"We want to be clear, this extended school year isn't a program to be used as respite for the parents." She stated on the phone this afternoon.
I was listening over the chaos of three dogs, and three boys who'd just recently returned home from school. I heard phrases like "maintain, not improve", "using resources more efficiently", "most kids are fine with this". All the while taking deep breaths, making sure to remind myself that she was not the enemy, she was not the decider, but still wondering, who is?
For the past seven years my son has qualified for ESY (Extended School Year) which means summer school. For the past three years he has been allotted 72 hours per summer in services. So it's only natural that I'd expect the same this year. Right?
I received the email from his teacher two days ago as a heads up, so I can schedule my summer activities. I glanced at the message, closed it on my phone and checked my instagram...wait, what?!
I opened the message again. Dermot's ESY would be for three weeks towards the end of the summer for two and a half hours a day. This would add up to 30 hours for the entire summer session. Clearly this was a typo, right? How can the school just decide to cut over 50% of his summer programming without prior notice or even a formal email from the district?
Then I started the phone calls and emails. His teacher, seemed like her fault. Nope. The principal? Never called me back. The director of Student Services, who had coincidentally just stood me up for a meeting? I asked him, when he called to apologize for standing me up. He stated the policy, gave me the next steps. I called the teacher back, it still wasn't her fault. I called the ESY coordinator, left a message and tried to forget about it for the time being. After an unanswered email from the director today I suddenly got a call from coordinator. Are you still following all of this?
That's when I heard about how the function of the summer program. It is to make sure the child on the Individualized Education Plan (Dermot) doesn't LOSE skills over the summer, it's not to teach them NEW skills, just maintain.,.so that makes it okay to cut the program by more than half. Insert sarcasm here: So don't teach them anything new, just go over the same lesson all summer long...
She has invited me to call another IEP meeting to discuss my issues and also wanted to make sure I read page five on Dermot's IEP "where it states....."
IEP meetings are my favorite.
Now I can have ten other special education professionals tell me the same thing all in one room while I try to convince myself I'm not overreacting.
So you are reading this. Imagine if this was your child. Imagine if you were told that your "gifted and talented" young reader's program was being cut by half. Imagine if your child swimming teacher said her job was just to make sure the kid doesn't drown, but the swimming part could wait until the fall. Or perhaps the hockey association was only willing to teach your child to shoot the puck, but the skating could wait until next session. Outrage? Is that too strong of a word?
Here's the struggle that I, as a special needs parent, goes through. Someone tells me they are cutting a service for my "Severely Multiply Impaired" son. It's happened a few times.
I never get asked.
No one ever calls me up to discuss a solution.
There isn't an outline of who to call if you don't like your answer.
My instinct is to go right to the top.
I spend countless hours advocating for my son. Doctors appointments, therapy sessions, health insurance questions, medical equipment repairs, ensuring proper care for him when I cannot be with him. So when I get an email telling me yet ANOTHER thing I need to advocate for, I go to that place in my mind that tells me that they've given up on my son, He's a number, a calculation of service hours and state requirements.
He's not a number.
He's a person.
He's not a six page document with twelve signatures.
He's a person.
He's not a schedule you can manipulate to make the district more cohesive.
He's a person.
I'm getting tired of reminding people of that.