Thursday, October 29, 2009

A letter to the system

With names and specifics removed, indicated by [bracketed text].

[City School Administrator #1] & [City School Administrator #2] -

I am writing you to alert you to a very serious problem in the City School's Special Education services.

I am the mother of a 10 year old student with autism, [msk], who is currently in 5th grade at [his current school] in a full inclusion setting. His disability is very serious, but because of a great IEP team he is able to flourish in this setting in a way that he didn't at a much more restrictive setting [autism specific school]. One of the key aspects of his success has been his IEP aide. [Msk] has a lot of trouble with communication and staying on task, and these are areas that his IEP aide directly manages. It is hard to over-estimate the value of his aide, yet twice in the last two months his aide has been replaced.

Without getting into the specifics of our current situation I'd like to talk about areas for systemic improvement as I see them. My son (and I'd guess most special needs students) needs stability and understanding. This is especially crucial in his relationship with his aide. The entire IEP team needs to be informed at the earliest possible time of any changes in personnel. We have been informed on the day of that the transition is happening. We need to know that these changes are not being made arbitrarily or for minimal cost savings, as they will have significant impact in my son's education. We need to be involved in the selection and training of any new aides, to minimize the disruption. There has been no visibility in the selection and no training for aides beyond what [his current school] has provided. My son needs to be introduced to his new aide before the old aide leaves and the aides must both work side by side during a transition period. Because my son must have an aide per his IEP it is the responsibility of City Schools to never leave gaps in his coverage, whether due to short term absences or aide replacement. This has not happened, and if it weren't for the flexibility of his current school in providing substitute coverage, my son would not be safe at school. All of these issues need to be addressed for all special ed students who have IEP aides.

I am sure this situation is not unique to our family. I know that there are special needs kids who are not getting the level of education that they deserve because their aides are poorly trained and are constantly being shifted. The idea that any displaced worker from City Schools could transition from office work to aide over the weekend, with no documentation of a child's needs, show the lack of importance given to the role of aides. I also think it show very little regard for the emotions of the special needs child. Because of the lack of communication I've seen with the school or parents, I wonder about the value being placed on my son's education.

A successful IEP aide is crucial to my son receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education, as he is due by law. I am really happy that he is flourishing in a least restrictive setting, as again is his right. Without proper support and adaptations, he will not be able to attend a typical school. I really don't want to have to look into a non-public placement for him again. It is not his best setting and it harms City Schools by depriving them of a great kid and by forcing them to pay a private institution for his education.

I appreciate your attention to this situation.


[A BCPSS Parent]

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