Tuesday, March 24, 2015

California School Experiences

When S was finishing up first grade in Alabama, we found out we were moving to California. We were excited when we were notified of our upcoming PCS (permanent change of station). When I had taken my Education courses in college, we heard about how progressive California schools were.  Imagine the possibilities for S in these progressive schools!  Knowing what had been done for him in Alabama at a Department of Defense School (great experiences), we could only imagine what California had to offer.  Imagine was all we could do. Here is what we encountered....

Early notification:
While we were still in Alabama, my husband called the school to talk to them about our upcoming move and the fact that S would be attending their school.  Their first response when told we had a child who had Cerebral Palsy was, “He will go to a special school.”  Really? The only information you have about him is that he has a disability.  You don’t know the severity of it, what his functioning level is, etc.  Papa and Mama Bear came out, and he attended that school.  As my husband said, “If you want to call your school special, you are right.  He will attend a special school.”

S was asked to not play on the playground equipment because he might get hurt. Don’t the other kids ever get hurt on the playground equipment?  

Special Education Teacher:
After I sent a clarification letter to the Special Education teacher after our initial IEP meeting, she asked me in the walkway, “You are going to keep me on my toes, aren’t you?” (Thank you Wrightslaw).  

Emergency Evacuation Plan:
S was left in the classroom during a fire drill because the staff member (see above reference) who was supposed to get him didn’t.  Her response the next day to him (a 2nd grader) was, “You got out, didn’t you?”  

Spelling tests were given when he was at Adaptive PE so the teacher didn’t need to wait for him since it took him longer to type his answers.  

He wasn’t given extra time on the timed math facts tests if he had to write for himself because that wouldn’t be fair to the other kids.  

Field Trips:
S’s class went on a number of field trips during the school year.  That was good.  The problem was the school REALLY expected either me or my husband to chaperone to “help” with S.  My husband was in graduate school, so his attendance on the field trip depended upon his school schedule.  

Since I am a SAHM, I could usually go with; however, for one field trip, I ended up being very, very sick.  I was going into my fourth week of strep throat (I don’t have a spleen).  After an emergency visit to the ENT, I was placed on bed rest.  I was told I could only get out of bed to go to the bathroom and make sure my children had something to eat.  Needless to say, I wasn’t going on the field trip.

The teacher went into slight panic mode when she found out that neither one of us would be attending.  Here’s the deal, S is quite self-sufficient.  He was going in his wheelchair. He just needed some extra assistance maneuvering his chair around.  He might need help getting his drink open.  Not much more help than any other 2nd grader might need.  The school was able to get the Wednesday afternoon aide to come along to be his helper - not much of a stretch since she was going to drive the bus.  The biggest issue was that his wheelchair would be taken apart and stored in the storage compartment under the bus.  “Who is going to be able to put his chair together?”  (Really? It involved sliding the two wheels onto pins.)  My husband had to clarify for the teacher that the dads who were chaperoning, and had degrees in aerospace engineering, would be more than qualified to put the wheels on the chair.

End of Year Testing:
At the end of the year, we were asked if it would be possible to keep him home during standardized testing.  My husband told them that anything was possible. We asked if other students were being asked to stay home during testing. This question was never answered. Needless to say, S went to school.  

After all of this, the school was surprised that he was homeschooled the next year until we moved again. As his Adaptive PE teacher told me the next year, “They have not had to deal with parents like you before.”  We decided to take that as a compliment.  [We were very visible and vocal parents at the school. Can you blame us?]

Side note:  Despite all of this, our youngest son had a great time and experience there.  There were good teachers there.  You would have thought the two went to two different schools to hear us talk about their school experiences.  In fact, people who heard our stories asked us if they went to different schools.

Through all of this, our children have both learned how to advocate for themselves and stick up for each other.  What more could we want?  Maybe some time to sit on the couch with chocolate…

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