Decisions and Their Consequences

Nothing seemed to shock the good and caring members of the School Committee more than the words of the Sped Director.

After the former superintendent (in 2010) rejected my request for homeschooling, and the district refused to transfer Robert to any other program, I decided to keep Robert at home because:

1. Every day, for at least previous two months, Robert was relegated to a separate desk  with packets of word searches.  That was the essence of his school education.

2.Packets of word searches were also his homework.  He was bringing them home and instead of learning with me, he was spending long  hours diligently trying to complete his assignments.

3. Every few days, I was called to school to pick him up because of severe self abusive behaviors, screaming, or other disruptive actions.

4.He had two aggressive behaviors.  After one, he was brought home on a school bus in the  company of the  vice principal and the special ed teacher.

5.I couldn’t find out what were the circumstances of those incidents, despite trying very hard to learn and understand.

6.Robert was unable to tell me anything.

It was clear that Robert was pushed by unspecified forces into a chasm and then blamed for falling.

Those were the circumstances which resulted in Sped Director warning me that if I would  keep Robert home, she would sue me for Robert’s truancy. It was that warning that  shocked the members of the School Committee.  Of course, what REALLY shook them was the realization that had the SPED Director and the  former Superintendent agreed to homeschooling, the town would had  saved SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much money.  It would be such an easy way for a town to avoid its responsibility for  educating a boy who was, after all, a newcomer.  The boy who has been living in this town for ONLY 16 years  has  remained an alien for all that time.   The members were shocked  not by  my son’s plight but by a devastating  financial decision of the administration.

The only argument the  Sped Director used was that Robert, because of his diagnosis, had to be in school, among other students.  He needed social skills.  He needed to learn to communicate.  I could fight  this argument by pointing to a  terrible record this school district  had in that area during three out of the four years.  But I knew she was right.

Robert should be at school. I knew that because I felt his underlying sadness accompanying our community trips. I knew because of the way he observed  small groups of his peers when two of us went to the zoo or movies.

The other students might have ignored him completely. They might have , with the blessing of the teacher or a teacher’s aide, (but not Mrs. S.) shunned him avoiding even going to gym with him, but Robert wanted to be around them anyway.  He didn’t  know how to attach himself to others by building  a communication net.  He didn’t even know how to answer the simplest question but he loved and longed to be among others.

I love to teach Robert.  He is patient and determined to learn.  It has been  gratifying to watch him trying a skill for the first time, or mastering it.  I know, I can teach him and  show him a lot.  I wouldn’t mind our trips to stores, zoos, museums, parks if  the overwhelming melancholy of a mother pulling her rejected offspring everywhere was not unbearable. Moreover,  I knew that Robert also felt this thin veil of sadness

Over the years, every time the doors to classrooms were shut in front of Robert, he progressed academically and even behaviorally through our intensive learning at home.

That happened in July of 1995, when the  preschool teacher  did not want Robert to attend HER summer program.  That happened in the  summer of 2006 when another teacher who just two months  earlier had  professed to liking Robert so much that she had seen no reason for me to look for another program, chuckled at my suggestion that Robert attends HER summer program.

Both times, while at home,  Robert made huge gains.  And yet, I knew the Sped Director was right.  Robert needed what every human being needs, other people around.

The most importantly, Robert  has to learn to live WITHOUT me.  I cannot teach him that, when I am with him 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  As Robert  ages out of the school system and we have to figure out his adult life, Robert has to have people around.  People who can help him and those whom he can help.  People who understand him and trust him and those he understands and trusts, He needs other people so he can, one way or another, share his life with them.

When in 2010, the Sped Director said, “Robert has to be in school, among his peers.”  She was right. Unfortunately, the only place she allowed him to meet other people was the program,  called Forward,

That is why, this summer, Robert and I drive from one place to another unable to escape surrounding us loneliness and social abandonment.

This is not entirely a result of  the Former Sped director threat to sue me for the truancy or her rigid refusal to let me explore other educational options for Robert.

The  creation, by the School Committee and the high school principal of a  waiting room, called FORWARD, had its consequences.

The creation of such program resulted in pushing students into it, for the simple reasons – it existed and it was the cheapest option  providing custodial care or respite  for students. The students were pushed there not because the program matched their needs, but because it was  there.

For three years, I have been fighting to force this program to educate my son.  To teach him being in group and following group.  To communicate better. To be a better citizen.  To understand the world around him – physical world and human world.  Last year, I finally gave up on that fight after seeing that despite huge emotional toll,  little can change.

But there is also a price to pay for giving up.

My son is not prepared for adulthood. He  is not more ready for adult programs than he was three years ago,  But that is not something the  School Committee members and the Principal would ever be accountable for.  Educational neglect when committed by school district goes unchecked and thus unpunished. No school committee member  is  loosing his or her sleep because of my son’s plight.

I do.

So does Robert.

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