Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's That Time of Year Again

I think that most parents could find this most useful in dealing with/navigating the school system not only for special education kiddos but for all other children as well. It is rather long but the information and suggestions are quite invaluable. Perhaps some of it may only apply to NT kiddos and their parents, but I think that it is well worth a read

Strategies for Effective Engagement with School Officials 1. Listen. Tune in to what your child says about the quality of his teachers. Children are often accurate. Schools that serve poor, Latino and Black children have a disproportionate number of unqualified teachers. If your child has unqualified teachers, fight to have his classes or school changed. Your engagement with school officials begins with your child. 2. Praise, honor and support good teachers. Tell and show them how much you appreciate what they are doing for your child. 3. Seek support. Do not suffer in silence. Find other parents who have experienced what you are going through. They may be able to help you resolve your issues. 3. Plan for meetings with school personnel. Never meet with them alone. Bring people, your pastor, friends, and family members. There is strength in numbers. 4. Deliberate. Take a reasonable amount of time to think about any school-related decisions. Do not allow school officials to pressure you into making rash decisions. Confer with family, clergy or parent/child advocates. 5. Attend and participate in school-related activities. Share your opinion.Volunteer. The staff should know you as a concerned and involved parent. When they know and respect you, they are more likely to know and respect your child. Likewise, when your child knows you are involved, he is more likely to behave and perform well. Things You Should Expect from the School System: 1. Request a copy of your child's school records. You have a right to any material in her official file. This is extremely important. You need to know what is being documented about your child - and in some cases what may be said about you, as a parent. Read the contents of the file with your child. 2. Visit your child's class during school hours. Give at least one days notice. You must avoid disruption. You should not attempt to speak with the teacher during this visit. Ask for a tour of the school. Your purpose is to observe the lesson, class and school climate. 3. Schedule appointments to meet with your child's teachers. Do not wait until the bi-annual parent-teacher conferences. Prepare specific questions before the meeting. Meetings may be scheduled for after regular school hours. This may allow for meaningful discussions and fewer interruptions. 4. Volunteer to work in the parent office. Each school should have at least one office dedicated to parents. Parent friendly schools will have Parent Reception or Resource Centers that are accessible during and after the regular school day. 5. Ensure school personnel are able to contact you. It is your responsibility to inform them when your contact information changes.You should not place this responsibility on your child. 6. Meet with appropriate school personnel to deal with concerns.Decide if it is necessary to meet the principal in order to get your matter resolved.Though the principal should be accessible to parents, it may not be possible to meet her immediately. You may expedite the resolution if you target the person who will ultimately be able to help you directly. 7. Attend workshops for parents. Parent friendly schools offer them regularly. These may include: Computer training, reading, writing, math, music, art, and others. 8. Attend school assembly programs that honor children. You may need to take a day or a few hours off from work. Programs may also be held on weekends and evenings. You should attend with your child even if she is not being honored. It may serve as a motivation for you and her while simultaneously showing support for other children and families.
Parents, Know Your Business 1. Meet with your child at the beginning of each school year. Discuss what he is expected to learn in and out of school. 2. Monitor your child's development. Do not rely on school tests to define your child's level of intelligence. Focus on whether he is acquiring life skills? How would he respond to unanticipated occurrences? Do you see and hear him thinking? 3. Seek help for your child through local libraries, community organizations, churches and non-traditional institutions. Consider peer tutoring as an option. It is an overlooked effective strategy. 4. Schedule meaningful activities for your child. These may include family trips to the park, museum, library, neighborhood walks, and volunteering at a local food pantry or shelter. Idle time for an active child is asking for trouble. Keep your child busy. Keep him physically, mentally and culturally engaged. 5. Stay active in your child's life. Children with active parents are less likely to be abused by school personnel. Child predators try to avoid the kind of attention involved parents bring. 6. Train your child to think. This does not happen in traditional schools.They train your child to pass tests. They train your child to conform. The school system discourages differences and independence. Children within dependent spirits generally do not function well in school without involved parents. Children who learn differently are often labeled and neglected. They are punished or despirited by a system that mandates uniformity and conformity. 7. Make certain your child's educational needs are met. Be a squeaky wheel.School officials do not expect you to be persistent. Call, write and visit daily if necessary. If the system labels or harms your child, make them pay for it. Seek legal counsel and take them to court. Charge them with educational neglect, deprivation and malfeasance.
Conclusion A tidal wave begins with a ripple. You serve as a ripple in your child's life. Join with other ripples (including committed and concerned school personnel) and make waves. When parents, community and school personnel are on the same page, working together, children thrive.
Bernard Gassaway is the former principal of Beach Channel High Schooland senior superintendent of alternative schools and programs for NewYork City and homeschool father. August 2006


NebraskaMommy25 said...

thanks for posting this - UGH The thought of dealing with the school again is making me ILL :( I really don't think anything will EVER be good with that school, I have totally given up hope. Oh well I guess I still have a SHRED of hope since I haven't tried to switch schools yet - one more bad year and I am outta there! Good luck to you! I hope you have a good school for Griffin!

K.C.'sMommy said...

Hi there Lora,
Thanks for the info! I am a bundle of nerves this week as "Meet the Teacher" is on Thursday and school starts on Monday. I hope all of our kiddos have a great year!
Give Griffin a big hug for us and we are sending you a big hug as well:)

Your Friends,
Tina and Boys

Mister Ornery said...

From what I know, you are doing this with Griffin. I do know I have witnessed his progress from afar - and he continues to surprise and amaze me. Wishing you and the young gentleman well in his upcoming school year.

JodiTucker said...

Wow!...........That was an interesting article from a gentleman who was a former high school principal and a homeschool father....hmmm. I do wish that every parent had an opportunity to be a teacher for just a day, or a week and know that the good teachers (and there really are plenty of us out there who care passionately for our students) are there for every student to have the opportunity to learn and it is often a balancing act to help everyone. While all public schools are mandated by state and federal law to have too many zillions of tests in place, we, as teachers really do try to train kids to think. The article has many good points, but also enough less-than-positive ones that seem to stress teachers and parents as enemies and that is not how it should be. I can't speak for every public or private school in America, only my one elementary in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. There is not a child predator among us, but there are three sexual predators on the county sheriffs list that live fairly close to the school. Guess who's watching out for them at recess? Me and one other recess attendant for 200 kids (either grades 1-2 or grades 3-5).
Again, there were many good points in the article and other mean-spirited (and untrue)ones. I guess I just dislike lopping every public school into the mix as to what they do or don't do. Thanks for letting me vent this comment.

You and Griffin will do fine because you are a great mom that wants to interact well with all his teachers and it ought to be....for the benefit of Griffin!!

Lora said...

Thank you for your sharing your opinion of this article, your insight is greatly appreciated. I do recognize that there are good teachers out there who help the children and nurture their growth and progress because one of those teachers is Griffin's teacher. We have been blessed with good no, make that excellent, teachers and they are in the public school system. I guess that I didn't consider the article to be mean spirited but now that I have re-read it I understand what you mean and I apologize for that. I wouldn't have posted it if I had seen then what I see now and I didn't mean for you to feel offended. Perhaps I should just delete the article. What do you think? But like you said there are some good points so I don't know what to do. I cannot give enough praise to Griffin's teacher and teacher's assistants for their hard work and dedication they are exceptional and an important part of Griffin's life. I salute you and all the other teachers who do work hard and are so dedicated to our children, thank you Jodi and all the other teachers who might be reading this. Take Care Jodi and I hope that your hand,wrist,and arm are doing much better since the surgery. ~HUGS~

JodiTucker said...

Hi Lora,
Thanks for responding. My wrist is MUCH better now and I'm typing and playing the piano often and no pain......:) :)

Keep the article in. The good points outweigh my perceived bad ones.......I am a parent and a teacher, so I see both sides of things......Here is a dilemma that I do not know will ever be solved......Please help. There is one autistic girl at my school named Jillian (not her real name). She will be in grade three soon. She is a bright girl with a number of sensory autistic things. The kids know she is different and for the most part accept her eccentricities. She gets my humor and we get along fine. She picks up things in music class even when it appears that she's not even with remotely listening. Here's the dilemma: When she does have a melt-down (and sometimes they are totally unpredictable), of course we try to calm her, but in the ensuing time period, a few adults are dealing directly with her to the almost-exclusion of the other 23 kids in the class. This sets off a number of parents of "regular" kids that their child's education is being short-changed due to Jillian. Mind you, this scenario does not happen every day.....just once per month or so. Jillian's new attendant seems more able to cue in on the pre-melt-down signals most of the time. Well, this is the dilemma.....educating ALL kids. Jillian sometimes bites other kids which of course does not sit well with that other kid or their parent. She is with an attendant all day at school, but is much quicker and more impulsive then the attendant. There is a sensory room for our special needs kids at my school. Anyway, the dilemma is this: Balancing the educational needs of the many with the educational needs of the fewer.
Does this make sense? Thanks, Jodi