Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Parents prepare their children who have special needs, disabilites and are on the autism spectrum disorder. Transitions are not easy and need to be thought out ahead of time, making provisions for all changes that may occur. You spend countless hours researching various issues, looking at schools for the next phase in school life, like going from Elementary to Middle School.
There was the IEP in May that had to wait for Support Unit East to approve my son and his aide taking the bus. There was a form that needed to be approved since this was the first time for my son to ride the bus and his aide would be going from a six hour position to an eight hour, one with the longer school hours in Middle School and riding the bus.
Once this was approved we went on to Due Process since the school site for Middle School is always the home school, meaning the one closest to where you live. This was not the best option for my nonverbal son since it is a year round school with the track for the autism class starting the week after graduating Elementary School.
This was not acceptable since summer camp is part of our routine, plus my other son is homeschooled and having Matthew home in September and October would be disruptive to Nicholas and nothing comparable to camp would be available.
The Due Process IEP was completed the week after school got out in June. Then a week later the home Middle School I would not be sending Matthew to called me about getting paper work for Matthew. They wanted me to fill out some form indicating where Matthew would be attending. I told them we had an IEP and that should superceded anything. Next I called the Elementary School to find out why they would send any documents to that school when I clearly indicated he was going elsewhere. It was a run around trying to determine what documents that school actually had. In the end I never did find out and did not send back the form. They said once I enrolled my son that would take care of it. The problem was that enrollment was this last week in August. That is very late to get this all handled with school starting in a few days.
On Wednesday of the last week in August we visited the Middle School with the enrollment papers, meeting with the Attendance Office and then the Bridge Coordinator. The aide was with us and learned of a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. I brought along both IEPs for the school and a list of questions to ask school personnel.
The previous Bridge Coordinator was there assisting this new guy in the position. She was the one to take us around the school grounds to see where the classroom, restroom, gym and lunch areas were. We also visited the Main Office for the aide to let them know his information so a timecard would be ready for him.
On Thursday evening we headed back to the new Middle School for the Orientation and to purchase PE uniforms and uniform pants. The lady doing the uniforms thought Matthew was a female! I did a quick haircut the following day to rectify further confusion with any school personnel. Even though the paperwork sent home with the enrollment stated the uniforms would be sold before and after the Orientation, the main uniform was only available during the day.
The list of topics to be covered at the Orientation included Special Education, yet that was never discussed. We left after one hour when they were covering after school clubs and activities. On our way out we mentioned to the school employee at the door about the missing Special Education information. She had noted it as well. I had been told at the office the previous day that there are 200 Special Education students at this school. They seemed to have been overlooked at the Orientation for sixth grade and new students.
It was hard enough to sit through an hour of back and forth English and Spanish on the same topics. I suggest that LAUSD implement the translation unit for these type of meetings so that headsets could be given to those who only speak Spanish with immediate interpretation to keep the pace moving along and not so confusing getting tidbits of information and then another Language being presented.
Friday mid morning I received a phone call from someone at the Attendance Office asking me about the aide riding the bus. I reminded her we were there the other day and she said she remembered and wanted contact information for the aide. We gave that at the Main Office but I gave her his cell phone number and forgot about the call until I received another one from the Assistant Principal after 4 PM on Friday of the Labor Day Weekend.
This Assistant Principal was calling to notify me that the form S64 was not approved or in the system for the aide to have eight hours. She wanted to know what I wanted to do. This is an internal error within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Someone dropped the ball at the end of the school year and now my son has to lose his aide for 1.5 hours each day, his aide gets less hours and the time to rectify this error is anyone's guess.
She wanted to know if I still wanted my son to go on the bus in the morning. This is a huge adjustment for him and I cannot place him on a bus with strangers. An option was to have the aide still come in the morning for the bus ride, but he would have to leave early and either Matthew goes on the bus at school for the ride home or I go and pick him up.
The Assistant Principal had suggested I take my son to school. I have been in contact twice with the Bus Supervisor to learn all the details and rules of riding the bus and then giving that information to the aide. We need to stay on track with this transition so driving my son to school was not an option. I have been doing that for years and finally made the tough decision to try out the bus.
Matthew was so wound up at the time of the phone call. The Assistant Principal told me to handle it and she could wait. I tried to explain to her that this is a 24/7 situation, especially this summer break. He was grabbing the papers from my hands, running around and laughing hysterically. This was distracting to me, and I could not gather all the papers and run out into the front yard like I did with previous calls to the Tansportation Department. It was chaotic since my front tooth had broken days before and popped out of my denture while I was on the phone. Here I was tossing the phone on the table to retrieve my tooth from under the kitchen table before my son stomped on it.
Another option she presented was having the aide work for three hours, take off for two and return for the last two hours. That is confusing to me and would not serve my child in his best interest or his IEP. I am waiting to see if I get written documentation regarding this error in the mail. The whole phone conversation was mind boggling and to think this was our first contact with the Assistant Principal. We were very organized for two visits to the school. I called for weeks to try to get them to send me the enrollment packet so I could prepare and have it all filled out. I wanted to do the tour earlier, but due to construction the area was not safe for several weeks as new pavement was placed.
I mentioned to the Assistant Principal that I needed to get in touch with the aide to go over the options. She told me that the communication needs to come from the school. I asked her if she was telling me I could not contact the aide, which is ridiculous considering he is coming to the house each morning to get on the bus with my son and is suppossed to be exiting the bus in the afternoon with him as well.
I told her I would be speaking with the aide no matter what and that we needed to have the lines of communcation open. She told me that this issue regarding LAUSD paperwork could take several weeks. Besides some written documentation on this, I believe there should be an emergency IEP schedule ASAP to address this with people who have authority within LAUSD.
Support Unit East needs to contact Special Education at the Beaudry Building and rectify this error. There is also the option of filing a complaint to the Board Of Education through Form 133, which is the Board Rule 133. This process takes a long time going through an investigation. I did a complaint in March of 2007 against the Principal at the Elementary School Nicholas attended. I do plan on filing this form so that action is taken to the person(s) who caused this distruption to my son's school day and IEP.
Another idea I have is to contact the Officer of the Day at the Regional Center and see if I can get emergency funding for the aides missed 1.5 hours each day so he can attend full days with Matthew plus the bus both ways. Maybe I can spend that lost time as the assistant to my son. I think on Wednesday I should arrive at the school before the aide leaves and get some feedback at that time and then determine if I should go in classroom or not.
The IEP will be out of compliance, which means a state complaint has to be filed. I called and left messages at the Support Unit and then the Complaint Response Unit within LAUSD once we finished speaking on Friday. I was only able to speak to the Elementary School Assistant Principal who had received the approval of the SE64. I had to verify whether this was verbal or faxed as I was not sure. She said she would make some calls as well. Next I made contact with the aide, who had only received voice mail messages from the new Middle School office. He will be checking his messages more often from now on. He agreed with me that it is best to start Matthew riding the bus at the start of the school year. He is not very happy to have to lose hours after a summer break.
There is also the Modified Consent Decree to consider and which outcome this infringes on. If I am being told to pick up my child because of an error within LAUSD than they need to reimburse me for mileage. This is listed under the Rules of the Board of Ed, page 23, rule 2378 - Payments to Parents in Lieu of Transportation.
School starts on Wednesday - the clock is ticking and all of a sudden these calls are not helping the process of transition into Middle School. I have not even addressed his Behavior Support Plan and what these changes at the start of the school year will do to Matthew. I need to get the classroom schedule to find out what they do each day from 1:30 to the end of the school day. Tuesdays are early release days for LAUSD for teacher meetings I wonder if they will let the aide stay the extra nine minutes should these changes still occur the following week.
Tuesday at 7:30 AM I will be starting with my phone calls to expedite this error caused internally within Los Angeles Unified School District. The aide will be at the meeting at the Middle School at 8 AM. Hopefully this can be resolved quickly.
LAUSD School Observation Checklist
Preparing for Enrollment in Middle School
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.