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2010 Fields PK

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  • So, I was trying to come up with a story worth telling. Let me just begin by saying that 20 slides 20 seconds were all the directions. So before I begin, I would like to acknowledge and introduce you to my friend in this regard, the wall that I was banging my head against trying to figure out my topic for today.
  • Since this is a conference about education, I decided to share a personal story with you about an uphill battle I face with in the public education system and a couple of the every day heroes who have given me the knowledge and power to keep fighting the good fight.
  • To set the stage, I’m the mother of 5 children. I have 4 grown daughters with no special needs and all the products of a public school education, pretty lock step with how the plan was designed and I have one son; he’s 13. My son has does have special needs.
  • Let me trace the steps for you in terms of where we’ve been to where we are. For the most part he was a healthy baby. The exceptions were asthma and food allergies, diagnosed by age 2, and a swallow delay that required work with a speech therapist. Beyond that he was always ahead of development milestones.
  • We were fortunate enough to be able to start our son in a private kindergarten program. The student/teacher ratio was 14 to 1. He was definitely one of the most “active” in the classroom, but that was just how boys are right? Being one of only 14 instead of 1 of 25-30 certainly was in our favor.
  • First grade: Well, private school was no longer an option, but public school, even at the 1 to 28 ratio wasn’t too bad. Given it was the first time the children were attending for a full day the curriculum incorporated several recess times. My son needed every last one of them.
  • I thought my son’s second grade experience was revolutionary, certainly nothing that I’d seen with my four older children. The majority his 2nd grade was project based. In particular, I remember the penguin project. There are enough different types of penguins that each child had his own to research, write about, create a PowerPoint, including scanning graphics. They even did a penguin play, which included songs and dancing.
  • Low and behold the project based education curriculum continued in 3rd grade as well. My son did very well in this type of structure. The biggest 3rd grade project I remember was about animals living in Australia.
  • As we moved into the 4th grade, the projects became a thing of the past. Although there were still times to work together on assignments, it was not nearly as intense as what it had been in the prior 2 years. There was a lot more, “sit down and be quiet.” There were some problems.
  • 5th Grade: Yeah, well….the social and dynamic aspects were really a thing of the past. Parent/teacher conferences started to take on negative overtones. He’s smart, he just needs to apply himself. He could do the work if he wanted to. He just needs to stop talking to his neighbors, listen, and pay attention. Where’s my A-B student???
  • And now were in middle school, the onset of puberty is ever apparent. It’s definitely a sit in your seat, be quiet, raise your hand environment. I’ve received more phone calls from the school in the first month of middle school than I had ever had for all 4 of my girls put together. My gosh, what’s going on here?
  • I look at my child and he’s different. The joy he once had of being at school is all but gone. The school wants to know what I’m going to do. I make suggestions; they tell me my suggestions won’t work. One by one teachers are writing him off. They’re making an assumption that it’s totally his choice to be a distraction. I know that’s not true.
  • What? Now you’re suspending him? This is a train wreck! How did we get to this point? I know my son needs help, but who will listen.
  • Pulled, twisted, tormented, embarrassed and in fear. Who do I dare even turn to?
  • For sure, it’s definitely NOT the school. At this point, they’re the enemy. They’ve laid claim as the expert about my child. No, sorry that’s my title. They’ve falsely labeled him, stopping just short of calling him criminal and they definitely treat me like I’m the mom wearing the rose colored glasses.
  • I know that I’ve got to reach out. I know that I’m in over my head and I need help, but who can I trust? Who will listen? Who will understand?
  • The beginning of my son’s 7th grade year, I was taking him in for his annual physical, and the light bulb turned on above my head. To my amazement and relief his doctor was a wealth of information about social and emotional development. I credit her in getting the ball rolling in the right direction with the school, followed by reinforcements from a pediatric nurse practitioner that I opened up to.
  • The next thing I know meetings with the school were taking place with a parent advocate by my side and no more pulling the wool over my eyes. I got the testing and evaluations I had been wanting. I was no longer ignorant about how to make the request official, one that could not be ignored.
  • I was directed to other credible resources and finally, finally didn’t feel so isolated and alone. The building gloom and doom over the past four years has started to be replaced with hope for a brighter future for my son.
  • The battle is surely far from over as he finishes his 8th grade year and we head into 4 years of high school, but my son now has his Individualized Education Program, we’re capitalizing on his strengths and most important he’s smiling again and WANTS to be at school.

Transcript

  • 1. A Story Worth Telling
  • 2. When A Disability Is Invisible: Some Hard Knocks Leeann Fields Instructional Designer University of Colorado, College of Nursing Leeann.Fields@ucdenver.edu @ SeaweedFields
  • 3. Set the Stage:
  • 4. Tracing the Steps
  • 5. Kindergarten
  • 6. 1st Grade
  • 7. 2nd Grade
  • 8. 3rd Grade
  • 9. 4th Grade
  • 10. 5th Grade
  • 11. Middle School: 6th & 7th Grade
  • 12. Unrecognizable
  • 13. Whow!
  • 14. What to do?????
  • 15. A Place to Start
  • 16. Don’t Be Afraid/Embarrassed
  • 17. Pediatrician/Advanced Practice Nurse
  • 18. Organizations
  • 19. Other Resources
  • 20. Happier Times