Private, Collaborative, Home, and Public

On Parenting Blog in New York Times, I found an article: to which I could relate. New York Times published lately a few articles, in one way or another, related to autism. Those pieces, although republished all over the internet and in many newspapers, left me only alienated. Nothing related to Robert’s and my experiences. However, My Daughter Profoundly Disabled Needs a School for Children Like Her, brought to the paper (or its internet site) the reality of my son’s and my life. No amazing solutions, no miraculous recovery, and no maintaining the economically tainted mantra about full inclusion. Reality of looking for a program/classroom/school that would help teach children who need specific curriculum and specialized methods of teaching.
Although my experiences are different from those of the author as my son was in four different placements: special school for autism, collaborative program, home, and self-contained classroom in public school, my motivation was the same – to find a program that teaches.
None of the program was sufficiently addressing Robert’s needs.
1. Special school for Autism was very well prepared to work on the specific deficits and excesses related to autism. They also offered most consistency from one year to another and very well prepared and supported teachers. I removed Robert from this school when I was asked to consent to another method of restraining. The private school assisted Robert and me in a smooth transition to another program
2. Collaborative program offered very well designed academic curricula and a great approach to communication. It provided weekly community trips. It was also a program with most financial support. But it wasn’t stable. From one year to another, it changed dramatically in almost all aspects – different classroom in a different town, different students, different settings for delivery of instruction, and all different teacher’s aides. That caused problems for Robert resulting in him being forced to leave this placement. I have to add that the Collaborative program not only didn’t offer any help with transition to a new place, but its staff seemed to do everything to derail Robert’s chances for finding suitable alternative.
3. The program in a public school changed almost constantly. Over the years, Robert had 5 teachers. That however was not a problem for four of those years, as it was only one of those five who participated in preparing materials for Robert. Other teachers seemed to believe that it was responsibility of Robert’s aide. The school administration had very little understanding of the complex issues related to special education. They tended to marginalize it. I believe that some of the teacher’s aides were hired based on their connections and not on their skills as many administrators didn’t believe that people with either education or proper experience would make any difference. The classes lacked basic tools for modern teaching. One classroom was opened without any new materials purchased but with a lot of donated junk. All of that screamed to me to complain to the Office of Civil Rights as it showed not just neglect but violating the children access to Free and Appropriate Education. But I did not complain, I just grew bitter from one year to the next. Some of the teachers were not prepared or even willing to do the teaching.
4. I kept teaching Robert at home when he was stopped being driven to private school as he required a special harness, which school didn’t order for many weeks. At that time I didn’t have an access to the car. I kept teaching Robert at home for over 4 months when the collaborative abruptly closed its door on him and Robert was left without an alternative. I kept teaching Robert at home when in a school year 2009/2010 with a new teacher, new sped director and a new superintendent, Robert’s behavior at school deteriorated and nobody was willing to find the causes a t that time. Robert did learn a lot at home, but he was most lonely and lost human being not really understanding what was going on. He is lonely and lost now, at 22. He doesn’t have a day program to go to and his anxiety is slowly growing up.

The hardest part of managing Robert’s education was to find information about different programs. even went to hearing for that only. I wanted to see what was there for Robert. Unfortunately, that was not something the hearing Officer was inclined to rule on.
Then I gave up.
Moreover, the most important factors in teaching children with special needs are not the specific arrangements of classrooms but individual teachers, teacher’s aides and the quality of administrative support those classrooms receive. Unfortunately, you can learn about those factors only too late…

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