Next comes the interminable negotiations. "Give us what we want and nobody gets hurt". Yeah, that's how it usually goes.
Stress. Terror. No sense of control. No sense of how this is going to look like at the end. Nothing. You've got nothing. The only purpose you serve is to further their needs to exert power and control to get what they want.
The police get involved. The situation escalates. You hear the hostage negotiator at work. This is gonna take a while. These folks are serious about getting money and getting out. Everyone is looking more and more desperate and unstable.
...and the scene fades to black.
You send your child to school. As time moves along, you realize that James is not learning how to read or write. His handwriting is illegible. He forgets his homework. His desk is a mess. He is stressed and angry and he's only in the third grade. You know that it's not going to get any easier. You've learned from your older kids that the curriculum picks up speed and the information he has to learn will be more complex with each coming year. The assignments will come fast and furious.
- The Student Study or Success or whatever meeting is held.
- You ask for an assessment. They tell you they have to implement interventions first (not true).
- They tell you he's not three years behind yet and they can't test yet (not true).
- You get a tutor while you wait for the intervention period to expire.
- You meet, again. You ask for an assessment. You are put off again despite the fact that if you ask for an assessment, in writing, the district must present you with an assessment plan within 15 days and complete the evaluation and hold the Individualized Education Plan meeting within 90 days. Why weren't you told about submitting the request in writing?
- You start to feel as though you're not a team with the school. You feel as though they're not doing everything they can to help James and the situation is growing worse by the day. It's now February and the work is getting harder for him; he's acting out. He can't keep up with the assignments. The tutor isn't making progress. When you do homework with him, it erupts into fights.
- You meet with the teacher. She can't say much. It's not that she doesn't know, it's that she can't say...politics of protecting the bureaucracy and all.
- The teacher suggests that holding him back "might help". Now, you're really scared. What is going on?
- You start searching the internet and learn the rules about getting an assessment from the district.
- You have another meeting and submit the request in writing.
- The office staff, the principal and the teacher all start treating you differently. No more friendly faces. "Something" is happening. James is starting to be treated harshly at school. Retaliation for your advocacy? No, surely not. They wouldn't behave like that...
- At the end of the school year, an IEP meeting is held. The testing results reveal that James doesn't read or write at the same level as expected for his intelligence. Special education classes are recommended for the 4th grade.
- During the summer, you arrange to have James work with some high school students who help reinforce his skills so he doesn't lose them.
- When 4th grade starts, the special education classes help a little. By January, you're back to fighting to get the homework done. The teacher is complaining that he doesn't turn in his work, is unprepared, disorganized and is out of his chair, wandering around, disturbing other students. You're not quite sure, but you think she's saying that he's a behavior problem. The principal calls you in.
- There's another meeting to discuss options. The principal suggests you see your pediatrician to determine if he has a medical problem (that's "code" for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The pediatrician gives James a clean bill of health.
- Time goes on. More meetings. More paperwork. No resolutions. This time, it is recommended that he sees a counselor because of his behavior problems.
- Fifth grade arrives and you are looking down the barrel of middle school next year. You ask for more support and James is placed in a special day class. The students from his previous class start to call him "sped" for "special education". You know that adolescence is beginning to take hold and James' anger is growing with each day.
- You go back to the pediatrician for a talk without James present. The pediatrician shares how many times she's seen this process before and gives you guidance.
- You get a private assessment with a clinical or educational psychologist who then refers you to an advocate or an attorney.
- Now, the hostage negotiations begin.
- You're trying to get James out of an intolerable situation, but you have to be "armed" with data and legal counsel. The rules make no sense. He continues to suffer while you advocate on his behalf. The family is under very significant stress and it's spreading to everyone. Life is miserable. You have no control and you have no idea as to "what" the outcome will look like. It's far from over...
- Welcome to the special education hostage crisis.
At some point, they "get it", but they can't believe it. They can't believe that the people who were supposed to be the experts in education and child development have betrayed them. Not only have they betrayed them, but they have actively worked against them, all to James' disadvantage.
Compounded with all of the information I've given them about the extensive needs of their child and the harm that has been done, the stress is just too much. Many of my parents develop severe symptoms. Most experience depression, anxiety and yes, even symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Much of what they have experienced is the "captivity syndrome". Make no mistake about it, James is experiencing all of this, too.
Somehow, as parents, we feel that we should do more to protect our children, but the system won't let us. We're all hostages.
When the article is published, I'll send you a link and you can read it for yourself.
If you educate yourself, you'll develop realistic expectations and have some sense of what you are up against. You will waste less time helping James or Jennifer...
Just do the best you can. TTFN, Claudia
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