Wednesday, September 2, 2015

thinking WAAYYY too far ahead

Russell is currently receiving speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy from a private provider (that accepts Medicaid and comes to my home). Because he was already set up with ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) services while he was in the shelter in Central Texas, I went ahead and kept those services as well. However, I do NOT need any more therapists coming in to my home to treat Russell right now. Thirty visits a month from his private therapies are plenty, thankyouverymuch. So I've always told the ECI case manager that I want to keep things as minimal as possible with her organization.

I don't want to drop ECI altogether. They will help me if Russell's hearing turns out to be neurosensory hearing loss. They would send me a special auditory therapist to help with teaching him sign language, or using hearing aids, or whatever we might need. I also want to keep ECI on the books, so to speak, in case Russell is placed back with his mother or any other relative. With one phone call I could bump the services up to a weekly visit from a therapist along with case management. That would keep extra "hot bodies" looking in on Russell regularly. He would definitely need as many mandatory reporters in his life as possible should he not stay with me.

But for now, all I need is the minimum from ECI as they will allow. His case manager (let's call her Larissa) had an appointment with me today. She finally (sigh - finally) understood what I've meant about this all along. She asked today if she could stop coming to my house monthly and simply handle the case management part of the program over the phone. If I could have done a cartwheel of excitement, I would have turned one in my kitchen when she said that! Yes!! Please only call me once a month. Keep him in the program. But stop coming to my house once a month for no good reason.


I got Larissa talking about transitioning Russell out of the program though. Russell turns 25 months old this Friday. When a child is 27 months old, ECI starts the transition process to the next step. For Russell, the next step is public school. The day before a child turns three, they are discharged completely from the ECI program. So I asked Larissa how this will all work. Larissa said that because Russell will be three years old next fall, that he will automatically start in the public school (even though the public school cut-off is to be age four by September 1 for preschool - Russell starts young because of his disability). She basically said the special ed bus would pick Russell up in the morning, he would attend preschool at the local elementary, the bus would take him to Head Start in the afternoon, then the bus would bring him home from Head Start.

I had to instantly correct her. There is no busing service for our local Head Start.

I asked her if Russell would have a one-on-one aid or what kinds of accommodations he would most likely receive.

My heart sank. Larissa told me that Russell would simply be placed in the self-contained classroom at the school for age three for sure. From there, when he's four and after testing, he might get to mainstream out for classes like PE or music.

My Pumpkin was in the self-contained special needs classroom in our local elementary. She was the highest functioning child in the room when she attended. And it was a HORRIBLE classroom.  The idea of sending Russell to that school, to be in that classroom, to do what little they do there, makes me sick to my stomach.

Head Start is only slightly better. Larissa told me I wouldn't be required to send Russell to public pre-K and Head Start. She agreed with me though that none of the Head Start programs in our area are equipped for children with special needs. I remember how poorly I thought things were run when I was required to send Dude to Head Start. And there were no obviously disabled children in the school at all. Again, I can't imagine sending Russell into that environment.

So now I'm getting waaayyyyy too far ahead of myself.

What am I going to do when Russell turns three years old if he's still with me?

If we've managed to adopt him by then, I will continue with private therapies and I will home school him.

If he's still a ward of the State though - then what?! The State of Texas requires that I send all my foster children age three and older to public school.

A bill was introduced this year that would have allowed Texas foster families to homeschool their foster children. House Bill 2799 would have allowed it unless a court order prevents home schooling, a court hearing finds that home schooling is not in the best interest of the child, or federal law requires another school setting. It would have been the first law in the nation to allow foster parents to home school foster children without first having to obtain consent from the Department of Family and Protective Services.

That bill died on June 1, 2015.

I really need to not worry about this. August 2016 is so incredibly far away in Foster Care Land. A zillion things could happen between now and then.

Still, I'm researching my options.

According to the CPS website, this is the Department's policy on home schooling:
If the caseworker believes home schooling or a similar alternative is appropriate in an individual case, a written request for an exception may be addressed to the regional education specialist. Approval depends on whether the proposed home schooling plan meets the child’s academic, social, and other needs in a safe, stable setting and is in the best interest of the child.
To request an exception to the requirement for standard schooling to allow the child to be homeschooled, follow procedures in 15228.2 Requesting an Exception to Standard Schooling. 
I figure I'm going to have to chase this rabbit hole sometime around the first of next year. I certainly can't wait until summer or next fall.

I really should let it go. It's waaayyyyy too far in the future.

But I want to advocate for my cherub. And I can guarantee the public school down here is NOT where he belongs!

(Secretly I'll be praying for a fast adoption, a job opening for my husband in another state, and a move all before school starts next fall. It'd be nothing short of a miracle. I know that. But a girl can pray.)


MamaFoster said...

A lot can change quickly, that is for sure.

Alethea said...

As you may know from getting 504s for your other kids, all children with disabilites are entitled to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). If this can't be provided within the school district, they have to either bus a child to another district with appropriate services or pay for alternative education. I would try to connect with your local parent advocates to find out about alternative possibilities. Especially if he's still in care, this would allow him to do something other than languish in your local public systems.

Cherub Mamma said...

The thing is, everyone would say that the services here are appropriate and adequate. The schools are just sub-par. If he's with me when he's of schooling age, I'll fight. I'll do whatever it takes. I learned the hard way when we went through the ARD with Pumpkin. She didn't get all the supports she needed! I won't make those mistakes again. He will get mainstreamed. He will get as many opportunities to be a part of all the classes. But sadly, the option of busing him somewhere more appropriate doesn't exist down here.

Allison said...

I can't believe you can't even homeschool your kids at the age of 3! When legally kids don't have to be in school yet.

girlfrog2003 said...

The Special Ed rules for ages 3-5 are a little different than they are after regular school age, since like you said not all kids are required to go to school, but the school is legally required to offer services for kids starting at age 3 under IDEA.

You may find the PPCD (preschool program for children with disabilities) is not as low functioning as what you saw with Pumpkin, because the don't have as many placement options for 3-5 year olds. My experience (N.Texas) is that you are likely to have a lot of "speech kids" in PPCD right along with the more impaired kids. Ask to observe a class. Unless it's changed they school is required to meet with you for a transition meeting between 120days and 90 days before his birthday. They can do it early though since that would probably be right at the end of school.

You may not want to assume that he can't get transportation to Head Start just because they don't offer transportation in general. Kids with IEPs can get transportation in a lot of situations that other kids can't. If they have Head Start incorporated into their school program in some way (I'm guessing they do, if the service coordinator was telling you he could go automatically?). Of course, that's little help if the Head Start program is not good. But if they work so much with the school (as implied by the service coordinator's statement) you'd think they'd have quite a bit experience with special needs kiddos.

Are there private schools in your area? There are several here that specialize in Down Syndrome. It would be costly, but maybe not as much as you think, and I'm guessing you are getting a specialized level of care stipend for him, so maybe it's feasible.

I say all this based on my experience as a mom of a special needs child (and many years of advocating for her), and work as an ECI service coordinator for 7 years.

It's good you are thinking ahead - it sneaks up on you!

Cherub Mamma said...

To the best of my knowledge, there isn't a PPCD in my local school. So maybe...just maybe...they would have to bus Russell to a different elementary that would offer something more appropriate.

If they don't, if they just put him in the self-contained room with ALL the other elementary children, then I know what I'm getting as far as education goes. Flash cards. TV. And that's about it.

I don't think that Head Start works WITH the school at all down here. I believe the coordinator was simply speaking along the lines that Russell would still qualify to attend in the afternoons if I wanted. I wouldn't want that though. The afternoons are to take a nap and then have some incredibly restricted play time. (At least that's how it worked with Dude when he attended here.)

We've got private schools in the area. But I've not heard of anything specializing in Down syndrome or any other special needs. And no, we're not getting the "specialized" per diem. Russell is a "moderate". (Which is still a generous per diem. I'm not complaining. But I don't think we could swing private school.)

You've got me thinking though, girlfrog, I'm going to have to see ask specifically WHERE a special needs PRESCHOOLER would attend school here. If it's not at the local elementary that I've been working with for years, there might be hope.

Aileen said...

I've been a special education teacher in Texas (Houston area not your area though) in the past. Russell certainly should NOT get stuck watching TV and doing flashcards all day. That would be awful! The schools I worked in (I traveled from school to school to see the kids with visual impairments) had good PPCD classes overall. They taught great things like self help skills (feeding, dressing, toothbrushing, etc) in the context of their day. They also worked on things like numbers, letters, colors, matching, sorting, etc as appropriate for the child. Then of course there was lots of free play time for blocks, dramatic play, playdough, puzzles, etc. I hope there is some school in your area that has a similar program. I do believe that all of the PPCD classes are pretty much self contained though in that they dont'go to specials etc but they can have lunch in the cafeteria, utilize the library, etc with their class. In my experience mainstreaming starts more at age 5 or if your school has a pre-K class maybe at 4. I will say push, push, and push some more for a placement that seems appropriate to you. Make sure they know you won't settle for him sitting in a chair watching tv all day! It's good you are thinking about all of this now!