Monday, October 6, 2014

How the Educational System Failed my Son with Autism - Part 4

We never received a response to our email, or apology, from Nugget's Kindergarten teacher. We figured the truth must hurt. However, I will never forget her demeanor and threatening me at a parent-teacher conference when she made the comment to me that the school shouldn't have to worry about a lawsuit from other parents, when she was referring to Nugget's "naughty" behaviors. Her very negative attitude towards my child will never be forgotten. As a parent of two ASD children, you might get thick-skinned to the glares and the negative remarks from strangers. They don't matter. They are not a part of your daily life, but for a Kindergarten teacher to have this attitude, is just baffling. She is currently still teaching at this school, and it is our hope that she at least learned something.

Over the summer, Nugget attended ESY. Not without incident. I was informed of yet another restrain. The class was going to walk to the local park one day. This entailed crossing rail-road tracks. Evidently, Nugget escaped the adults and went running for the tracks. They chased after him and restrained him. My first thought of course, was that I was relieved to know he was safe. I then wondered what made him bolt? He was a flight risk, a wanderer. The staff knew this. It was in his IEP. I trusted them to be proactive knowing this.

By now, Nugget's behaviors had started to increase more at home. Presumably from the stress of school. Still receiving daily in-home ABA therapy, he was having daily meltdowns. We were scheduled to have an IEP meeting in August before the start of school. We were relieved that the ABA staff attended the meeting with us to make some recommendations for his IEP. We knew they were against restraining Nugget, so we were hopeful that maybe the school would listen to their recommendations. At this point, we felt that Nugget had been both physically and emotionally abused. We didn't know what other options we had. Everything else we had tried with an advocate, had not lasted, or was ignored.

During the IEP meeting, the school staff insisted they were using the same techniques that the ABA therapists had used at school, yet his daily communication sheet clearly showed Nugget's behaviors were through the roof when the ABA staff were not present. It was further evident that the school was not using the same techniques, since their was no edible reinforcement being used to teach and maintain Nugget's on-task behaviors. The school did not see this necessary and did not want to differentiate Nugget from his peers. Our argument to that was that they were already doing so by constantly needing to remove him from the classroom due to behaviors. It didn't matter that I had done tons of research on special education law. Everything I said, was backed up by law. It didn't matter. The school staff clearly did whatever they needed or wanted, in the moment with Nugget. Up to this point, it had worked for them to do it this way. The school had gotten away with restraining Nugget. It was difficult to prove that Nugget had been constantly restrained, when the school did not make any written reports on the incidents. Up until now, it was always our word against theirs. Even pictures of the bruises had not been enough for the Department of Education Student Maltreatment Program. It was as if the school knew this, and therefore did whatever was easiest for them to do.

His first grade year, Nugget would be attending all day. He would have ABA therapy when he came home. Since he would be having a full day, the ABA staff would go to work with him at school in shifts. One therapist in the morning and one in the afternoon. Again, we were relieved that they would be there almost the entire day, with the exception of the first half-hour in the morning, lunch and recess, and the last hour of the day. We were again hopeful that this would help Nugget at school, where he might feel safer. Nugget would also be getting a new male paraprofessional. We thought this was great since maybe he could relate more to a male as a friend, rather than a female para.

Nugget's BCBA suggested implementing a "Perfect Day Award" to increase the likelihood of reducing Nugget's behaviors at school. If he could go to school a full day without behaviors, he would earn a reinforcer, which we could provide at home. The school agreed to doing this and would print out awards for him to bring home at the end of the day, to show he had no aggressions. We thought this would help reduce his behaviors and were hopeful, with the help of the ABA therapists at school.

The school year started, and the Perfect Day Award system was implemented by first explaining how it worked to Nugget. Within the first few days of school, Nugget was bringing home awards. We were elated that we had found something that worked, and gave Nugget something positive about going to school. We felt the school staff would finally see how implementing simple positive techniques, could be extremely effective with Nugget.

 Both September and October were positive months for Nugget. He had earned Perfect Day Awards most days. Finally, we thought we were heading for progress. We were a little concerned when the ABA staff would be going to school less, since Nugget was on the right track. However, the last 2 months had definitely been the best months for Nugget. We were hopeful he would still continue to make progress. It was agreed that the ABA staff would be coming in for an hour, twice a week, to keep track of the progress.

As the ABA staff pulled back, Nugget was still doing better than previous years. However, I would have to consistently email the school as a reminder to send home the daily communication sheets and perfect day awards, because these were not always sent home with him. It was impossible for me to know whether I should reward him or not. Without the consistency from the school staff, we were sure Nugget would regress and we had finally gotten to a point where we felt the need for consistency was extremely important to continue on the same positive path.

Sometime during mid-November, Nugget came home and said he had been placed on a time-out bench during recess. I shrugged it off thinking he must have misunderstood. He came home the following day and said the same thing again. Nothing was indicated on the daily communication sheet about this. Again, I thought Nugget must be misunderstanding a situation, but he insisted that another para, by her name, had said he was on a time-out. I emailed the school, questioning why they would be placing him on a time-out when his regular para should be, one on one, helping him to be social. Again, we did not feel the use of a time-out would be effective in teaching appropriate behaviors, as it would be for a typical child. Nonetheless, this type of intervention was not written in his IEP. The school insisted this had never happened and that Nugget must be confused. They did, however, tell us that there was a different para with him during recess to provide a lunch break for his regular para, and to provide support when his regular para was sick. The school assured us that this para had been trained in Nugget's IEP. However, we were concerned that this para had not been consistent in using the effective interventions and strategies with Nugget. We did believe that some form of punishment did occur. Once again, we did not feel our son would gain anything out of lying or making something like this up. To the contrary, he didn't even know what lying was.

By the following week, Nuggets behaviors were once again increasing. We were already calling a new meeting when Nugget came home and said he had been placed alone in a room on a time-out, and said he was" turning blue with lots of tears".

Stay tuned for "How the Educational System Failed my Son with Autism - part 5"

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