Tsunami Hits

About a month after Shantel’s assistant, Mrs. N., quit, a new assistant, Miss K. was hired. At first it seemed like she was going to be the perfect match for Shantel, and I really believe she would have been had it not been for the Braille Specialist, Mr. B, allowing her to help him get caught up getting Shantel’s assignments brailled. Miss K had absolutely no experience with braille what so ever, but Mr. B took it upon himself to “teach” her how to run the machine that actually reads the printed word and converts it into braille. Now that sounds easy and it can be IF you know how to read braille so you can ensure materials are brailled correctly.

Braille is made up of six raised dots. And, depending on how the dots are arranged, words are produced forming what is known as grade one braille which is what is used for children first learing to read.  More advanced braille, known as grade two braille, which is what Shantel reads, includes contractions. There are 250 contractions used in grade two braille. If one dot is added or missing, it can throw off a word or meaning of a word. This is especially important when students are doing research papers, english or vocabulary work , or when trying to find a website.

It takes years to become fluent in reading braille, especially grade two braille. One would think, as I certainly did, that a Braille Specialist like Mr. B, who got paid big bucks for his “expertise,” would know better than to allow someone who knew nothing about braille to operate the brailling equipment. However, that is exactly what happened and the result was disastrous!

Shantel started telling me her braille was all wrong. She said the braille was running off the pages, the sentences were repeated over and over or whole sections of information was missing. She couldn’t find websites she needed to get her homework completed etc. She said she reported this to the new assistant and Mr. B, but was told there was nothing wrong with the braille. She said they told her she was just being lazy and didn’t want to do her work. So I sat with Shantel and went through each assignment word by word reading the printed page (thank goodness I had it written into the IEP that the printed page always be attached to the braille) as Shantel told me what she was “seeing” in braille. Sure enough, everything on every assignment was wrong.

I called the new Department Chair, Mrs. J, and insisted she look into these brailling errors immediately. I reminded her that with everyday that passed, Shantel was falling further and further behind on her work. I also reminded her that the school was now operating outside of the IEP which stated that Shantel must have her braille work at the same time as her sighted peers or be given an alternative assignment worth the same amount of credits. Mrs. J told me she had no power to address this because Mr. B reported directly to the District Department Head, Mr R.  Well, as you can imagine, I was furious at this point and demanded yet another IEP meeting with all team members in attendance to address these issues.  The meeting was scheduled for the next morning.

In the IEP meeting I handed out copies of each of the brailling errors as I had documented all of them. The District Department Head, Mr. R, looked surprised but remained very neutral when addressing Mr. B about the errors. Mr. B had every excuse in the world as to why this was not his responsibility and said he just had too much of a workload to quality check everything that was brailled. He said he had students at other schools and none of them were complaining of errors. Then, Miss K began to add her two cents worth saying she knew there were no errors because she did everything right and it was just that Shantel was upset because she had all this work to do. I handed Miss. K some braille papers and asked her to read them to me. Of course she couldn’t so I had Shantel read out loud what she had in front of her. It was an absolute mess. I finally asked Shantel to stop and addressed the IEP team. I told them I was embarrassed for them if they thought they were going to sit there and blame my child for their errors and I demanded a mediation meeting immediately. I told them if this couldn’t be resolved in mediation, I would hire a lawyer and take it all the way to court if necessary.

Mediation meetings are the first step in the process when legal action is being considered. When anyone calls for a meditation meeting the state has 48 hours to respond with a meeting date and time.

Next: Mediation Begins

The Tsunami Builds In Strength

If you have been following along with my journey, by now we all know when a child in Arizona has special needs, there must be a written individual educational plan (IEP) in place at the school the child attends. And, anyone of the IEP team members can call an IEP meeting at anytime to discuss issues that come up or to have an addendum added to the IEP. Shantel’s mobility instructor, Mr. P, called another IEP meeting to notify the team members I was not adhering to “his authority and expertise” because I refused to have Shantel walk the community alone, cross busy intersections alone or take a plane to Tucson and back alone.

When the meeting came to order, Mr. P, began trying to state all the issues he had with me. I listened up to the point where he told the whole team I was going to get Shantel killed. Then, I told him he didn’t have any “authority” over me or my child. I said he could make recommendations that I would consider, and weigh against my childs safety, but as long as I was Shantel’s mother, I would be the one making the final decisions about what she would or wouldn’t do and where she would or wouldn’t go. I told him I saw no reason why he couldn’t continue to work with Shantel to teach her the skills she needed to learn without sending her out alone yet.

Mr. P didn’t like that I challenged his practices and said if I didn’t agree to what he said needed to be done, perhaps I didn’t need his services. I told him he was right, we would no longer needed his services. I said I would be working with Shantel to practice the skills  she already learned until Shantel let me know she was comfortable to move forward with more sessions. I said when Shantel let me know she was ready , I would notify the IEP team, and if Mr. P was still interested in working with Shantel, and I as her MOTHER, we would negotiate the plan at that time. That ended this meeting.

In addition to the mobility instructor, Mr. P, Shantel also had a full-time braille specialist, Mr B. His job was to ensure all printed materials, i.e. teacher handouts, books, power points etc. were delivered in braille to Shantel at the same time her sighted peer received their printed materials. Mr. B was very nice but was not assertive enough to enforce his own rules of having all Shantel’s teachers turn in any printed work needing to be brailled at least three days before it was due to be delivered to Shantel’s. As a result, teachers would forget to get the handouts brailled and Shantel would not have her work at the same time as her sighted peers. This is what brought the Tsunami crashing in with full force.

Next: Tsunami Hits!

A Tsunami Is Coming

In the meeting that was scheduled for Shantel and I to officially meet the new IEP team members that had been assigned to Shantel after her assistant, Mrs. N,  and the Department Chair, Mrs. G, both quit, we all reviewed the IEP in detail to ensure everyone understood the terms of the agreement and we all signed on the dotted line, AGAIN!

The new, temporary assistant, Mrs. C, was a middle-aged woman who took to Shantel right away. She was compassionate, caring, and very supportive of Shantel. As the events of the next few weeks unfolded, I am sure if not for Mrs. C, things would have been much worse for Shantel than they were.

In addition to the District Department Head, Mr. R and the Department Chair, Mrs. J, and Shantel’s Assistant, Mrs. C, there were many other IEP team members we haven’t talked about yet. For example; every teacher Shantel had was considered part of her IEP team and they all provided their opinions as to what they thought Shantel needed to do, or what they thought she did or didn’t need to have. Keep in mind Shantel was the first totally blind child to attend this High School and none of her teachers had ever worked with a blind student before.

Her mobility instructor, Mr. P, who was responsible for teaching Shantel how to travel safely from place to place using her long cane, was part of the IEP  team as well. He would work with Shantel once a week for two hours. At first, he worked with Shantel within the school. Then, once she mastered the school, he would come to our home before school, and take Shantel into the community to teach her how to cross streets and intersections using only the sound of the traffic surge as her indication of when it was safe to cross. He also wanted me to understand what I needed to do as Shantel’s sighted guide, so he would blindfold me and have me do mobility with him.  I was fine with him teaching Shantel the skills she needed to learn to be safe, as long as he or I was with her. But, then he told me I needed to start letting her walk alone to catch the bus to go to school, and take the public bus to the mall, and even told me I needed to let her go to the airport alone and take a plane to Tucson and back! All of this so she could learn how to be independent! I told him very quickly that wasn’t going to happen. He said if I didn’t allow all these things, I would be crippling Shantel and she would never develop a sense of security as she travels within her environment. But he really stepped over the line with me, when he said I was going to be the cause of Shantel getting herself killed! Now, keep in mind, Shantel was only fourteen at the time, she had just been attacked, in the safety of her own school, and was still traumatized from that whole event. Shantel was telling me she didn’t want to walk anywhere alone and begged me to promise her I wouldn’t let that happen. I tried to explain to Mr. P what Shantel’s fears were, and I also told him I didn’t think it was safe for her to be out alone yet.  I told him I wouldn’t let one of our sighted children do those things alone at fourteen!  He told me he was going to write this all up in his report and call another IEP meeting to discuss how I wasn’t cooperating with his “authority and expertise”. I simply said “I will see you at that meeting, but in the meantime my expectations are you will support the current IEP and not leave Shantel alone at any time”.

Next: The Tsunami Builds In Strength!

Who’s Running This Ship?

It came to pass that Shantel’s assistant, Mrs. N, just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, stick to the IEP plan we all signed. She began to leave Shantel alone in the classroom close to the end of class saying she needed to run to the office for a few minutes and would be right back. But, she didn’t come back, and Shantel was left to either walk to her next class alone, or be late. When Shantel told me about this I, of course, called the Department Chair, Mrs. G, and insisted she speak to Shantel’s assistant, Mrs. N, and either have her follow the IEP plan or replace her with an assistant who would. Mrs. G said she would take care of it. However, when I went to pick Shantel up at school that day, I was met at the back door by a very young lady we’ll call Mrs. J, who informed me she was the “newly appointed” Department Chair of Special Education. She let me know the other Department Chair, Mrs. G, quit AND, so did Shantel’s assistant, Mrs. N!  Mrs. J, assured me Shantel had been temporarily assigned to a great assistant, we’ll call Mrs. C. She told me Mrs. C, had been working in special education for a few years, and she would be a “perfect” match for Shantel until a permanent assistant could be hired. So, now, here we are back to square one with all new players who had little or no experience.

I told the new Department Chair, Mrs. J, that I wanted a meeting set up right away with the “newly appointed” District Department Head, Mr. R, and anyone else who would be involved with Shantel on a daily basis. Mrs. J, said she didn’t think that would be necessary since she was the new “decision maker” at the school for anything to do with the Special Education Department. Now I’m thinking, “oh no, not another know-it-all who doesn’t have a clue”! But, I stayed very calm, because I learned my lesson about exploding, then having to go back and apologize…, I simply asked Mrs. J, what her qualifications were for this newly appointed position? She looked puzzled, and told me she had been a Special Education Teacher for five years and she knew all about IEP’s. I asked her if she knew the Arizona Disability Laws state, anytime new people are brought in to work with a special needs child, they need to be added to the IEP team, and they need sign the IEP plan, stating they understand it and will support the IEP plan to the letter? Mrs. J, look surprised and said she didn’t know that. I told her I wasn’t wanting to come across as condescending in any way, but, I believe I have real reason for concern now, and that I’m wondering who is really running this ship if I know more than she, or the District Department Head, Mr. R,  about how the disability laws governing IEP’s work. I pointed out that either she, or Mr. R from the District, should have already scheduled a meeting to introduce both me and Shantel, to the new IEP team members who will be working with us and/or helping to make decisions about things that affect Shantel. The newly appointed Department Chair, Mrs. J,  invited me to her office to call the newly appointed District Department Head, Mr. R, to set up the meeting for the following morning.

Next: A Tsunami Is Coming!

Musical Chairs

Along with the Head of Special Education at the District level, within each school, there is a Department Chair of Special Education. The person in this position is responsible for ensuring all aspects of an IEP is carried out to the letter. They are also in charge of all the Special Education Teachers and any assistants working with any child with special needs. We went through three Department Chairs within the four years Shantel was in high school. It truly was “musical chairs”!

The first Department Chair, we’ll call her Mrs. G, was very young and very, very, condescending in her approach. She was like a very young Dr. XYZ if you can imagine two from that same mold. She really didn’t have any real answers to problems that would come up, but she would try to give you lots of “busy” work to distract you from the issue at hand. Perhaps, if I had been younger, and easily intimidated by authority, and Shantel had not been attacked under her watch, I might not have seen through the smoke screens she kept trying to put up. Her answer to everything was “well, you know, Shantel isn’t going to have everything handed to her when she gets in college”. I finally told her we would worry about college when we got there but right now I needed her to stay focused on making sure Shantel was getting what she needed to get through high school!

The assistant Shantel had her freshman year, we’ll call her Mrs. N, was a delightful, middle-aged woman. Her husband was blind (he lost his sight as an adult) so she at least had some knowledge of how to work with a blind person. The only problem was Mrs. N, was very opinionated, and thought I was being overly protective of Shantel by insisting Shantel have an assistant with her between classes. Mrs. N thought this would prevent other students from wanting to befriend Shantel. She suggested, if I insisted Shantel have someone with her all the time, perhaps she should walk some distance behind Shantel instead of side by side. Shantel didn’t like that idea at all because she said it made her feel like she was being stocked.  I had to repeatedly remind Mrs. N that Shantel’s safety was my number one concern, and if having an assistant with her in the halls prevented other students from befriending Shantel perhaps they weren’t the type of students Shantel needed to be around to begin with.

I really believe most teachers do their jobs well and are the experts in the classroom. I believe most of the professionals that worked with Shantel over the years were true experts in their field. I also know and communicated constantly when I was challenged in regards to what should or shouldn’t be done for Shantel’s safety, that I am the expert on Shantel! I am the one who lives this 24/7 with Shantel. I don’t get to leave this all behind at the end of the day. It seemed so easy for all the experts to tell me I was overly protective of Shantel. However, I had no problem reminding them over and over that Shantel was a fourteen year old girl, who had been traumatized by the boy who attacked her in their school, under their watch, after they told me to relax and “trust” their system that they promised me would keep Shantel safe!

Next: Who’s Running This Ship!

Dr. XYZ Retired

Imagine my surprise, and anger, when I asked why Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, wasn’t at the emergency meeting I called in regards to Shantel being attacked by the boy at school. After all, it was her decision that Shantel wouldn’t have an assistant walking with her in the halls. The new District Department Head Of Special Education, we’ll call him Mr. R, told me Dr. XYZ retired over the summer. So, after putting me through all that HELL, I find out she wasn’t even going to be around to support the IEP she wrote and forced me to sign! But, that whole IEP was going to change now anyway. So, in reality, it was a blessing in disguise!

As I was becoming more and more comfortable with how Arizona disability laws work, I was also learning that individual educational plans (IEP’s) can, and should, be parent driven. But, the parent(s) need to really know, and understand the laws, and not be intimidated by the IEP team members. And, more importantly, parent(s) need to know how to approach the IEP team members with accurate information, that supports their child’s special needs, and the support requests must be reasonable, doable, and must be measurable in time. Now all that sounds complicated and it is, but, if you are dealing with a school district that has just screwed up big time with your child’s safety, you can pretty much ask for, and get whatever you want.

Now, the new District Department Head of Special Education, Mr. R, was a very nice, mild-mannered man, and that worked to my advantage. He was a welcomed relief from the overbearing Dr. XYZ. However, Mr. R, made the mistake of letting me know, in our very first meeting, what all his weaknesses were. He basically told me he was “assigned” to this new position, he hadn’t applied for it, and he really wasn’t sure how everything worked. He said he was working hard to learn the ropes, and that he would do all he could to support Shantel and her needs. He even asked for my support in helping him understand what those needs were. Well, now, that was music to my ears!

Just like in the jungle, if you show wild animals your fear, or weaknesses, you may end up being their dinner…So, I took full advantage of helping Mr. R re-write Shantel’s IEP that included having an assistant with her at all times. I also made sure her IEP clearly stated that she was to have all her work brailled for as long as she needed it. The IEP also stated the district would provide Shantel with a computer equipped with the JAWS program allowing it to speak to her, and she would be provided qualified training and full technology support for as long as she needed it. In addition, I requested Shantel have a full technology assessment, to determine the best equipment for her to use, and had it written into her IEP that whatever the equipment recommendations were, the district would provide all the equipment, training, and equipment support to Shantel for as long as she needed it. Things were looking up!

Next: Musical Chairs!

When Bad Things Happen In Your Favor

After being told that Shantel wouldn’t have an assistant walking with her between classes, and her mobility sessions wouldn’t begin until a month after school started, it fell to me to help her learn her route to each of her classes. The Department Chair Of Special Education for Mountain Pointe High provided Shantel’s schedule to me and gave Shantel and I a tour of the school to show us where each of Shantel’s classes were located. Then, we were told we could spend the summer practicing getting from class to class which is what we did. The school office was open all summer, and maintenance men were working throughout the school buildings, but the refrigeration wasn”t on and the school was very hot and most of the hallways were dark which was not a problem for Shantel of course, bu it made it difficult for me to read the directions on how to get to each of Shantel’s classrooms. Shantel and I would go to the school everyday, all summer long, and practice for at least an hour and sometimes more. When school started, I still wasn”t comfortable that Shantel was going to be able to locate all her classes and I knew it would be much more difficult for her once the halls were full of pushing and shoving teenagers.

During school hours a bell rings to let the students know they have five minutes to get to their class. If any student is found in the hallways when the second bell rings, five minutes after the first bell, they are sent to what is called “sweep”. If you are sent to sweep, you have to stay there the entire hour and do nothing but sit in silence. Punishment for not getting to class on time. I prayed Shantel never got sent to sweep because that would throw off her route and she wouldn’t be able to find her way back to where she needed to be. But, I had no choice but to pray Shantel would be OK and that she would find all her classes on time. I expressed my concerns over and over to the Department Chair of the High School, but was told repeatedly not to worry, because Security would also be looking out for Shantel, from a distance, so she would be just fine. I was told I just needed to relax and let go and “trust” the system. Then, all HELL broke loose!

Within the first week of school, Shantel was walking to her class, alone, and accidentally bumped into a boy with her cane in the hall.  Shantel said excuse me, but the boy grabbed Shantel and shoved her into a brick wall and told her she better stay the hell out of his way. Shantel said she wasn’t trying to get in his way, and told him it was an accident and she was just trying to get to her class and suggested he do the same. The boy shoved Shantel into the wall again, this time much harder, calling her filthy names and said she better not ever get in his way again. Shantel said this happened about 9:00 in the morning. When Shantel finally got to her class, she told her assistant, but the assistant told her she was fine and it was just an accident and to just forget about it.

When I picked Shantel up at 3:00 that afternoon, I knew right away when I saw her something was wrong. She looked terrified and still visibly shaken. I asked her what was wrong but she said let’s just go home. On the way home she told me what happened and when we got in the house I made her show me her back where the boy shoved her into the wall. She had a huge bruise on her back and shoulder. I took pictures of her back and shoulder, then I immediately got on the phone with the Department Head of Special Education of the school and told her I wanted a meeting with the Head of the District, the school Principal, the school Security and herself immediately, or I was going to call the police, the news channels, and anyone else who wanted to break this story about how my blind daughter was attacked at Mountain Pointe High!

An emergency meeting was scheduled for 5:00 that afternoon, and as much as I hate that Shantel had to go through being attacked, it definitely turned the tables in our favor going forward. It gave me the ammunition I needed to insist that she have an assistant with her at all times, including walking between classes. When I showed the pictures of Shantel’s back and shoulder, the “powers that be” were stunned and had nothing to say about why security wasn’t around when the attack happened. They couldn’t even see anything on the school security cameras because they happened to be pointed in the wrong direction, and of course, no one saw or heard anything. But, I told them this was totally unacceptable and Shantel’s safety was at risk. Of course, they had no choice but to agree and made the changes to Shantel’s IEP to include an assistant with her at all times during the school day. One small victory that led to much bigger ones to come.

Next: Dr. XYZ Retired!

Shantel Is So Worth It

I was granted another meeting with Dr. XYZ and her team at the district office. Bill of course couldn’t attend because he had to work so I was on my own. When I walked in to the meeting room, Dr. XYZ and her team of “experts” were busy mapping out things on the board and giant flip charts. It became very apparent to me, very quickly, that they thought I needed to literally get the “big picture”. This meeting was very formal and authoritative in tone. So when the meeting opened, and I was given the floor, I stood up and addressed the good Dr. XYZ, and her posse, with the most sincere apology I could muster up. I told them exactly what they wanted to hear. I told them I was very sorry for my conduct in the last meeting when I let my emotions override my judgement, and let my pride get in the way of me listening to their “expertise”. I assured them that would never happen again.Then, I stood there in silence, until the good Dr. XYZ invited me to take my seat.

Dr. XYZ walked over to the giant flip charts and began to explain how the District Department Of Special Education works. She explained in great detail how she was head of not only this department within the district office, but how she was also the decision maker for all the Special Education Departments for each school within her district. It was clear Dr. XYZ was in her element now as she went on and on about how important she was. I listened, asked appropriate questions and told her how impressed I was.

Once Dr. XYZ was satisfied that I understood her importance, and power, she suggested we move on to the actual writing of Shantel’s individual Education Plan (IEP). I was told, and it was written into the IEP, that Shantel would be given an assistant for the first six weeks of school, but only in the classroom. She would not have anyone walking with her between classes, one of the most dangerous times, but more on that later. Dr. XYZ said Shantel would have her work brailled, but only until she learned to use a computer with the JAWS program and she would be provided that training for only a period of six weeks. I was enlightened to the fact that Shantel would be given an “opportunity” to be in regular classrooms with her sighted peers IF she could prove her ability to keep up, but if she fell behind, she would be moved to disability resource classes with students with learning disabilities. Under my calm outer appearance, my heart was sinking, I could feel my blood pressure rising, and I was more than PISSED off to say the very least! But, at this point in this little game, I had no choice but to agree to everything and hope and pray that I would be able to provide the real support I knew Shantel was going to need.

Finally, and thankfully, the meeting came to an end. I signed the IEP papers, thanked the good Dr. XYZ  and her team of “experts” for allowing me this time of redemption,and told them how much I appreciated this second chance. I told them Shantel has a beautiful mind and spirit, and that I knew once they met Shantel they would see she is so worth everything they were going to do for her. I shook hands with everyone in the meeting and left.

Bill was home from work by the time I arrived back to the house, and of course, everyone was anxious to hear how my meeting went and if Shantel was going to be allowed to go to Mountain Point High. I wanted to throw up, but I smiled and assured them all everything was all fixed up and all we had to do now was let the games begin!

Next: When Bad Things Happen In Your Favor!

Shantel Insists On THAT High School

After I stormed out of the meeting with the “good” Dr. XYZ with her PhD, Bill and I talked on the way home about what we thought our options might be. I knew I had just burnt the bridge to any public high school within our area because Dr. XYZ was the head of all special education programs within the entire district. I told Bill as soon as we got home I was going to start researching private and charter schools within our are. We even discussed looking into the School For The Blind in Tucson, but I told Bill I would never just ship Shantel off to that school alone. I said if she had to go there, I would need to get an apartment in Tucson so I could be with her and we would come home on weekends and school breaks. My mind was racing and my emotions were out of control. I just couldn’t believe it could be this difficult to get our child educated. But, I was determined to do what ever it took to ensure Shantel had a fair and level playing ground to compete with her peers.

When we got home, of course Shantel and my mon both wanted to know how the meeting at the District went. I told them it didn’t go well at all and in fact she would not be attending Mountain Pointe High. I explained what all happened in the meeting and told Shantel the district was not willing to support her needs. I explained everything Dr. XYZ told me about Shantel not having a one-on-one assistant, needing to learn to use a computer, and that they wanted her to braille her own work. Of course mom had opinions on what I should or shouldn’t have said. It is always easy to give an opinion when you are not the one actually fighting the battle. Shantel listened patiently then shocked me with her response. She told me she wanted to go to THAT school and she didn’t care what she had to do to make it happen. She said she would walk there if necessary, braille whatever she needed to braille, learn the computer etc. but she was not going to let anything stand in her way of attending that school. She reminded me that I promised to always be there for her no matter what, and she asked me why I was willing to give up so easily just because things got tough, and she was right. How do you say no to that kind of determination? I told Shantel I needed time to think about all of this and we would discuss it again tomorrow.

Now, I’m thinking “OH S##T”! I told Bill I needed some time alone and asked that he keep mom and Shantel in the house. I went out on our back patio, poured myself a glass of wine, sat down and had a good, long cry. As I sat there, with my glass of wine, I started thinking about the events of the past few hours, I knew what I had to do. I can tell you I learned a lot that day about what it takes to get what you need in the school system for your child with special needs. I learned that I had to find a way to keep my emotions in check at all times because this wasn’t about me, it was about making sure Shantel got what she needed. And, it was about me showing Shantel, by my example, the right way to go about getting things done. I learned it was imperative that I learn the disability laws inside and out, do my research on each and every issue that comes up, and go to every meeting with my (A) game. I learned I was going to have to be the leader to help the school district understand that what Shantel needed was doable and find a way to get them to want to help us. And, I learned what humble pie tastes like, when I picked up the phone and called the district to set up another meeting to go back to the good Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, and apologize to her and her team.

Next: Shantel Is So Worth It!

High School Years

Like most young teens, Shantel was excited and anxious to start High School. High School should be some of the best years of a teenagers life. But, unfortunately, that just didn’t ring true for Shantel, and it was a time of tremendous stress and turmoil for Bill and I. I knew even before Shantel attended her first High School class, that we were going to be in for a long, hard fight.

The summer before High School began, I made an appointment for Bill and I with the District Department Head, we will just call her Dr. XYZ,  since she made it clear to me I was to address her as “doctor” because, after all, she had a PhD. I think she thought I would be impressed and “TRUST” (yes, that word again), that she knew what she was talking about. I wasn’t and she didn’t!

I asked for this meeting because I wanted to make sure the district was aware Shantel would be attending their High School in the fall, and to make sure they knew what Shantel’s needs were. I explained to Dr. XYZ that Shantel reads and writes Braille and all her books are in Braille. I told the good Dr. that Shantel had a one-on-one assistant who would translate the braille to print for the teachers. At this point, Shantel had not yet been introduced to a computer, or the JAWS program that allows her computer to speak to her. Her Middle School wouldn’t provide that technology because of the expense and they couldn’t justify it in their budget for one blind student. I went on to explain to the good Dr. XYZ, that Shantel would need an assistant with her in all her classes to be her “eyes” in the classroom to make sure Shantel was getting information that might be written on the board, some information in videos that might be in writing, non-verbal video sections would need to be explained, and any Powerpoint presentations etc.

Dr. XYZ let me know that in High School, Shantel would not have a one-on-one assistant and would be expected to learn how to use a computer and work with her teacher and/or peers to get information that was written and perhaps have me read it to her at home while she brailled it out for herself. Now, you can only imagine the look on my face while I am listening to this “brilliant, Dr. XYZ with her PhD, try to explain to me how this is all going to work out just fine, I just need to “TRUST” them. It is important to note here that it takes months to have books brailled and this meeting is in late May and school is starting in mid-August. It is also important to remember, Shantel has never be introduced to a computer so she will need training, which I can’t provide, because the JAWS program has different commands that are not used on a regular computer program. As I try to calmly explain these things to the good Dr. XYZ she cuts me off saying I just need to realize this is High School and they don’t provide babysitting.

At this point you have to know I want to reach over the table and snatch the good Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, BALD! However, I continued to stay calm, because I know Shantel really wants to attend this school and I know I am going to have problems no matter what school we attend. So, I explain to Dr. XYZ that we are not asking for special accommodations, but we are going to insist on reasonable accommodations as is written in the law and will be written in the Individual Education Plan (IEP). I said my expectation is that Shantel will be given a level playing ground to compete with her sighted peers so she can graduate at the same time as her peers. Now, the good Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, looks me right in the eye and says Shantel can stay in High School for seven years if she needs to and if that is how long it takes her to do the work. Well, to say I lost my calm at this point would be the understatement of the century! Bill hadn’t really said much at this point, but now he said “oh shit”! I got up, leaned in VERY close to the good Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, and told her if my daughter had to stay in High School for seven years because she couldn’t learn the information due to a learning disability I would support that completely, but she wasn’t staying in High School seven years because the good Dr. XYZ, with her PhD, wouldn’t or couldn’t do her dam job! Then, I went on to let her know that I would home school Shantel before I would let her come to their High School because they didn’t deserve to have my daughter in the first place. I asked Bill if he had anything to add, he said “I think you pretty much said it all”, so I said as far as I’m concerned this meeting is over and we walked out!

Next: Shantel Insists On THAT High School!

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

Wheeling It: Tales From a Nomadic Life

On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

The Brantley Blog

In the eyes of the law, we reach adulthood the day we turn 18 years old. God help anyone who actually believes that.

the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random musings...life in NYC...travel...photography...cycling

Blooming Burgh Boomer

Living An Active Full Life

%d bloggers like this: