Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

An Important Letter to the Teacher

I need you, Anonymous, to help me out on this one! I do wish that I knew who you are because you are so wonderful, so kind, and so caring to us, but for now I will just settle for some helpful advice. You were right that I should have gone to observe Griffin in the classroom before signing the IEP because I just found out from Griffin that he does sometimes have meltdowns at school which means that they lied to me. The told me that he doesn't have them at school at all and I, being so trusting and wanting to believe them I suppose, believed them and signed the IEP.

Now I haven't sent the e-mail to the teacher being pissed off that I am but trying to maintain some semblance of professionalism even though I would love to let loose on her and give her a piece of my mind! Here is the e-mail that I have composed after she wrote to me and told me that I could observe Griffin for ONLY 30 minutes in the classroom during reading time:
Hi Mrs.   W.

This date will work for me but 30 minutes will not suffice. I would like to observe him for at least an hour in the classroom setting and it doesn't matter what he is doing. 
I need to observe his behavior in the classroom because Griffin has informed me that he does in fact have meltdowns in school sometimes which means that you have lied to me which means that I am very unhappy right now that I signed that IEP! I feel that I was tricked into signing it, that I was rushed through the meeting since I didn't have an advocate and now I will get a lawyer and have someone on my side to advocate for Griffin.

So, (Anon.) and everyone else I need to know how to change this letter because I haven't sent it yet and what should I add to it? I sure hope that you are reading this post soon so that I can send this letter to her soon. I want to get the point across but be cool about it at the same time especially since these letters may be used by lawyers later on if it ever gets to that point heaven forbid!


Elizabeth said...

I'm terrible with letters but I asked mom to take a look at it for you. Good luck with it.

Apple said...

Lora, I would leave out the part where you say she lied to you and that you were tricked. Instead I might say,

"Griffin tells me that he has been having meltdowns in school and I'd like to observe the classroom to see if this is in fact that case to see if his IEP might need to be ammended. I think I will need to come in for at least an hour. When do you think that would be the most convenient?"

I know you were only expressing how you really feel, but I think that teachers, like anyone else, get very defensive if they feel attacked. Good luck!

simplyjeanne said...

As a SPED teacher and mom of 2 teenagers on the spectrum, I agree 100% with Apple. No matter how PO'd you are, you still have to work with this person. The last thing you want is for her to take any frustrations she has with you out on your son, even unintentionally. Apple's wording is perfect, the only thing I would add is to follow up, follow up, follow up! And don't take no for an answer! Also keep in mind that kids on the spectrum sometimes have a different perspective than reality. Your son may perceive something as a meltdown that the teacher does not, he could also be projecting his feelings of wanting to have one, rather than what actually is happening. Lastly there is the IEP effect...a completely unscientific observation of mine that kids tend to have new behaviors right after an ARD. As a teacher you think everything is going so well, then a new behavior starts, perhaps in response to some new thing you are doing due to changes in the IEP...and this causes some behavior changes. Good luck, Mom! Hang in there, and remember to stay professional. It will all work out!

Lora said...

@Elizabeth, Thanks!
@Apple, You're a doll...Thank YOU! I need advice like that because I need to know that I need to remain professional no matter what and you are there to remind me! Love ya!
@simplyjeanne, You are so right that I need to control myself even though I am upset because I have to work with this person on an ongoing basis. I understand the part about how Griffin may have a different perspective on what a meltdown is while in school, I have never thought of that before. I am so grateful for your advice...thank you so much!

Lora said...

@Apple: You were Anonymous weren't you? You don't have to say...that's okay.

DeeAnn said...

Two things come to my mind.

1) You, as Griffin's mom, can re-do and IEP ANYTIME.

2) You have the right to observe your child in school ANYTIME and you do NOT need permission first. Sometimes, unexpected visits are the best!

Lora said...

@DeeAnn: You got it! And that's exactly what I am going to do too...visiting unexpectedly and changing that IEP with manners of course! Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here Lora (not Apple). I do agree with what she says. I would however state your requests without questions or wavering. Instead of "I think I will need to come in for an hour" state "I will be coming in for an hour to observe. Please forward me three available dates to pick from that would work for you and I can send you a few as well." (make sure they give you dates in a reasonable amount of time)
Also, remember that you can call an IEP meeting at any time and amend the IEP at any time. Did you get observation time written into the IEP? If not make it clear to them your intention IS to amend the IEP to include observation time. I would like to see a BCBA in there observing as well. Are there any that you know who could do an independent observation? (not associated with the district)

The districts lie, lie, lie but keep your composure and beat them at their own game. It is important to get along with them but don't let them think they can push you around and violate the law. It's a fine line to walk but with guidance you can do it.

Anonymous said...

Also, districts are famous for manipulating the observation time e.g. using the hour of observation time when they know the child won't be having any behavior issues or changing the normal environment. MAKE SURE to observe at different times.

Can Griffin tell you when his frustrations mount at school? (during a specific work time, during unstructured time, at recess?) If you can get him to convey to you when he is having a hard time this would be really helpful. This way you can observe during the time which would give you the most information about what is going on.

I can't tell you the number of times parents have reported back and told me that they got there and the district only let the parents observe during lunch or some other time when it is clear to all that the child will not display behaviors.

When BCBA's go in to observe typically they go in for a few different visits and different times to get a true picture of what is going on.

Can you also do a little research and see if there are any observation laws in your state (there are in some. e.g. districts can't put a time limit on observations or deny observations). Some states have very specific laws and if yours does this would really be helpful.

Lora said...

@Anonymous: You finally came around and came to the rescue again!!!! Yes it is you! Thank you! I understand what you are saying about keeping my composure and to beat them at their own game. I will make sure this time to set up an hour's time one of my choice and to make sure that I figure out through Griffin what time he has his meltdowns if we can narrow it down, and meet with them at that time. I did make it a point to get a parent's rights handbook at the IEP meeting and I plan on meeting with a lawyer from the disability rights center soon to discuss this matter and the advocate from the Autism Society too. I plan to find a BCBA but where? Where do I go to find one? Did you already tell me? I need to get to bed right now because Griffin has to get an ultrasound in the morning he has had some abdominal pain going on and the doctor thinks that it is either his appendix or his gall bladder area so far or it could be something else we don't know yet. But thanks a million again! You are such a wonderful lifesaver a wonderful friend I don't know what I would do without you! You are such a comfort and a joy in my life!

Anonymous said...

I will research your area for BCBA's. Where are you located? You are in North Carolina correct? And close to what city?

Lora said...

Do you think that it is pretty safe to say here in the comments where we live? We live near Asheville, NC that is the closest city but if you want to e-mail me then I can give you where we do live. Thanks so much for your help!

Anonymous said...

There aren't alot of BCBA resources in North Carolina but I think your best bet would be to contact The Mariposa School in Cary, NC as they have BCBA's and are experienced. You could ask them if they do consults and observations but better yet ask the director there to give you the names of BCBA's in your area that do thes kinds of observations. The school would have the knowledge and resources to point you in the right direction.

Also remember when you request an observation at your school put it in writing and send it via e-mail and/or certified mail so you have documentation. Also remember to tape record ALL IEP meetings in the future. You have to give the district a few days notice and they have a right to record as well but that's fine. This let's them know you mean business and are tracking and documenting everything.

LindsG said...

I'm currently finishing up my MS in OT, and perhaps there is a misunderstanding happening more than lying. What Griffin sees as a meltdown might not be a "meltdown" to his teacher.

I know on my recent placement there were days that my teens (residential school for blind students with other disabilities - including Autism, TBI, Tourrette's, etc) told me they had an AWFUL night with their dorm staff, or told their dorm staff OT was terrible because they had a huge issue, but the staff didn't see it that way.

Make sure you set aside time to talk with the teacher & Griffin about what they both see as an actual meltdown. You don't want one of them to think being upset counts and the other to think only throwing chairs or screaming counts.

It's all about making sure you are all on the same page - and that includes with your desires, expectations, and plans for the future.

And - thank you for this blog - I really appreciate seeing a parent's point of view - honestly & without reservations.

Lora said...

@Anon: I will look into Cary, NC and what they have to offer...thank you for doing that research for me. I usually tape record the meetings and did so on the last one but when I went to play it back it was unintelligible gosh darnit! I should have gotten two tapes just in case but didn't think of it.I am due to meet with the teacher tomorrow and observe Griffin during reading should I cancel that one because I am not prepared for it since Griffin has been so sick?

@Linda G.: Thank you for following the blog and leaving a comment, that means a lot to me that you care so much! If I go tomorrow to meet with the teacher then I will make sure that we are on the same page.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would suggest you still observe. Just go in, take notes on what you see (work, behaviors, the way his aide/teacher interacts with him, the environment-whether it is noisy, overwhelming) and anything else you see that you think is important. I wouldn't spend much time talking to the teacher. Just go in, be cordial and say you really want to use the time to observe Griffin and not be distracting to him and his typical routine in order for you to get a true feel for what his day is like.

Lora said...

I will do just that. I will go in there and observe being cordial and polite without distracting Griffin, even though I am told that he will act differently to a certain degree just because I am in there. I hope not by much.

Robin said...

If the school gives you a "that is against school policy" response, don't panic, just politely ask to see that policy so "you can work within it to find an appropriate solution." Many school policies are like old wives tales and don't really exist. Asking to see the policy is the best way to get that fact out in the open -- politely.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lora-
I have not been here for quite some time-but just wanted to say that you are a great mom with Griffin's best interest in mind. Something to think about-amd someone mentioned it above-maybe what Griffin thinks is a meltdown is not really a meltdown. I would think that if he was having them-they would be more than happy to tell you about it.

Fighting with the system is tough....I have learned that a happy medium is the best place.


Lora said...

@Amy- I just knew it in my heart of heart that it was you because I told my mom tonight that it was you! I told her that you were the only one who cared enough about me and Griffin and who was well educated enough to know what you were talking about.

I will heed you advice because I do know that you know what you are talking about. I did talk to my sister about Griffin not having the same perception of what a meltdown might be as someone else and she thinks that he knows quite well what one is and when he is having one. I tend to agree because he is quite aware of himself and what he is capable of and how others react to what he is doing. Of course he is not always being told that he is having a meltdown when doing so which makes a good argument. For example: Today we went to the craft store and apparently he had the perception that I pushed him or I did push him unknowingly either way he got very upset in front of the register after I told him that he couldn't have any candy. He proceeded to have a meltdown right there and all the way to the car as I tried to explain to him that I didn't mean to push him and that I was sorry that I didn't remember pushing him...forgetting that he was probably really upset about the candy who knows? What do you think?
Love you Amy! Thanks for being here for me!