Monday, December 28, 2015

Exclusion - Segregation - Integration - Inclusion

I have a bunch of different blog posts running around in my head. I keep meaning to write. And it keeps not happening. Life has been pretty busy lately I guess. Actually, more than that, I don't know where to start since it's been so long since I've written.

So I'm just going to jump into things.

I've been OBSESSING lately about Russell and his future schooling. Obsessing.

I know what I want for Russell. But sadly, I don't think it's available where we live.

I keep going 'round and 'round and 'round in my mind.

It's not exactly something I can put off either. I know he's only 28 months old. But he'll be 30 months old on February 4. And when that happens, ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) will begin to transfer Russell into the public school system for services. And because Russell is in foster care, the State of Texas requires that Russell start public school when he is three years old. That means that this fall, I will be required to put Russell in public preschool.

So as much as I want to stick my head in the sand, I can't. I've GOT to be ready for Russell's ARD meeting and his IEP. It will be happening in just a few months. And I have to be able to argue for what Russell is legally entitled to. And I'm going to have to fight if I want him fully included in a general education setting.

But this is where I go 'round and 'round and 'round....
Russell simply isn't ready for a general education setting.

Developmentally, Russell is only about one year old. At his recent evaluations, he was tested in each discipline.
For physical therapy his results were pretty good.
These are his developmental ages:
  • Stationary = 18 months
  • Locomotion = 14 months
  • Object Manipulation = 18 months
Occupational therapy showed more delays. His developmental ages were:
  • Grasping = 14 months
  • Visual-Motor Integration = 11 months
Speech shows the most delays with developmental ages of:
  • Receptive Language = 5 months
  • Expressive Language = 7 months
I can't imagine sending my baby to preschool. I just can't.

So I'm obsessing. I'm researching private preschools (there really aren't any - almost everything I'm finding is glorified day care). I've sent emails to a diagnostician in the special ed department. I'm asking questions. I'm researching things online. And I'm freaking out.

I want full inclusion for my son. I want full inclusion with an aid and modifications as necessary. I want him in with able-bodied peers. I do not want him segregated into a special classroom for "kids like him".
Full inclusion doesn't exist at the three year old preschool level in our district. I don't believe that Russell could even function in a Head Start classroom. (Definitely not the Head Start location Dude went to!) So, unless I get permission to "homeschool" Russell when he is three years old, he will be going to the segregated PPCD preschool.

Now, this might not be the end of the world. I KNOW I need to go visit this preschool before I completely freak out. But with the holidays and all that jazz, I haven't had time. I'm not sure how I'm going to visit the preschool anyway unless I happen to go on a Friday that Mr. Amazing has off or if I put the cherubs in daycare (shudder). (I like to avoid daycare whenever possible. The babies have gotten sick every single time they've gone.)

I'm also obsessing about HOW to best advocate for Russell in general. Where I live, parents simply aren't welcome in the schools. At least I haven't been. I know there are some PTA moms at Bart's elementary. But come Hell or high water...Russell will NOT be going to that elementary! I will open enroll him to another elementary if I'm forced to. The special ed department at Bart's elementary is horrible. I know this from personal experience with Pumpkin, who attended there a few years ago. At least the PPCD school is at a different campus. Anyway...I don't know how I'm going to be received. And because I'm "just the foster mom", I know I'm going to have an uphill battle no matter what.

I'm pretty sure I want to fight to "homeschool" Russell starting this fall. I want to maintain all the private therapies that Russell is receiving and do the bare minimum that the public school requires. I believe they do have home bound services. I can augment Russell's current therapies with ones offered by the public school and hold off on classroom time for another year.

That's what I would prefer to do I guess. But now that means that I've got to figure out how to convince the State of Texas to let me homeschool a foster kid.

I can't even write a decent blog post about all this stuff because my thoughts continue to swirl around in my head.

In a PERFECT world....
Russell would stay home with me for another year.
Then we would adopt Russell and Star.
A job would open up at the National Wildlife Refuge in my home town.
We would all move back to Iowa.
Russell would attend a public school where I know they practice full inclusion.

But that's my "perfect" world. That scenario is not going to happen. So I have to prepare for Russell in the environment we are in now. And because I feel so strongly about full inclusion, I have to figure out how I'm going to make it happen and what I will do if it's truly not available. I fear that if I don't make Russell's goals very clear in his first IEP, that getting to a place of inclusion will be nearly impossible. I've heard from other parents of children with special needs, that once the kids are in secluded special ed, it's hard to move them out and into the general education population.

For what it's worth, I worry and obsess about IEP goals in general. I remember Pumpkin's ARD meeting and the goals the school set for her. They were ALL goals that were to help her "pass the STAAR test"...something Pumpkin will NEVER be able to do. Still, all the goals were academic and all of them were completely unreasonable, and the things the special ed department did to fulfill those goals were ridiculous! (Think flashcards, puzzles, and worksheets that Pumpkin didn't even do herself.)

Maybe homeschooling would be better. I feel confident in my ability to teach Russell what he needs to know academically. But, when I think about homeschooling now, I think about homeschooling Russell all the way through high school. And honestly, that tangent scares me more than just a little.

And then there's the whole idea of committing to parenting Russell for the rest of his life.

As I research the education side of things, I'm constantly reminded of the tremendous amount of advocating I'm going to have to do to help him and how that will never let up as he ages. It can be a bit overwhelming. I've got no problems parenting Russell right now. But the idea of parenting Russell 10-20-30 years from now is a bit daunting.

I'm not going to turn away. If this case really does move to adoption, we will adopt. I know we will.

But just the simple fact that we "could" turn away right now messes with my head sometimes.

I've joined several online support groups. They've been both helpful and frightening all at the same time. Most people that parent a child with severe special needs didn't "choose" to do so. Being put in a place to choose to do this is a little overwhelming.

But we will if the case comes to that. I can't imagine Russell going anywhere else. I'm madly in love with the kid. And will commit to raising him and caring for him for the rest of his life.

And with that, there is no ending to this blog post. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm not sure what will happen when I meet with the school officially. I'm scared to death to become the "troublemaker mom" because I WILL advocate for Russell's best interests. I will be the squeaky wheel. Or, I'll tuck tail and homeschool and avoid the whole mess. But that will mean getting permission from the State. And that freaks me out just a bit. Which one should I do first? Attend the ARD meeting and pray for the best? Or get permission to homeschool and have that in my back pocket at the ARD meeting? But would the State let me have permission to homeschool prior to the ARD meeting anyway? Who should I talk to? The lawyer? CPS? How do I explain all this to the people that make all the decisions in Russell's life without freaking them out?

I could go on and on with the stuff that's swirling in my brain.

Basically...foster care sucks. And special needs parenting is no easy picnic.


Sue Ponder said...

I think I will pray for the "perfect world" scenario. :)

Alethea said...

We adopted an 11 yo with intellectual disabilities who is in a life skills classroom. Even moving to an amazing school district with a wonderful special education setting, we still can't get him all the inclusion we'd like. And at this point he's 12 and it's close to time for transition planning and I'm dreading the nearly inevitable decision to have him get a certificate of completion vs. a diploma, especially because I KNOW if he'd been part of our family at an earlier age, a diploma would have been within reach for him.

Marcie said...

I know that recently in Texas, the law has changed so that foster parents are allowed to homeschool unless CPS can prove it would not be in the child's best interest. However each case is different...

Check this out:

kate said...

I love it, Sue!

Cherub Mamma, I would visit the preschool. Then, I'd write for homeschooling permission. I think your letter will be more informed if you visit the preschool first.

Cherub Mamma said...

Kate, you make an EXCELLENT point. I do need to visit the school before I say a thing to the lawyer and/or CPS about wanting to homeschool.

I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and make that happen!

Lucy said...

So much to consider. I'm glad Russell has someone so knowledgeable and determined to fight for what's best for him.

Annie said...

Heartbreaking - because, obviously, he IS a baby who needs the safety and security of home - and probably a richer and more loving environment, too. To say nothing about less stress.

That's what I hated about foster care. They call you "foster parents", but operate as if THEY are the parents, who know best and you are a sub-standard babysitter.