Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What a Difference a State Makes

What a difference a state makes when it comes to services for a special needs child!

I knew California was bad. The school my daughter attended would not test her unless she was two years behind, and ignored the teacher and me when we said she needed more help. Then a few years later, after pulling my kids out of school to homeschool them, I got some proof of her special needs in the form of a test by her doctors. The regional center barely admitted her after initially denying her application because there weren't any school records proving her need. I've had doctors, educators, psychologists, police officers, and more look at her and say, "She looks like a normal teen, you must be doing something wrong. Homeschooling is stunting her. You need to learn to parent. She doesn't look FAS. What is FAS anyway? I've never heard of that!"

Just before we moved I saw a news clip, and realized I wasn't the only one. There are other people in California that are also struggling to receive services that their children are legally and morally qualified to get. These children need services that will help them succeed in life and help them in school, early intervention, therapies like speech and OT, PT and special ed. But they are not getting those services in California without a fight, without lawsuits, without unnecessary delays and broken promises. I knew many people who were homeschooling their special needs children, and more who were paying thousands of dollars for speech and other therapies out of pocket. I knew I could write letters and sue, but I was too tired to fight the system. Raising the two youngest has taken all the emotional and financial energy I could muster.

So we left the state. Yes, there were other reasons for leaving. The cost of living wasn't conducive to retirement, and we wanted to be closer to our parents. But a big reason we moved to Washington was the hope of being in a place where FASD is recognized, and where I wouldn't have to educate people every time we had an interaction with a professional. It's hard enough to raise kids with FASD and past trauma, but the trauma caused by people who should know better is unnecessary. Moving at this time of my children's lives was difficult, but I had hope that we would move to a better place for them.

I was not disappointed.

We moved while school was out for the Christmas holiday. I contacted the schools as soon as they reopened. I gave the receptionist at Ms. D's school what paperwork I had, and the school psychologist immediately contacted me. I showed her Ms. D's schoolwork. The psychologist wondered if the test I had was accurate, since Ms. D's writing seemed more advanced, so she asked me if she could retest and also give some academic tests. I was surprised. Didn't she need a letter requesting that Ms. D be tested? Weren't they going to drag their feet, and wait the full thirty days after they receive the letter? Or say they never received the letter, delay and deny? No, the psychologist wanted to test Ms. D right away over a three day period so that everything could be in place when the new term started in two weeks.

In two weeks the psychologist tested Ms. D, interviewed us both, and wrote an eighteen page report. I received the report and results ahead of the IEP meeting so I could review it. The IQ test matched the one given two years ago, so it confirmed the past result. In less than two weeks of us contacting the school we had an IEP meeting, a mix of regular and special ed classes planned, the school nurse wrote up a plan for my daughter's physical needs, and we had a private tour of the school. The psychologist complimented me on teaching Ms. D, suggested the teachers check in with me if there were any questions of how best to teach her, and told them some of the things I suggested. They gave me referrals for psychologists, and so much encouragement and support. Ms. D had people check in with her throughout the day yesterday, her first day of school, and one of them called me after school to see how Ms. D was transitioning. No fight. More than I could ask for. I can't believe it!

The only tears I had in this whole process were tears of gratitude. My daughter is getting what she needs. I'm so glad we took a chance and moved here. The school is teaming with me to help my daughter, not fighting or ignoring us. I now have hope.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the district we moved to is rated much higher than the district we moved from in California. But California was recently rated "needs intervention" by the US Dept. of Education on how it is able to meet special education targets. http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/infographics/36idea_map.html