Finally! GB’s CSE

The RTI Model

Today, at 9 am, we finally had GB’s CSE. We added an extra individual counseling without any disagreement. Then we tackled the meeting of social needs and the reading gaps left by the disastrous year in first grade. The elementary school GB attends uses RTI (response to intervention) to determine whether a child is learning disabled. It is now mandated to be one of the approaches a school in NY uses to classify a student as learning disabled. I know quite a bit about RTI because I worked closely with on of its originators, Frank Vellutino, PhD, during my doctoral program.

The theory is that a lot of students struggling to read are struggling because they have not been exposed to high quality teaching using empirically proven teaching methods. It is a three tier system. Tier one is for all students, making sure that their teachers are correctly using proven learning to read programs. GB’s first grade teacher was not. Once the teachers are doing this, all students are given diagnostic testing which not only pinpoints which students are not mastering the material, but also which parts of the reading process they are struggling with. These students are placed in tier 2 interventions.

Tier 2 interventions are administered by specially trained reading instructors and take place in small groups of 3 to  5 students, who are reading on the same level and struggling with the same parts of the reading process. Most students spend 6 to 24 months in Tier 2 interventions, after which they are reading at or above grade level. Students who do not respond to Tier 2 interventions are moved to Tier 3. Tier 3 interventions are both more frequent and highly individual. Children needing Tier 3 interventions usually end up classified as Learning Disabled and continue to receive highly individualized instruction.

GB will be given the diagnostic testing this week and will be placed in a small group, which meets everyday, for reading instruction. Depending on the results of the diagnostic testing, she will be placed with  2nd and third graders who are functioning socially at an age appropriate level.

We will have a program review in the end of October to monitor if what we are doing is meeting her needs. I should have the testing results by the end of the week.

We also discussed changing GB’s classification. Right now, she is classified as OHI (Other Health Impaired). She will probably be reclassified as autistic, since the older she gets, the more the autism seems to dominate. Classifying her autistic also gives us access to the broadest range of services.

Social Skills Group

GB attended her second social skills group. She was eager to go. She made a carry-all, a Father’s Day Card, and the mirror she is holding in the picture. I still couldn’t leave her, but I was able to stay in the waiting room and read. She did very well. The next time she goes, the group is going bowling. GB is already psyched!

I may be having trouble coping with the idea of GB being Autistic, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing  GB down.

It Takes Time to Adjust

GB was diagnosed with autism six months ago. My reaction was one of shock. That was followed by months of not changing much of anything. I have an autistic nephew, besides my special ed degree, so it wasn’t that I didn’t what I needed to do. It was more like my brain refused to settle in one spot long enough to think anything through. In February, I managed to contact the DDSO to get a medicaid  waiver. Since she would be 8 before the paper work was done, it would qualify her for lifetime services. I was assigned a service coordinator who has been on top of the process. I have started, very slowly, to look different options to improve her quality of life. I fought the bus company. I signed her up for Challengers softball. I enrolled her in Special Olympics. Today is another milestone. GB starts a social group today.

Since I know the various needs of autism and am aware of the programs available, I started to wonder why two weeks of work took me six months. I came to the conclusion that I was working to incorporate new information into my mental picture of GB. I think, at least to some extent, all special needs parents go through this process when they receive any new diagnosis, even when they “should” have seen it coming. It is not a bad thing. Even though your child hasn’t changed, you have. You now have new ways available to help your child. True, you mourn another loss, a piece of your child that will never be typical. That is eventually offset by all the new tools that are available to help your child. .

Wish us luck on our new adventure today.

The Juggler: I Just Do Not Know if I Can…

GB got off the bus Friday and said the aide yelled at her to knock it off and hit her leg. I immediately took Hope aside and asked her what she saw. She told me as GB was getting off the bus, and the aide hit her leg. I called the bus company. The owner  called me back  late Friday night and said he spoke to both the aide and the driver and they both said nothing happened and he was backing them. He said “The aide said GB was a fibber”. I said GB might misinterpret the situation, but if she said the aide hit her leg and Hope independently said the same thing, then physical contact was made. He said ” I am telling you, I am backing my people. I have known them a long time and they would never do anything like this”

I am so angry, I want to tear the people involved into a billion very tiny pieces. I am also so tired. I don’t know if I have it in me to deal with all the ignorant people I would have to deal with. I am looking at Monday’s calendar, wondering where I can squeeze in time to actually speak to the people involved and to the people responsible for their actions.  I have to figure out what complaint forms need to be filled out to go with my written letter of complaint. In order to actually get a response from the school district, I know I will have to escalate  to the State Education Department. Been there, done that.

I know what I should do. I know what I want to do. I am concerned that if I do it, that’s one more ball in the air. That ball maybe the ball that pushes me beyond what I can do. It may the ball that causes me to drop all the balls I have been juggling for so long. What use is a juggler that can’t keep the balls in the air?

Your Government and Mine

Yesterday, two letters came in the mail. One was from the DDSO, who provide services in my state, which said GB was not eligible for services. The second letter was from the psychologist that did the evaluation on GB and said she was autistic. This letter said GB required DDSO services. I called DDSO, found the name of the person who made the determination that she was ineligible, and called him. I told him I would fax the letter to him. I went to St*ples and faxed it. Before I was back in the car, the DDSO man called back and said GB was now eligible and since she is almost 8, she was eligible for life. However, everything in the computer said she was ineligible, so it will take a couple of weeks to reenter it correctly.

I don’t know what services are left with all the budget cuts,  but that will wait until Tuesday. Maybe our government is so inefficient and wasteful because they simply do not talk to each other. Both letters came on the same letterhead, so the people work for the same state disability office. Go figure.

Bling!

I hate to shop. Most of my shopping is done online. However, GB will be 8 in 5 weeks. This year, she decided she wanted to have her party at M*chaels A*ts and Cr*fts. And she decided that she was going to have a mixed party- I was thinking boys and girls, she was thinking ASD and non ASD (her words). Part of having the party at the craft shop is going to pick out the craft to be done at the party. This is what we did today.

GB had already decided that making chef hats was the best project. Unfortunately, the craft store didn’t have any. The young woman from the store, who had been directed to help us, started by showing us several finished projects from other parties. GB wasn’t looking at the projects or listening to the woman. She had caught sight of a large rack of thick, sparkly paper and that was all  she could focus on. I took the opportunity to tell the store employee that GB had special needs and this was going to take a while. I let GB admire the paper and identify all the beautiful colors it came in. Our guide managed to point out the jewelry making stuff on the next aisle, and GB darted over to look. I pointed out that some of the boys might not enjoy making jewelry and that it might to difficult for some of the other kids to handle the small jewelry fittings. She agreed and reluctantly left the sparkling jewels behind.

The guide started talking about making jeweled treasure boxes. GB excitedly followed her and I thought maybe  this wouldn’t be so hard after all. Not so. She hadn’t even reached the wood treasure boxes when a number of three legged stools, one already decorated, caught her attention. She was sure they were perfect; I had to tell her at $15 a piece, they were out of budget. It took a couple of minutes, but she did accept it.

We went through mugs, bird houses, picture frames, soap making, bulletin boards, shirts, safari helmets, and butterflies. At that point, we had been at it over an hour. I spied a large bag of craft bling! and showed it to GB. She fell in love with it! I told her if she could find a project that could use the bling!, we would buy it. In less than 10  minutes, she had found medium size canvas bags, in various colors. To add to the bling!, we bought 5 colors of puffy paint and a bottle of silver glitter paint.

We took everything up to the cash register to pay. GB was happy and chattering and our guide was boxing our stuff as she rang it up. She was about half done when GB noticed the young women was crying. GB does not have an inside voice, so when she told me, she announced it to the whole store. The manager came out, helped finish up our order, and then took his employee into his office. I hustled GB out and spent the ride home explaining to her, that since I didn’t know our guide, I didn’t know why she was crying, and at any rate it was none of our business. I paused to see how far I got and GB took the opportunity to inform me that her teacher said she was kind and compassionate and that was a good thing. Trying to explain boundaries to a child with GB’s deficits is not easy. She is asleep. I may try again tomorrow.