Thursday, June 05, 2003

And again we ask: Why does all of this need to be so hard?

Three or four months ago -- when it became apparent to me that my son’s teacher, although caring and generally good with him, was not doing any sort of behavior analysis to figure out why he acted up at times; when it became apparent that many of those working with him thought his aide was more of a problem than he was; when it became apparent that different personnel were dealing with his behavior in different ways with no particular comparison or coordination attempted; and when it became apparent that stress and disruption and negative discipline was causing him to engage in behaviors that might harm his classmates -- I suggested to my son’s child study team leader that what we needed was a behavior management plan, and that I would expect there to be one in his next IEP.

She agreed -- particularly feeling that the aide could use some guidance -- and said she’d ask for the district’s new behavior specialist to come and observe him. Fine and dandy, said I. And waited. And waited. And waited. Turned out the new behavior specialist is also a teacher, and couldn’t schedule observations without disrupting her own class, and finding a substitute, and yada, yada, yada. With the date for his IEP meeting fast approaching, I went ahead and submitted my own behavior management plan, but of course -- since I’m only a parent, after all, and paperwork had been submitted for this expert to come -- that was politely put aside in favor of the specialist’s eventual opinion. The IEP meeting came and went, with the promise of a second meeting just to discuss behavior. I signed nothing. And waited. And waited. And waited.

So yesterday, the child study team leader gave me the good news: The specialist is coming! The specialist is coming! Next Tuesday. Which is about a week-and-a-half before the end of school. Ever so helpful to give the aide tips at this point in the year. I mentioned that we would be having a meeting after the specialist had seen him, and the child study team leader said she wasn’t so sure about that, since the specialist probably can’t take another day away from her class. I expressed in the strongest possible terms that I and other members of the team would certainly want to have input on any behavior management plan for this boy, and she darn well better find a way to make that happen. She allowed as how maybe we could get together after school sometime. You better believe it.

And maybe there will be happy ending to this, if the specialist agrees with me and her opinion makes it enforceable. And maybe there will be a battle ahead, if she doesn’t agree with me and suggests techniques I’m sure won’t work. And maybe -- as is the time-honored strategy of our district -- things will just kinda drift along, and I will again be relying on the considerable kindness of individual teachers. But as I seem to ask again, and again, and again as my kids make their way through the system -- why does all of this need to be so hard? Behavior analysis is not a radical thing. Positive discipline is not a radical thing. There’s information out there about what works for kids with fetal alcohol exposure. Surely we can agree that treating a kid's behavior consistently across a school day is a good idea. I’m not asking them to do anything that all-fired controversial here. Why do I have to plow through layers and layers of bureaucracy to get it done?

Gotta protect the system from those pesky parents, I guess.

No comments: