Monday, August 25, 2008

Now what?

It's starting to seem like things just aren't meant to be easy for the three of us :-)

I know that in the recent past I’ve indicated that we were so impressed by this school district that we felt we had a tough choice to make. After writing that post, I decided to consult with my online contacts about the nature of interpreting for preschoolers and the fact is, it’s nearly impossible to do. The crux of the issue is that it’s too abstract for children this young to understand that an interpreter is speaking for someone else. Not to mention that a young child needs to learn their primary language directly, rather than through a third-party like an interpreter. To top it off, after doing some research and emailing back and forth with an interpreter, I realized that their code of ethics expressly forbids them from teaching or even clarifying information. They are strictly there to interpret and that’s it. That obviously doesn’t work for a young child in an educational setting does it? Having this information suddenly made the decision a no brainer for us.

Honestly, this public school district has blown our minds with their level of professionalism, their competence, and their genuine desire to meet Ethan's needs. They are offering an interesting idea that they've never offered before, so Ethan would be trying and testing their concept for the first time. They want to put an aide in the room that is not only a licensed teacher, but also a licensed interpreter. It gets a little fuzzy here as we try to nail down the language describing her actual role in the classroom and even the administrator present during the IEP meeting was looking for clarification on this point. Basically, she’d be Ethan’s aide and would teach him sign language but she would also teach the other children and she would be there as a resource for his main teacher who happens to have a solid foundation for sign (on a preschooler level) but is by no means fluent. It sounds great in theory, but when you get to the nuts and bolts of the situation it becomes less and less appealing.

The law says that the IEP team must consider direct communication between teacher and student and peers. That is part of "least restrictive environment". We think the “least restrictive environment” for Ethan is to be in a deaf school where he has access to direct communication in his primary language with all the staff and students.  The public school cannot match this and we feel it's his right to have that access as a deaf child, and that the law very clearly illustrates that point. I even used the language of the law (taken from IDEA, the section on educating deaf children) while making our points during the meeting, but they disagreed with us and felt that they had all their bases covered. It takes some serious confidence to disagree with the law!

Our next step is to file an appeal, which in Ohio means writing a letter to the superintendent to get him/her to review the case and hopefully change the decision in our favor. If that fails, then we go into mediation with the district. We would likely take an advocate who knows the law as it pertains to educating deaf children. If that fails, then we go to due process and have to hire a lawyer and go to court. We’re trying to remain very optimistic that it doesn’t come to that.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Never Ending Roller-coaster Ride

We are home from Ethan's IEP meeting and it's all I can do to keep from making myself a tall stiff alcoholic beverage right now, and not because there is reason to celebrate. 

The school district we're in feels that they can address all of Ethan's educational needs and so have declined our request to send him to the deaf school. We're pretty taken aback by their decision because there are 3 children in Ethan's class from our district and one of them is not even deaf (she's severely apraxic) and all 3 of them have a full ride paid for by the district. What a difference one person can make on an IEP team; the person who used to be in charge of those decisions has left the district and we got to break in the new guy today. I guess he felt that he had something to prove and our case was a good way to prove it. 

I really don't want to wallow here, or anywhere, because that just isn't the way I roll, but damn it if I don't feel like the universe owes us a break! We uprooted our lives for this opportunity! What more are we supposed to do? 

We'll continue to fight. We'll go through the process of appealing the decision and we'll get mediation and go to court over it if we have to. And Ethan will be be in good hands at his new school until we just can't fight it anymore. 

But really, he deserves this and I just can't believe that we're going to fail at giving it to him. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Big Boy

Ethan turned 3 on Sunday! Here he is playing with one of his favorite gifts. He's so obsessed with this tent that we decided to keep it out of his view this morning in order to make sure he would eat his breakfast and be willing to leave the apartment. He noticed it was gone and immediately started looking around while signing "tent". Did we actually think he would forget about it simply because it wasn't visible?

Here's Ethan wearing his backpack and name-tag this morning on his first day of preschool. He is attending St. Rita School for the Deaf. We're sending him there this week as a "visitor", though we hope to see that status change after the IEP meeting to become "student". The big meeting is this Friday at 10 a.m. I'm nervous about it but excited just the same. We've been gearing up for this stuff for so long and now that it's all happening it just feels surreal. Wish us luck on Friday. I'll post as soon as we know anything. 

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Lots to Love

Thanks for the hat Aunt Audrey!

Ethan and his mama!

We're all pretty happy around here these days. It just seems like there is absolutely nothing to complain about anymore :-)

Ethan is developing like crazy lately with his new interest in food and all the other groovy stuff he's doing. On Thursday he ate veggies in their pure form for the first time in his life! He had roasted carrots and green beans with olive oil and herbs, as well as grilled chicken! I watched him like a hawk the entire evening, worried that he would be sick or have reflux, but he kept it all down and had a decent night of sleep as well!

He also said the word "dance" several times this weekend! He loves it when we dance and usually just signs the word, but this time he signed it and said it. I was floored! I still am!

We have all kinds of appointments lined up for August and September, new therapists to meet and relationships to build. I'm excited, but I'm also homesick for Ethan's former OT and PT. His OT (hi Marylee!) would be so jazzed by this new love for food as she made it her mission to make him healthy foods that would appeal to his sensory requirements. I just know she'd be having a field day with this latest development.

I'm most enthusiastic about the appointment in October with a doctor in a metabolic clinic. Remember those labs I was talking about months ago? I stopped short of doing them because I wanted to do them under the direction of a doctor and there were none in Athens that knew what I was talking about. I've found the ideal clinic here that speaks that language and when I talked to the receptionist about Ethan she said "I'm so happy for you, you've found the perfect place for Ethan, we'll get to the bottom of his gut issues, you can count on it". I literally felt tears form in my eyes upon hearing that statement. She then said "I'm a mom, I know how important this is to you and I can assure you that you've found the right place".

My brain is on overdrive trying to process the school stuff and it seems each day that I flip-flop on where we should send him. I wish I could process it more fully here on the blog, but I have no idea if the school people are reading and though I have nothing to hide, I also know that everyone has their own agenda (myself included) and that this is in large part a game of strategy and semantics. I'm going to think about ways to talk about some of it here though since I have readers who I think could weigh in and offer a unique perspective.