Wow! What a start to a school year!

Wiped out and its only October!

Summer vacation ended this year with hurricane Irene, but the school year began with an even bigger storm. As usual, the Department of Education was dragging its feet on sending us the approval letters for the therapies our oldest son who has Asperger's Syndrome, is mandated to receive. We were unhappy with the delay but not worried since the Individualized Education Plan is a legal document and the Department is required to be compliant to the student's needs. I made the necessary telephone calls, sent out the appropriate emails and waited for the response. Unfortunately the first day of school came and went with no response. When we finally made contact, we were informed that only one out of the three therapies was a guaranteed service. Since the IEP (individualized education plan) is a legal document and was already finalized, we knew it was time to start the advocating for compliance.

In the midst of working for the needs of our oldest son, a storm was brewing at the school where our second child had been a student for 9 years. It is the only school in our area that houses grades K-12th grade on the same campus. The campus at one time had been a college. The Department of Education took it over and created this unique school which through many years of twists and turns runs relatively well. One of the buildings is utilized by the Adminstrative offices of the department of education, while the rest of the campus houses various parts of the academic community. One small building near the main area holds a special education complex. The sprawling property is home to a football field which doubles as a soccer pitch, and also has a girl's softball field in one corner. The next part of the lot has a large grassy area where baseball and more soccer are played. The students have use of tennis, handball and basketball courts as well as a playground for the elementary students. It is a peaceful place, not completely free of trouble, but no where near the issues that many of the neighboring schools are plagued with. What we did not know is that peace was about to be disturbed very quietly and on the sneak. We discovered that a suspension center for students who were the worst offenders in the school system were slated to join the campus by being housed in the Administrative building.

There were many concerns for this plan. It was poorly planned and the area had never been observed properly while the current students were visible. Kindergarten classrooms would be a "basketball toss" away from students who had been caught with weapons, were violent to teachers and other students and at times were sex offenders. The plan was to basically lock up these students in a place where they would be watching the current students play and have fun all day while they were not welcomed. This put in the faces of those who are already at risk for major emotional problems. Our city did not take into consideration that the new students would have the same problem as our current students and find there was limited public transportation to and from this school due to the city cutting school buses for students above the 5th grade this past year.

So while we fought the big fight to keep our son's school campus safe since our concern was that the students in the program might have "friends" waiting nearby waiting for the schooled students to come out of the classroom and join them. Those that were waiting would not be sympathetic or respectful to the students, staff, campus or neighborhood. We knew this for a fact based on the numerous problems the neighborhood where this school is currently located had on a regular basis. while we fought this fight, the DOE continued to tell us it was a done deal. We worked very hard and were able to uncover so many rules and laws that were being ignored by those in charge. In the end this moment was cancelled. Our school stayed as is, but while all of this was going on, our older son did not get his therapies as planned.

So it was back to the drawing board, but I was already exhausted by the two fights. I managed to get one therapy taken care of and then heard the startling news that another we thought was a sure thing, faced the possibly of not making the cut. I perservered and offered to bring my son inside for the staffers to meet. I also let them know how tough this year had been for him without his therapies. Very difficult. If he had been a student with no diagnosis, he would have been suspended already. The second aggreement arrived the day my son was at his wits end as was I.

The last one was very difficult. I was told numerous times that this supervisor would not bend for us, rules were rules and that was it. But in the end, she did. She took the time to know our son, to read his documents, to draw her own opinion as a teacher first. It finally paid off since almost to a month that we asked for an imparital hearing all of the services are in place and our son is ready to be prepared for his junior year is high school.

In a little while, I will attend a fair to find out what to do with him after High school. I am so hoping it will not involve as much fighting as I have been forced to engage in in these past two months. I feel exhausted, as if I have worked an entire year. I am always amazed that the powers that be do not realize we already fight an uphill battle everyday raising a disabled child, we need help, not hinderance. I am gratful that those in the officer we are working with and at the DOE that they actually took the time to understand our son and why we work so hard to maintain the care he has today. The suspension center will not open at our middle child's school. So much advocating, so much work... Now, for a little sleep!

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