Saturday, April 25, 2009

IEP Resolution: Big Announcement!

So as you all know, we've been "discussing" (i.e. fighting) with our local school district for over a month now concerning Connor's IEP. Basically, they want to put him in a special needs classroom with therapy and an FM system, but no interpreter and no aide. They will write down that they'll give him "access" to sign language and assistance during classroom hours, but won't specify what that entails on the IEP. Thus, it could be five minutes. It could be a video. It could be just about anything. They said they'd put an aide/signer in the classroom, but that wouldn't be on the official IEP, which means it could be taken away at any time with no consequences for the school.

We are totally, 100%, not okay with putting our sign dependent, non-verbal, visually impaired, HoH, severely gross and fine motor delayed child with non-functional opposable thumbs who is in an assistant-propelled wheelchair in a classroom with that kind of IEP. Now we know without a doubt that we could go to due process over this thing and win, but then we still have to deal with the school district for the next eighteen years, and since Connor's conditions are so complicated and constantly changing, we know that we'll be dealing with them more than once a year as we'll have to update his IEP pretty often. What it came down to was whether or not we believed that Connor was going to receive an adequate education in this school system without constant vigilance and fighting on our part, and the answer we came up with was no.

So we're moving.

We found an apartment in a little town nearby that bears the tongue-twisting name of Puyallup. That's "pew-WALL-up" for those non-Washingtonians. Puyallup has a stellar reputation for special needs education, and is especially known for its Deaf and HoH program. We're giving up our on-post housing, quick work commute, excellent security, and really really close hospital, but if Connor can be at a school where we have a good relationship with the district and he's getting the help he needs, it will be worth it. It's true that we don't have any guarantees that this school district will be any better, but it's very, very hard to see how it could possibly be any worse. And in the unlikely event that this school district doesn't work out, well, we've moved once, and we can do it again.

We took official possession of our apartment today (that's our new living room in the photo), but we're putting in our thirty-day notice for our house on Monday. That way we have a month to move in. Now that we have an official address in Puyallup, we can also start over in getting Connor registered for school next week. In the meantime, we have to figure out whether or not we're going to file a complaint with the Office of The Superintendent of Public Instruction anyway-- we're pretty mad about the way Connor was treated, and we hate to think they could do this to another family.

So here's to starting over again. On to brighter horizons!



*Tasha* said...

I went to school in Puyallup for junior high! The program there IS really good and pretty advanced in that the people genuinely care. Speech therapy is even given if you request it. :)

Wow, now you're nearer to Seattle too!! Puyallup is right by some freeways.... congrats on the move. Pretty surprising to hear that so suddenly though. Here's hoping it goes wonderfully for Connor. Which school, if I may ask? I'm guessing Zeiger, in which case you're putting him in good hands! Just make sure you request specifics that are more related to "oral-based" stuff, as they have a very strong adherence to the Deaf culture, which isn't bad at all, but in my opinion, isn't THE ultimate way: rather, it should be a mix, so that the child can fit into both "worlds."

Puyallup definitely is better than the other programs (Seatac has very poor funds and is in a very dangerous neighborhood, while Federal Way's program is very new and consists mainly of mainstreaming.)

Also, you are welcome to add my blog to your list, sorry I didn't reply.... haha. I write a lot of private blogs and have SO much homework. :( Hoping that changes soon... I say that every quarter, geez.

I read your blog everytime you update it! I so enjoy your writing.

By the way, there is a WONDERFUL local farm that sells produce year-round in Fife, which is nearby.

*Tasha* said...

Oops, posts* not blogs.

Also, the deaf-ed people at Puyallup (Joan Lockyer, I believe) are fluent in sign.... and they also have FM systems and most of the teachers are VERY familiar with FM systems. :) You should ask for Connor to be allowed to do the music classes, by the way, when he gets older and if he's capable. That's not a default activity for the deaf kids, which isn't mentioned...!

Julia O'C said...

What you're doing is so wonderful. I hope you're very, very happy in your new home, and that Connor receives the education that he deserves.

We moved to our current neighborhood for the schools. Emmett hasn't started school yet, so I'm not sure if we made the right choice or not (though I feel confident that we did).

Julia said...

Wow!!! That's very exciting! Yeah, you're definitely doing the right thing. You already know that the current district is a non-starter. It's very clear from their IEP proposal that they have no real intention of educating Connor, and aren't even much interested in meeting his basic physical needs. The idea that they could be so dismissive of his potential and his rights, after everything he's been through and everything he's overcome, makes me fume. Good luck with the move!

Anonymous said...

Please follow through with filing a complaint.Too many parents let school districts get away with so much nonsense. The only was the system can be beaten into compliance is for enough parents to weild the proverbial big stick. I hope this all works out for you. it sounds good.

Greymare said...

Wow, good luck with the moving! I'm sorry the IEP people never got it thought their heads that the main function they're supposed to fulfill is HELPING kids like Connor. I think it's smart you're giving yourself a month to move, it's such a pain...

Carrie said...

Wow!!! That is a huge announcement. If we were in your situation with Hannah, we would have probably done the exact same thing. I can't wait to see how this new situation works out for the little man!

leah said...

It is amazing how school districts vary so much on delivering equal access to education. We're quite lucky and live in a school district that (to date) has bent over backwards to deliver services to my older son (speech delay only). I hope they're as accomodating when Nolan enters the school district setting!

I hope your commute isn't too bad now that you've moved. Good luck with the new school district!

David said...

You should sue your old district. Being an old chemist, I have always liked the idea of suing for a mole of dollars(6x10*23 or 600 septillion). However, you should be able to claim the cost of relocating, longer commute, higher healthcare cost, and legal fees.

The old district is getting government money (ie *our* money) to pay for educating special needs kids. If they can stonewall you and run you out with no other cost, they pocket that money and have an incentive not to change.


AshleyS said...

You're braver than us--we are so stuck in our rut that we couldn't bare to move, so we just decided to homeschool instead. I just didn't have the energy to fight a school district for the next 18 years!

Connor's Mom said...

*Tasha*: Awesome! It's great to hear from someone who's gone through the school system that it's a good program-- I've only heard it from the parent and therapist end. We've been thinking about the move for a while but wanted to keep it under wraps until we were sure-- given the public nature of the internet, we didn't want to spill the beans before we were positive. Good tip about the music classes; we'll follow up on that.

Julia O'C: Good to know that we're not the only ones to do this sort of thing!

Julia: Thanks. We really think we're making the right decision here.

Anonymous: I think what it's going to come down to is a combination of whether or not we think our complaint is going to make any difference in the slightest and what Connor's health situation looks like in the next few weeks. There's only so much we can focus on at one time, and with moving, school, health issues, and an upcoming deployment, our plates are pretty full. We'll see what we feel like doing after the moving craziness is over.

Greymare: You know what a huge procrastinator I am. I'm just going to cram it all into the last week anyway. Oh well.

Carrie: We're excited too!

leah: It's about a 25 minutes commute with no traffic-- up from our ten minute commute in rush hour. Oh well. We'll make it work.

David: While in principal that sounds pretty good, suing costs money, which we don't really have to spend. For that matter, moving was our choice-- we could have stayed and duked it out, and I'm sure we would have won. Connor would probably have lost, though, since he'd still have to go to school there. We can still file a complaint with OPSI, though, and we're strongly considering it.

AshleyS: You are a braver soul than I! I'm really looking forward to the break school is going to give me, as selfish as that is. There's also the fact that Connor won't eat for anyone else, doesn't really like to sign to anyone else, etc. He needs to learn to trust some adults other than Jer and I, and the social interaction should be really good for him. In theory. Provided he's in an appropriate program.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for not just accepting it and doing everything you can for your child...including moving! You are wonderful parents.

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