Today's prompt for the Scintilla Project reminded me of a time when I was perhaps the most frustrated in my life to a time when I felt slightly better. My character was tested over and over and over again which resulted in this essay....
“Hello, Dr So-and-So? I just wanted to call and wish you a “Happy World Autism Awareness Month.” For the first time in over a year I felt empowered to speak what needed to be said for someone whose behavior caused damage to my son and probably other students under his school assignments. “Do you remember my son and me?” I asked and waited for his affirmative answer, which came immediately. I told Mr. School Psychologist my son’s current diagnosis and educational placement and then I asked him, “Are you a member of the California School Psychologist’s Association?” Another affirmative response. “Have you read and do you make it a practice to follow the association's code of ethics?”
Naturally my contentious conversation was making him as defensive as such a passive person can become. “Are you suggesting I don’t follow the code of ethics?”
He was, perhaps aware of the provision: “School psychologists consider the students to be their primary responsibility and act as advocates of the student's rights and responsibilities.” This means the student's needs trump what any educrat-at-the-top might say. We have learned repeatedly in our country that no one is above the law, no matter what his or her job.
I paused, to let him think a bit before I responded, “I didn’t say that. I am merely asking you to remember my son and this conversation the next time you are working with a child who shows the same behaviors he showed last year.”
We ended our conversation solemnly and then I danced around the parking lot of the restaurant where I had spoke to him on my cell phone.
My son lost the second half of his kindergarten year and the first half of his first grade year because a group of school administrators chose not to follow the law. My son is in the sixth grade now and the anger still flickers awfully close to my surface. My son and I have moved along, for the most part, but to forget the emotions and the damage these educrats did directly to my child – I may forgive AND I will not forget.
If you are a parent of a special needs child who sits and suffers through an entire school year without getting a smidge of help from the very people who are supposed to be assessing and protecting special needs students, you would be angry, too. Instead of taking a stand and saying, “There is obviously something wrong here beyond blaming the parent. Let’s do an assessment and see what we come up with through analysis and testing.” I heard from a counselor (off the record) the response from “the powers that be” when the counselor suggested my son might have high functioning autism. She reported the response from the administration was “We will not make a referral. We don’t do that here.”
Apparently that educrat also doesn’t follow education code 201(a) or 56300 or 56302. These education codes tell us that each child is to be afforded a free, appropriate public education as well as the responsibility of schools to be sure if there is a hint of the need for special education services, the schools are bound by law to ensure he is assessed as quickly and accurately as possible. My son got sent home constantly in kindergarten. The educrats reminded me I was lucky he didn’t get suspended or expelled. All the behaviors were classic for children on the autism spectrum. Classic. Yet Mr. School Psychologist sat in our meeting after meeting after meeting without speaking up at all.
Oh, except perhaps I should take parenting classes. The stories I could tell are many and if you want to hear them, we should share a glass of wine or a cup of tea and tell education war stories. I want to stay on course here, though.Perhaps it was a School Principal who had the final authority in this case, but upon doing further research, I discovered the School Psychologists code of ethics, which has this provision in place: “School psychologists consider the students to be their primary responsibility and act as advocates of the student's rights and responsibilities.” Their duty to advocate for students and is above the desires of the administrators. Educational code is clear on this matter.
I saw this “gentleman” in the office of the Middle School where my daughter was enrolling the next school year.
I literally had to talk myself into breathing normally again. The normally meek me had the gut feeling to hop over the counter and pummel this man who had hurt my child. Instead, I stayed focused on getting my daughter services at the school. I was grateful my son wasn’t there with me.
Two years after that episode I was visiting an autism classroom and saw, once again, Mr. School Psychologist. He walked into the room, completely unexpecting me to be there. He walked across the room to whisper into the ear of one of the teacher’s aides and giggle about what ever funny thing he said. He turned and saw me, sitting with an education administrator/educrat to see if this sort of classroom would be a good fit for my son. At that moment, though I was enjoying watching him watch me.
He got visibly flustered before he made a fast exit out of the classroom.
Since the “Happy World Autism Awareness Month” telephone call, I had not felt like I served all the children of my community. If he doesn’t remember the exact conversation, he remembers my son and hopefully, he remembers not to repeat to others.
# # #This post was inspired by the folks at Scintilla13 - Here's what they have to tell us:
We believe that who we are is informed by our stories. Here, we want to offer you a space to introduce yourself, and a guide to share your history and make some connections along the way. We’ll be offering daily prompts for two weeks beginning on March 13th.
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