Special Education/FAPE, homeschool, no progress, options?
Hello. I want to start by saying I wish I could homeschool my son. My house is very disorganized and cluttered, I have another young child and I'm strapped financially. I have to maintain my sanity! I have effectively homeschooled my son until he started K. No help from the state has been helpful so I got rid of most of it and used what remained as babysitting. That's all it ended up being and bad babysitting at that. I don't want to dwell in the past. I want to say that my husband and I over these years have spent an unreal amount of time devoted to the education of our child, strengthening his amazing areas, working on his weaknesses and helping him be happy. We threw out ALOT and still have a paper trail 20 miles long of what we've done. We can speak cogently about his gaps and what we do and what we don't do. We've worked on EVERYTHING. He is unbelievably smart to the point where if he didn't have problems, it would be cruel to put him in a regular class. What are his problems? Language. He does speak, he makes MANY errors often talks out of context and conversations are largely his conversations, but they're still conversations. He needs to be taught more language, correct language, more topics, better context. All the school does is force him to do dull untargeted activities ignoring all of his natural positive behavior. He tunes out entirely. He's in a deep bubble 99% of the day. The worst part is at least now he's not miserable, a very happy kid, very happy, for a month he was entirely sullen there. They feel they've made progress that he's no longer sullen and is using some of the language he already has! I know it sounds harsh but everything is wrong. It's wrong because none of it is targetted at his interests or what he actually does, he is told what to do an unnatural amount and their robotic coercion doesn't produce anything lasting. He goes but says he doesn't want to. He really needs alot of language help but the restrictive environment is a gross aberration. Many adults barely any kids and the kids aren't social language models. And he knows all the material upside down inside out and it doesn't help his language.
All we ever wanted as much as it isn't standard is to have SOME SAY in who is helping him because no results should reflect on the person trying to produce them. We've both produced results.
The worst part is our son developed a physical tic which they have acted as if he's doing on purpose when we discussed how upsetting it was to us, how scary it is to our son and they made him go bonkers with it telling him to stop. They also did some other revolting things in response and then they apologized telling us they consulted a specialist who agreed with what we said even though we had already said it multiple times! In an ideal world, we feel that we should be compensated for homeschooling. We know someone who was compensated $50,000 for this, granted it's NYC which is a totally anomalous environment where lawsuits are common and the board of ed is very ill prepared but we can't even get our tax money back. In order to even homeschool him ourselves we would need to hire some help. Maybe we have an overdeveloped sense of wrong and right but we bust our butts doing so much and we spent SO MUCH TIME talking to the school and being told, great idea, great insight but everyone does what they want to and there's no progress. We've made very concrete recommendations which have been ignored. Our observation of the school has shown us our son is tuned out and the methodology is make him do everything by rote while he's asleep.
Do you remember what you said just to get someone off your back? It's that bad and worse because it's done with such a smile and a vow to help. But I have to measure results not intentions and I don't like broken promises. I could use advice on homeschooling, drafting a letter regarding FAPE (even if its just to speak truth to power and gets us nowhere) and maybe even a middle ground where its a bit of both because what the school is doing is NOT working. Thanks much in advance.
I was difficult trying to come up with exactly what questions you are asking, but I will respond based on what I think, and if I missed the point,please send followup questions to clarify. First, it sounds as if your son is very unique, in that I see at least 3 possibile disability categories to qualify him for IDEA services. I am assuming that you have pursued these routes, given your discussion about a restrictive environment.
To clarify a few things. One, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, provides provision for parental input in all educational decisions. If this didn't or doesn't happen, then you have three conflict resolutions that you can pursue through your State Department of Education. They are a Complaint, mediation, or due process and the State Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services, Complaint Resolution Department.
Next, is the idea that you can be compensated for providing home school education to your child. It would be rare that a school district would do this, in that they MUST insure that the person teaching a disabled child is trained and certified to teach special education, while parents have unique knowledge, most are not special education trained teachers. If I were the Special Education Director and you were qualified, I would consider this, but it would have to hinge on you and/or your husbands teacher certification.
From what you have said I would recommend that your son be placed in a general education, age appropropriate classroom, with significant accommodations and a very well trained classroom teacher. Special education service should include speech/language therapy with training in the area of Pragmatics (SLP's know what this means). That is the study of the proper use of language, verbal speaking, writing and understanding. In addition, he should have language taught in a collaborative team of a special ed teacher and his general education teacher.
Given that you have tried many approaches and none is successful you may want to file a formal complaint through the state department, stating that you feel that your son's right to FAPE is being denied. Once the State Department receives the complaint they will investigate and come to conclusions within 60 days. The decision they make is binding and will be implemented shortly after the resolution. If that doesn't work, then you should consider a due process hearing, but I wouldn't do that without a good special education attorney. If all of that fails you can file a civil law suit which might get you compensation, again, with an attorney practicing in special education law. Sometimes the complaint causes the school district to reexamine what they are doing and positive change occurs.
Every state has different rules regarding home schooling. However, most allow you to do via a formal request. Most will require some exam done at least annually to confirm that educational progress is taking place, in some states you must use a state examiner at your own cost. There are homeschooling associations that can be found in each state with tons of resources for homeschooling parents. This is a good site for NY's regulations: http://www.nyhen.org/RegsSum.htm
. Another great site connects you to homeschooling associations, http://www.home-school.com/groups/NY.html
I have seen homeschooling through the IDEA revocation process, where parents revoke special education, and apply to homeschool. With or without resources I have seen them work well with students who need one to one attention...with the help of homeschooling resources most intelligent parents can do well, up to the point of college preparation high school classes. There are also charter and online schools that offer support for homeschooling. The costs for these are typically the responsibility of the parent.
Finally, with regard to getting back your tax money, I would check with a good education lawyer to find out if there are any avenues in New York State. I have lived in 8 states and only Arizona had any provision for this, and it was only $2000 per year.
I wish you luck and welcome any followup questions our discussion may have opened.