has ever been. Regarding my latest experience, I find myself asking just what does a teacher/school/district gain from not educating a child to their best ability and for the life of me the only answer I can come up with is money…. and I hope to hell that's the right answer because I'd hate to think that our children are in the hands of people that don't care about our children.
Taken from a meeting with the North Sacramento Board of Directors at a School Board meeting when I asked them to address the issue of an office staff member who failed to call the police when my son was robbed at knife point on his way to school…. "Children are our business. Children are our product, our lively hood. Why would we do ANYTHING to jeapordize that business or our product?" If this is so, WHY DON'T YOU PEOPLE WANT TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN?
And so I have decided that I will continue to pursue helping parents until they no longer need help or I'm no longer around to do so and if you are a teacher and this offends you, then I urge you to answer the questions that we as parents want to know… WHY, WHY, WHY?
My IEP Plans for the Upcoming School Year
Since the school has not only failed to meet my son's goals in Math but have also managed to REGRESS him back to where he was in 6th grade, I am looking at splitting his school year next year.
During this summer my son will be attending home school to see if he can handle the home school curriculum for math and reading. If he is successful, he will then be put into a split program where he will be home schooled half a day during the regular school year in Math and Reading and then attend regular school for the remaining half of the day. The benefit to this will be the individualized attention my son will be getting in reading and math and also he will get the socialization benefits that regular school will give him and the interaction with his peers that he wants so badly.
This will be a lot of work on my part but I feel necessary due to the current state of my son's progress in Math. I'm also hoping that due to the obivious lack of support that helped put my son in this position, the school will agree to the transportation necessary to accomplish this.
For those of you who have considered home schooling you might think about trying home school out for the summer to see how you and your child do and if you have success consider working it into your child's curriculum for the upcoming school year. Maybe it's possible for your child to have the best that both worlds have to offer.
The Parent Coach: The Column For Proactive Parents
A parent writes, My friend and I worry that our middle school son and daughter are turning into bullies. I don't understand how this happens. What can we do about it?
Children taunt, tease, and bully their peers in many ways and for many reasons. In certain cases, peer mistreatment serves as a rite of passage, enabling boys and girls to flex their social muscles without intending any true harm to their friends. Kids refer to this peer posturing as just kidding around, and it tends to be reluctantly tolerated by parents and teachers. An invisible line separates the socially acceptable posturing from the harmful brand that leaves its victims feeling isolated, alienated, and even enraged. Understanding this line requires keen observation and insight into the social dynamics within the peer culture of middle school.
One of the most critical concerns of early adolescents is social rank, which in the peer culture translates into popularity. It fuels self-esteem, establishes influence, and creates group alliances. Some kids possess personality traits which reward them with this social payoff while others exploit the vulnerability of peers in an attempt to acquire popularity. In this latter context posturing takes on an insidious, and even sinister, character. Insults, threats, physical pushes, embarrassing accusations, and ominous gestures and expressions are among the sadistic repertoire of those boys and girls who bully for social advancement. Concerned adults need to be watchful for these signs if they are to successfully intervene inside a culture that often condones, if not approves, of bully behavior. Here are some ideas to expose and extinguish bullying:
Learn about today's bully tactics. Bullying is now more mainstream but can also be cleverly disguised. Sometimes it is so obvious that parents and teachers don't take much notice since it appears innocent. But this is a subjective judgment that may not be supported by the feelings left inside the chosen target. Mainstream tactics include coat-tailing, or taking advantage of a peer mistake exposed by an teacher/parent to further antagonize and embarrass. This is distinct from the cough disguised threat/insult that contains a strong verbal strike that is hard to distinguish due to the fake coughing it is packaged within. Bullies also employ "track-covering" such as "supposed accidents" of physical contact or "deliberate pretense" that involves contrived and mean-spirited conversations designed to be overheard by the target child but without direct mention of his/her name. Bullies also take advantage of the presence of involved onlookers who bolster the impact of his/her tactics even though they may be more restrained in their mistreatment. All of these maneuvers leave some victims feeling verbally and physically pushed around, a sign that the posturing has definitely stepped over the invisible line.
Bullies target their own feelings of vulnerability. The middle school environment provides a cross-section of development, spanning the ranks of pre-pubescent children still very attached to parents to sexually active teens repudiating their childhood past. This melting pot of quiescence and impetuosity is ripe for bullying. Bullies target those children who can't help but broadcast their vulnerability through physical stature, emotional immaturity, lack of social savvy, and more juvenile interests. In doing so, they attempt to reject parts of themselves and strengthen their still fragile identity. This contributing factor is buried beneath the contempt bullies feel for their targets but can be unearthed. By exposing this link concerned adults can begin to educate bullies about the triggers operating in their psyches.
Bully sensitivity training combines education, awareness, and experiential exercises. Children who bully have a lot to learn about the reasons underlying their behavior. In addition to social standing and vulnerability, other sources of bullying include media portrayal, emotional problems, sibling relationships, and harsh parenting. Bullies can be taught about the impact and consequences their behavior has on their victims and their own reputations. Simulated role play exercises can be employed to help bullies step into the shoes of their targets, and listen to the inner feelings their behavior leaves behind. Parents and teachers can work towards ensuring such programs are available to bully prone children
Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. His column appears monthly. He can be contacted at 610-275-0178 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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