Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A three minute speech

Changes (for some amount of anonymity) shown in italics

I would like to address the board about expanding the unnamed charter school to x grade. Our son msk would be attending x grade at the unnamed charter school if this expansion were allowed.

My husband and I are supportive parents of 3 City School students. For the last 11.5 years we have always been involved parents – my husband is on a school’s SFC, we are PTA members and we always participate in fundraisers.

Prior to msk entering school he was diagnosed as being autistic. Even though many people urged us to move to the county we were committed to City Schools. My husband and I are City School graduates; our elder children were doing well; but mainly we stayed because we believe in the economic & cultural diversity that City Schools provide.

Msk's initial City School experience was with a school that was supposed to be inclusive (it had a “Together at 5” program) - but clearly msk wasn’t valued. He was often off task, he was frustrated, and his teachers resented the extra work he represented and saw no plus side to him being there. We worried a lot about msk in this setting.

In the summer we attended a PAL program for only a few days – this was clearly the wrong setting for msk with lower functioning children his developed new problem behaviors and there was no academic work at his level.

Eventually we moved to a non-public placement that cost the city money, but worse (from our perspective) - msk was away from “typical” kids. This meant his behavior stagnated and academically he made very little progress in two years.

The unnamed charter school offered a unique setting where we felt msk would be safe and valued and we made an unprecedented move from a LRE Level F school to a Level A school. We did this because the unnamed charter school had a special educator as principal who wanted msk to be there and because differentiated education was seen as standard practice. In this setting msk has made great progress – behaviorally, academically and he’s just very happy at this school. This is the only setting since pre-school where we can say this.

If the application for a x grade is denied I don’t know where to consider sending msk next year. Honestly, I’ve been worried about this transistion since msk first entered the unnamed charter school . I see no alternative to pursuing a non-public placement again. I would love to hear what school the board recommends we pursue for msk next year. We’re looking for a school that:
- Has teachers and administrators who value special need students
- Would not put msk in a isolated special ed classroom
- Would provide differentiated instructional material
- Would include msk in all school related activities
- Would provide the one-on-one aide he needs and not use the paraprofessional for other purposes than his education
- Would not tolerate bullying or exclusion towards msk from his classmates

I think these are all fair requirements for a Free and Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive setting that is his right by law. Is there another City School that could provide these things for msk?


  1. Hope they are responsive in either (preferably) extending the school to the next grade, or (less ideal) recommending another school that would really be a good fit. Best of luck!

  2. I really don't think there is another school that is a really good fit - your comment motivated my next post.

  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25kristof.html

    Dear A Parent, I don't comment often but I read always. You are becoming my source for practical,REAL insights on autism. I thought of you when I read this today. BTW, I post as Wise Educator on Inside Ed. I am a teacher,school librarian, and administrator depending on the year and my passion at the moment. I have four kids and one with some disabilities.(all grown now)

  4. @anonymous -
    Thanks for reading. I miss the discussions we used to have on InsideEd, but times and newspapers change.

    For my take on Nicholas D. Kristof's op ed that you linked to, here's a link to my favorite aut-blogger:
    Personally, I was hoping that with Andrew Wakefield being totally discredited, maybe, just maybe we could focus on education and opportunities for autistic folks.

    Generally, I've moved from why msk is autistic to how to help him navigate the world that presents him with very big challenges. I advocate for him to get the services he needs and for the world to learn to be more tolerant of his quirks. That seems the best use of my energy for him.


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