Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Meeting with the Public School Principal

I've just returned from our meeting with the new principal at Local Public Elementary, where Younger Daughter will start next year. 

Back at Natural Friends, the Head of School and teacher seemed helpless.  Everyone was throwing up their hands.  "This kid is impossible!  We don't know what to do!"  All their recommendations were further demands on our time and bank account.  "Try this therapist and that therapist, send her to summer school so she'll learn to read, fill out a mountain of paperwork on the off chance that YD will qualify for a 1:1 aide to take her out in the hallway when she's acting up." 

At Natural Friends, one of their recommendations was that we could try an Occupational Therapist.  I'm pretty skeptical of OT, and we're running around to therapists enough already, so we never tried it.  At Local Public Elementary, they've got an OT on staff, so if they feel Younger Daughter would benefit, they will try OT on their dime and their time.  Fine, give it a shot.  Surprise me. 

Our entire public district is about to bring in Investigations Math, one of the most notorious of the new fuzzy math curricula.  I said, "YD has language delays -- if math is all about language, that's a struggle for her".  New Principal said, "that's OK, we can do more traditional math with kids like that." (Wow!) 

I told New Principal that I don't believe in homework, and even if I did, Younger Daughter won't have time for it, with her therapy and (I hope!) athletic pursuits.  She made a little note on her pad ("Impossible Mom!").

New Principal said, "There may be some hiccups -- even with all this information, it may take a while to find the best methods to work with YD."

I said, "Look, if I talk to the teacher and she says, 'Last week we tried Technique A and it didn't work too well.  This week we're trying Technique B.  We've got Technique C lined up for next week if this doesn't work', I'm fine with that.  What I don't want to hear is, 'Last week we tried Technique A and it didn't work.  This week we're still using Technique A, and it isn't working.  Next week we'll keep using Technique A, because we can't think of anything else.'"

New Principal said, "You won't hear that."

I'm guardedly optimistic.  Time will tell ...



  1. PsychMom wonders..

    No...Did she really write "Impossible Mom"?

    You are fortunate to have a public school with OT in the school...there are such limited resources in schools here. Budgets get cut and those "frills" are the first to go.

  2. PsychMom, that's my interpretation of what she wrote. I actually didn't see it. She's probably more diplomatic than that.

    Our district is known far and wide for their Special Ed programs. They've got it all.

  3. PsychMom says:

    Yeah but you know she's thinking it...Funny, we who think similarly about homework and other issues, are so sensitized to school staff getting their back up. I know in my own situation, the principal is mentally and emotionally armed to deal with me when I come into her office. So from the get-go, I'm not really there for a conversation, though that may be what I want....or even a healthy debate. It becomes a confrontation. I wonder how much I'm to blame for it.

    I'm going on vacation soon...I'll catch up with you all when I get back.

  4. PsychMom, have a wonderful vacation!

    I really didn't want to derail the meeting by getting into homework stuff, which is why I said that Younger Daughter wouldn't have time. The principal said, "but we need to see what she can do independently." I said, "Homework isn't independent either! She's got Mom breathing down her neck!" Oy.

  5. FedUpMom, you're right of course. And there is no way to diplomatically say, "Back off my family time! You already had her for eight hours!" really, is there?

    Let them think you are impossible. They are used to parents who don't question and/or don't have a lot of fight in them for the *most* part. It seems to me schools want involved parents, but only if they are involved in the way they want, send some money and shut up the rest of the time...

    I would be guardedly optimistic and um, managing my expectations too if you know what I mean. But it may be the best place this year, yk??

  6. I've been a lurker here, but I enjoy your blog. I have a son with autism. I'd say don't write off OT. My son's ot's have consistently been his best therapists--the ones who really understand and know how to work with him. There isn't anything magical about it. It's just a way of having fun, developing strength and agility and concentration and feeling confident. As an example, when my son was 3 his ot recommended a "heavy blanket" for him to sleep under because he had major sleep disturbances. I thought the whole thing was probably a scam and didn't get one. Now, at 11, I finally bought him a heavy blanket (weighs 20 lbs.) and he carries it everywhere with him, lives under it at home. For someone with low muscle tone, this is very beneficial and would have been even more so if he had been doing it at 3 (would have been a smaller one then, lol).

    Secondly, it is a perfectly common and reasonable IEP accommodation to make the school agree (in writing) that your daughter doesn't have to do homework or only does it in small amounts, once a week, etc. And if you decide you want ot after all, don't expect them to just "try it." You will have to ask nicely but insistently for it and they may still deny it if they can show that she doesn't need it to access the curriculum. There are rare public school systems with truly generous special ed., but in these budget crunching times, I think you have to stay on top of even those. I would try to meet some other parents of older kids with IEPs there and get the inside scoop.
    Best wishes,

  7. Rosemary, thanks for the helpful comment.

    On second thought, we actually used an OT-inspired accommodation for Younger Daughter last year -- we bought her a wiggly cushion to make "circle time" more bearable for her. It helped a little.

    In the case of Younger Daughter, the therapist who seems to understand her the best is the speech therapist, and it is clear to me that YD really does have language delays and issues about language.

    One of the reasons that I've been skeptical of OT for Younger Daughter is that YD is actually very athletic -- well-coordinated, strong, etc. That's not just my opinion. It's something we've been told by her teachers, starting in preschool. I was glad they told us, because aside from YD we're a completely non-athletic family and we might not have figured it out.

    One of my goals for this school year is to get YD enrolled in a gymnastics program. I think she'd enjoy it and it's bound to be cheaper than another therapist.

  8. You may be pleasantly surprised by the public school, FedUpMom. Our school system seems to have tons of services available and puts kids on IEP's when needed. I've found the public schools very responsive, and the price is right.

  9. Kim, I hope you're right. It could be that I'm about to discover why families with special needs kids move to our district.