CCAKidsBlog.org is pleased to announce that Paula Guzzo, CCA Board Member and Past Chair, is writing a series in October dealing with Educational Advocacy. This post is Part Two in our October Series. You can read Part One here.
Scott’s Journey, Part Two: "Get it in Writing!"
In response to comments to last week’s entry about Scott’s first five school years: Scott’s placement in a segregated setting is what was considered “best practice” at that time. It’s refreshing to hear that people are surprised. We hope that the educational best practice of inclusion is now taken for granted.
Moving to the second part of Scott’s Journey. . .Scott was bussed across Evansville for five years to the class for children with multiple disabilities in a public school. His teacher understood that we wanted Scott educated with children in a general education (inclusive) setting. She found a first grade teacher who let Scott and an assistant come to her class for reading class. Other teachers let them attend reading, art, and music classes during subsequent years in that school--the result of “agreements.” Scott learned and made educational progress in that setting.
|Scott's 1st day at Highland Elementary, our neighborhood|
school. August 29, 1994.
When it was time for Scott’s brother, Aaron, to enter kindergarten, we wanted both boys educated in the same school—our neighborhood school. Another parent (of twin girls with CP) and I met with our neighborhood school principal sharing our mission and further stating that we believed special education services could be provided in any school. He agreed and said he would welcome Scott and the twins.
Bob and I discovered that students with multiple disabilities were being successfully educated in inclusive settings in other school districts. We talked with their parents to see what attributed to those successes. We spent hours documenting Scott’s strengths and needs in all areas of his life. We wrote a ‘parent report’ to be presented at the conference. (A future blog entry will be solely dedicated to the parent report.) We wrote out the general education teacher’s role, the teacher of record’s (TOR) role, the resource room teacher’s role, and the necessary requirements of an aide to provide educational support and personal care to Scott.
Once word got out about our mission for Scott, a few other parents of children with disabilities called saying that’s what they wanted, too. So, at spring conferences in 1994, families worked with our school corporation to move five children with disabilities from segregated classrooms into inclusive classrooms. Scott was the only one classified as “multiply disabled.” Even though Scott was 10, we decided that he should be in a third grade class since he was ready for the third grade reading curriculum. More importantly, we’d been advised that 8-year-olds would be more accepting (compared to 10 year-old fifth graders) to a student with multiple disabilities.
Eleven hours of conferences with 19 people sharing and receiving information about Scott achieved the mission that he would transfer to his neighborhood school, be educated in a general education classroom, receive pull-out resource supports, and have the services of a dedicated classroom aide. We celebrated. . .until the written IEP was received. It did not include these three main points!
|Scott and his classroom assistant, Karen Maxey.|
So, we wrote a letter to the Case Conference Coordinator explaining that we would sign the IEP only after the above three points of our mission were included. She apologized and explained that this was new to the school corporation. She corrected the IEP. We signed the IEP, and we never looked back.
Worth noting: I advise parents to NEVER EVER sign a blank IEP. One wouldn't sign a blank check, and one surely should NOT sign a blank IEP! Always read through the completed document and ensure that everything that was agreed to in the meeting is included in the IEP. If the IEP needs correcting before being signed, document the issues in an email or letter to the school and wait for the document to be corrected before signing it.
Our neighborhood elementary school principal hired an assistant. She worked with Scott from third grade until he exited the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation 10 years later. She was with him in all classes, at elementary band concerts, at middle/high school choir concerts, and at high school play rehearsals and performances. She went on field trips and work experiences. She was crucial to Scott’s success as were the attitudes of the many administrators, teachers, staff, and therapists who were a part of Scott’s journey.
|High School Graduation! May 2004.|
Scott remained in a general education setting until he graduated in 2004.
We now know there are benefits to inclusion that we did not anticipate. Some of Scott’s classmates have shared that Scott impacted their lives: some chose medically related careers because of him; some are teachers who are not afraid to have a differently-abled child in their class; some are parents of children with special needs who have said that they were better prepared for their own journey because of Scott; some are in jobs where they have opportunities to hire workers and are willing to select people with disabilities because of their classroom memories Scott.
Please do not read this and feel sorry for Scott or us. Instead, celebrate the victories and know that one person / one family can and does make a difference.