About Me

I am a single mom of three amazing boys!  All three of my sons entered my family through adoption.  All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Special Education Programs

I am in a very unique position to have 2 children, Matthew and David, with similar, yet different profiles, who are 3 years apart, and yet who are having insanely different school experiences.  While those who meet Matthew and David typically would see them as very different;

Matthew- loud, outgoing, excited, personable
David- calm, quiet, introverted

based on their special education profiles, both boys are somewhat similar.  
  • Both boys are able to read most written words, yet comprehend very little.
  • Both boys have worked on basic math skills, but have only limited understanding of coin value, passage of time, or anything beyond addition.
  • Both boys possess the ability to share their thoughts and feelings, but both only do so on a very limited basis and not often with social awareness
Luckily, for David, he is 3 years behind Matthew in school, and for him it appears that our District is beginning to create some incredible programs.  David this year went from a self contained Skills class, to a self contained Intensive Skills class and I could not be happier.  What this has meant in layman's terms is that David has been able to go back and work on the things that he had not yet mastered.  For example, David does not have an understanding of 1:1 correspondence, a basic skill needed in order to learn other mathematical concepts.  However, in the Skills class last year, David was introduced to subtraction, and even multiplication because it was "part of the curriculum".  This year, all of David's skills are taught at his level, and so he is being given the time to master the concepts he has not yet mastered, and his education is being altered to specifically meet his needs.

At David's conference yesterday, David's teacher shared that the Intensive Skills program is being expanded through the Middle School and into the High School in upcoming years.  This will mean that the educational track that David is on, will allow him to complete his education on a similar path.  Sure, if he makes huge growth, there is room for him to reenter a Skills classroom environment, but if he stays on the path he is currently on, he will have a supportive, developmentally appropriate environment which will serve him until he is 21.

By contrast, Matthew, who is only 3 years ahead of David, has been unable to have his needs met adequately through our district.  It seems strange that the population of students is so different in 3 short years, but that is what I am being told.  In Matthew's age group, the Intensive Skills classroom is made up of children who are non verbal- for a child who likes to communicate verbally, which Matthew does, this makes the class a poor match.  In David's Intensive Skills Class every child is verbal to some extent.  

I have asked the District to please help me evaluate other program options for Matthew, but I feel like I am in a real life version of The Three Bears:
  • This school is too academic.  This school is not academic enough.  We can't seem to find one that is Just Right.
  • Matthew is too behaviorially needy for this school.  Matthew is not behaviorally needy enough for that school.  We can't seem to find one that is Just Right.
  • The children in this school all have mental health issues, but not developmental.  The children in that school all have developmental issues, but not mental health issues.  We can't seem to find one that is Just Right.

It is strange to sit in a conference, as I did for David yesterday, and gush about what a perfect educational environment it was.  David is talking more, sharing his thoughts, understood by his entire staff, and learning!  There are strategies in place for the days when David is struggling, and there is recognition by a team of adults that David struggles at times and we are unsure why. 

It is heartbreaking to know that Matthew deserves and is owed the same high quality experience but I can't find it for him.  Just a year ago, this class seemed out of reach for David, and yet I fought and I begged and I pleaded and he was observed and finally we all agreed it was a great classroom for David- and it is!  The same type of experience has to exist for Matthew, but I can't find it.  I have googled, I have asked, I have done what I know how to do, and yet I am coming up empty.  It is disheartening to know that I only get 1 shot to get this right.  My boy is going into 9th grade, and he needs a rich, safe, warm learning environment that is led by a team of adults who understand children with permanent brain damage due to fetal alcohol syndrome.  

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