Tag Archives: special education
After using an empty, greasy Dunkin Donuts bag to smoosh away the CHICKEN BONES from under RM’s seat and then securing her tightly in the safety straps, I kissed her and squeezed her and said, “Have a great day at school, Beautiful.” I closed the van door, said a rapid Rosary and waved goodbye. At this point, Mom-Alarm was not completely triggered where I felt the need to start a complete melt-down by ripping RM from the van. She would not have been agreeable to that scenario. I felt it was best to rock on and let her go, knowing it was Game On with Crappy Transportation Company.
I crossed the street as the van pulled away to tell SGM what I found. He had pulled out of our driveway to head to work, but had stopped at the neighbor’s for a brief moment of male bonding. All I had to say to him was, “CHICKEN. BONES.” He knew instantly by the look on my face that this transportation bullshit was about to come to an apex of sort.
As I walked back over to the house to start the ball rolling on that, SGM headed off to work.
Hang on to your panties. It gets better.
SGM called me about an hour later after he reached the armory. “Um. You’ve notified SpedHead, right? About the CHICKEN. BONES. Right??”
“Oh, you know it. Why? What’s up?”
“Well, after I pulled away I ended up behind the van at the light and. Um. Well. Chicken Lady was not paying attention. AT. ALL. The light turned green and the car in between us had to honk to get her to move and it looked like people were moving around inside the van. So I followed them for a ways, and Chicken Lady missed the green at three more lights. She just was not paying attention at all. Then it looked like there were bags being passed back and forth. It was ALL. WRONG.”
I hung up with SGM. There were no words to describe my rage. I had already informed the school and the Assistant SpedHead that I would be driving RM until the entirety of this situation was resolved at the meeting the following Monday. There simply was nothing else I could do but wait until then.
Because it is never easy dealing with these schmucks, they scheduled the meeting for Monday afternoon at the exact time that RM and Boyfriend needed to be picked up at school BECAUSE THEY HAD NO TRANSPORTATION. So it meant that out of the four of us parents, one needed to miss the meeting in order to pick up the kiddos. I volunteered to get the kids. I felt that SGM and Boyfriend’s parents who have dealt with our district for several years had the most to offer up. I also didn’t think we could scrape together my bail money should Crappy Transportation Company say some crazy shit at this meeting.
In the end, Crappy Transportation Company never showed to the meeting. Interim Superintendent was extremely reasonable and made it clear that all of our concerns were valid and this was an easy fix in his eyes. You think? The district would inform Crappy Transportation Company to reinstate Miss Wonderful as monitor, New Driver would be the same woman who previously served as Boyfriend’s monitor before RM was on the route (yay!) and we would get the yellow van back and the afternoon route would accommodate dropping off RM before Boyfriend.
RM and Boyfriend are happily riding to school together again.
It only took twelve adults fourteen days to do it.
Cheers, My Friends.
I’m headed out for some wings.
If you’re just joining us, please read yesterday’s post HERE. After that first email I sent to SpedHead on Tuesday, February 21, I received an unusually speedy response that afternoon from her that she would be looking into the matter and that all emails would indeed be entered into RM’s school file.
Up to this point, I had been prepared for a few snags in getting this new transportation scenario straightened out but I hadn’t worried for RM’s safety – yet. The next morning, the same van arrived to take RM to AWESOME AUTISM SCHOOL as I expected. But what blew my mind was what I found when I opened the side door to put RM in her seat.
Good morning, SpedHead
I am beyond words.
RM’s van arrived this morning with the same Nameless Driver and Nameless Monitor. But instead of the driver’s granddaughter, now there was a boy between 10- and 12-years-old in pajamas holding a full breakfast in his hands sitting in an open seat where yesterday held Boyfriend’s car seat. As I placed RM into what I thought was the same car seat she rode in yesterday (that I struggled to readjust for her yesterday), I found that the seat had been readjusted once more and no longer fit her properly – again. As Nameless Preteen Boy moved to the back, Nameless Monitor pulled Boyfriend’s car seat out of the back row to make room for Nameless Preteen Boy and placed the car seat where Boyfriend sat yesterday. But the seat looked more like it was set to fit RM. As I was attempting to strap RM in and fix the seat height on the other side, I looked down to see half-eaten food on the van floor – to include the bony remains of a chicken wing.
[I pause here mid-email to say to my readers – WTF? CHICKEN. BONES.]
There was a ton of trash around the floor and a receipt of some kind tucked into the side of RM’s car seat cushion. RM still mouths things and is still very much at risk for choking. Not only am I disgusted by the condition of the van but I am reeling from the lack of safety regarding properly maintaining RM’s car seat and leaving chokables within easy reach of her.
I will be picking RM up from AWESOME AUTISM SCHOOL this afternoon, but I expect these issues resolved. Please notify me when there has been an appropriate transportation plan put into place for RM.
Once again, SGM and I request that this email become a permanent part of RM’s school file.
Thank you, SpedHead –
I will now refer to Nameless Driver as ‘Chicken Lady’. Mkay?
Here’s the next volley by the BOE:
Good afternoon Mrs. Kenyon,
I am writing in response to your request for a meeting this coming Friday in regards to concerns with RM’s transportation.
After reviewing the emails the transportation concerns are:
- staff changes
- vehicle changes
- car seats
- bus route
Please let me know if there are any other transportation related issues you wish to discuss.
Thank you in advance,
By now, I am just annoyed.
Hi, Assistant SpedHead,
Thanks for getting back to us.
You have included all of our concerns regarding transportation. We’d like to note in advance that should Crappy Transportation Company choose to reinstate the same monitor, Miss Wonderful, that would be a step in the right direction. Not only would it give RM and Boyfriend some stability in the process, but she is a phenomenal young woman who has taken a lot of initiative in understanding what works for the kids. Outside of that, her presence on the route provides a measure of relief in the area of liability for both that of the district and Crappy Transportation Company. We trust her. She is knowledgeable and on top of things like proper seating, safety and van behavior.
Here’s the district’s attempt to squirm out of a face-to-face meeting with us and Boyfriend’s parents.
Good Morning SGM and Mrs. Kenyon,
In regards to transportation related concerns which arose this past week, the following updated information is being provided:
1. Staff changes- As of Monday February 27th, the driver assigned to the route will be Another Stranger. The monitor, Miss Wonderful, will be back on this route as previously assigned.
2. Vehicle changes- The yellow van that was typically used for this route was in for scheduled maintenance, necessitating a change in the vehicle. The original bus is scheduled to be back in service on Monday February 27th.
3. Car seats- The car seats (APEX 6500) that have been being used will be back in the vehicle for Monday February 27th.
4. Bus route- The bus route is determined by the location of the student’s home to provide for efficiency.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions and/or concerns.
No. You’re not getting out of this meeting, Lady. (I should note that Assistant SpedHead was RM’s in-district Speech Pathologist for nearly two years, who also fought us for 14 months that RM even had ‘autism’.)
Hi, Assistant SpedHead,
This is a good starting point for the discussion on Monday at 2pm.
Please advise Crappy Transportation Company that we will not be putting RM on the van on Monday the 27th pending working out the remaining details of the plan to move forward.
It is a great step in the right direction by reinstating Miss Wonderful as the monitor for our route. However, if the proposed driver is Chicken Lady that drove RM at the beginning of this week, then that is not an option. SGM would be happy to describe in more detail at the meeting what he witnessed while following the vehicle with RM on board. It goes well beyond the cleanliness of the vehicle.
We look forward to meeting with everyone on Monday.
Enjoy your weekend, Assistant SpedHead.
TUNE IN TOMORROW TO HEAR WHAT SGM WITNESSED CHICKEN LADY DOING AS HE FOLLOWED THE VAN… AND READ THE EXCITING CONCLUSION TO THE ‘CRAPPY TRANSPORTATION COMPANY’ SAGA.
Last summer, I wrote about RM’s safety seat drama with Crappy Transportation Company to her outplacement AMAZING AUTISM SCHOOL. The seat issue was resolved. I’d love to tell you that after those painful dealings, the company stopped being a bunch of assholes and realized that we weren’t messing around. Not so much.
The following email was Round Three with Crappy Transportation Company via this note to our district SpedHead last week:
On Thursday afternoon, February 16th, 2012, our driver Mr. Awesome informed us that he had accepted a new position elsewhere and was planning to give Crappy Transportation Company his official two-week notice the following morning. This was very sad news for us, as Mr. Awesome was an amazing gift to us. He worked to get to know RM and the other children on the van, and he took his responsibility to our children very personally. We were angered, yet not surprised, to be told on Friday that Mr. Awesome was fired on the spot and that he would not be allowed to finish out his two weeks of notice. We were never contacted by Crappy Transportation Company, and still have not received any notice concerning who will be taking over the route, or what other changes will be made. Instead, this morning our daughter walked out the door to a white Caravan and was presented with three complete strangers in this tiny, new vehicle that seated six – a new driver, monitor, and the driver’s granddaughter. For ten months prior, she had been riding in a yellow 10-passenger full-sized van with Mr. Awesome and Miss Wonderful the monitor. I am sure you can recognize the sheer sensory attack such a huge change in vehicle alone would bring to a child like RM, but to also change every other aspect of her transportation without warning is just cruel. The car seats for RM and her boyfriend were not labeled (they are identical, yet adjusted to different settings) and RM’s piddle-pad that I had purchased had not been transferred from the other van. Also, the previous route included two other children. Are they no longer riding this route? I can tell you, SpedHead, that we already had concerns about all four children on the same larger van due to the age and size of the other boys. I certainly cannot imagine them being squeezed into this new, tiny van with two smaller children like RM and Boyfriend. Again, it is completely unacceptable that we have not been given so much as names for the new driver and monitor, let alone we still have not been contacted by Crappy Transportation Company to discuss any of these changes.
On top of all of this stress for RM today, Crappy Transportation Company neglected to advise the new driver of the specific route requirement for the afternoon – that RM be dropped off prior to Boyfriend. This was a negotiated change from last April, that was determined rather quickly as RM was unable to handle arriving at Boyfriend’s house on the way home from school because she associated it with a playdate there, whereas Boyfriend was comfortable with the van arriving at our house and then proceeding to his. Today, RM was screaming, kicking in tears in Boyfriend’s driveway and the new driver had no idea that taking the route in reverse even mattered. No one at Crappy Transportation Company had informed her, and certainly relieving Mr. Awesome of his duties in the manner that he was, left no way for him to relay that information.
Our relationship with Crappy Transportation Company administration, namely Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley, has not been a smooth one. We have had issues previously over seemingly simple things like car seats and advanced notice of route changes. Soon after RM started at AMAZING AUTISM SCHOOL and my repeated requests for an appropriate car seat for her went unanswered, I found that she had been riding in a toddler seat too small for her size that was THIRTEEN years old. SGM and I disposed of the seat as that was the only way to get Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley to replace it. She was belligerent on the telephone and implied that a safety seat was not her responsibility, it belonged to the district. Yet when I asked other members of the office at Crappy Transportation Company about seats that StimCity BOE had provided, they responded that brand-new larger boosters were provided but Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley was unwilling to unwrap them and allow the children to use them. That situation was eventually resolved. Again in August of last year, Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley made difficulties for the families on the van by changing monitors without prior notice. As you are aware, children with autism do not handle changes to their routine well at all. It was yet another battle with Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley to reason with her, and in the process a substitute monitor who by all means seemed pleasant and dutiful, was fired and then reinstated the following day.
This kind of turmoil in transportation is troubling. We expect a level of professionalism and care in the service of our child, and you should know that Crappy Transportation Company administration has not delivered. This is a true shame, since Mr. Awesome was a wonderful addition, highly overqualified, and left only for reasons that relate to the treatment by Candy, The Manager I Would Love to Meet in a Dark Alley.
We want to continue to keep the lines of communication open, SpedHead, and the bottom line here is that Crappy Transportation Company is not keeping our family informed, recognizing the needs of the child, nor are they conducting themselves in a manner that is becoming of a company dedicated to special needs transportation.
We ask that you follow up with Crappy Transportation Company and that we are informed of the plan going forward.
SGM and I request that this email become a permanent part of RM’s school file.
Thank you, SpedHead–
TO BE CONTINUED…
The following letter was written on the battlefield in Afghanistan, July, 2010, after the district special ed director reduced the hours of paraprofessional support for RM at her YMCA summer camp without prior notification, or grounds to do so. Just another perspective of what our military families must do to advocate for our kids with autism.
Dear [Special Education Director],
My Name is [SGM]. I am the father of [RM] and a taxpayer in the Town of [StimCity]. I am currently deployed to Afghanistan as the Operations Sergeant Major for [an Infantry unit]. You may recognize the unit as [part of the battalion] is stationed in [StimCity] on Main Street and is one of my companies. Currently, there are 499 soldiers deployed here from Connecticut of which I am responsible for their care and well-being in an extremely hostile environment.
The key to my success in the past 24 years, 3 wars, 7 countries and an untold amount of soldiers is COMMUNICATION. General Patton once said, “keeping the foot soldier informed is incalculable.” This holds true in the civilian world and business world of which you, [Special Ed Director], and your co-workers are currently employed.
I find it hard to believe that anyone can actually get up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror and say, “I can’t wait to make someone angry today.” So, I am thinking that all of what I am being told is a huge breakdown in communication. If this is the case, we are failing not only our children, but ourselves. These children are our future - no matter how disabled. These children will grow up and become the Department of Education, Police Officers, Firefighters, and Accountants of our retirement accounts. I am thinking again, that we should do our best to help them in any way possible.
“Department of Education”… This makes me think that “educated” people work there. And being such an important department with what I can only imagine is a very large salary budget (above the 600K maybe?) I would assume that [StimCity] would hire qualified personnel. So, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that all the people included in this email are educated and are qualified.
So this leads me to my question… Why am I having to write this letter from AFGHANISTAN to find out why a Town Worker that I assist in paying the salary for can’t seem to pull it together and communicate with families in a nice, civilized way? Why are grown adults having to resort to email and lawyers to discuss the programs that children in a town as large and prosperous as [StimCity] are entitled to?
Somewhere along the line, we have a communication failure. In my line of work this is quickly identified as ‘the dead pile up on the battlefield’. In this instance, the ‘dead’ would be the children and parents that have come to a dead-end with a department established to HELP find them solutions to their issues. We are failing.
Many people, who have little inside knowledge of how the military works except for what they see on television, do not understand the real way we communicate in the Army. I very seldom bark orders, yell, nor do I ever belittle, degrade, chastise or berate soldiers in daily duties or on the battlefield. I give CLEAR orders and GUIDANCE in a voice that establishes trust and understanding. I lead by example, and in return earn my soldiers’ undying trust, devotion and RESPECT. They will follow me anywhere as long as I COMMUNICATE to them what we are doing and why.
We call this ‘Task and Purpose’.
With that, we accomplish amazing things.
So, [Special Education Director and Staff], what is YOUR TASK AND PURPOSE?
If you cannot answer this question without looking at your job description then you are wrong. If you did look at your job description, you will not find the words ‘compassion’, ‘understanding’, ‘helpful’ and ‘committed to what is right’ – Reason: they are expected of everyone regardless of what we do for a living.
To help in this process I will be more than happy to sit and communicate with each and every one of you. I will be home shortly for 2 weeks, and in a few months I will return for a longer stay. I will be available morning, noon, and night to discuss my daughter and her education, the Department of Education, and even some of my experiences in better communication.
I welcome an open dialogue that will promote a FRIENDLY PROBLEM-SOLVING environment between parents and [StimCity Personnel]. Because if we fail this cause – at some point - enough people like [us parents] will get together, pool resources and communicate together to form a plan that removes roadblocks to success.
I look forward to working with all of you to come to an agreeable solution to what is really a very simple problem to fix.
RM isn’t quite there yet. Surely, she will always be unique. But right now, at 5-years-old, she is safely tucked away at an outplacement ABA program that caters to exactly who she is. There are only square pegs there. From staff to students. All square pegs. It’s a safe space for her to learn how to learn. Period.
But someday, she will be out in the world; whether in an integrated classroom at the public school or as an adult in the workplace, she will need to fit somehow.
Stimeyland wrote an amazing post, “Not Even Wrong”. And I want you to read it. I want everyone to read it. It applies to everyone. It applies to me. It applies to my neurotypical son who is not so typical and it applies equally to RM.
So please. Read on.
“…It also perfectly encapsulates what I want for my kid—a place, an existence, where it is okay for him to be not even wrong. Because I love the way Jack’s brain works. I love the way autism has given him this unique perspective that lets him come up with some of the most amazing things. I adore his not even wrongness. I want him to find a way of life where starting from a fundamentally different point of view is an asset to him and where he can be valued for that.”
For the entire article, please go to Stimeyland.
Stimey is mom to Sam, born October 2001; Jack, born May 2003, and Quinn, born May 2005. Stimey is a stay at home mom among various other part-time endeavors and jobs, including learning about parenting her autistic child (Jack).
Stimey also founded and runs AutMont, a website dedicated to autism-related events, information, and community in Montgomery County, Maryland. AutMont is also on Twitter and Facebook. Email Stimey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Stimey
I’m already nearly in tears. I make mental note to never get to the school early again. The waiting is killing me. It’s 2:28pm and the last ten minutes have been pure torture. Another mom is sitting nearby with her typical daughter. They are waiting, too. The mom seems just as anxious. I have never met her, but I feel the need to cut the tension with some small talk.
“I still cry every time I pick her up from school.”
“I know what you mean,” she replies. “It seems funny. It’s not like she’s away from me that long but I am always so anxious to see her again.”
“Me too.” I turn to look down the hallway for the millionth time. Nope. Not yet. “It’s just such a blessing to know she is so happy here.”
A truly adorable little blond-haired girl is making her way to the lobby, escorted by one of the dozens of truly adorable young ladies that teach here. Mom and sister perk up immediately and the little girl having seen her mama starts squawking sweetly and flapping with excitement. Mom eases down to her knees and opens her arms widely – her baby nestles in deep and Mom is clearly melting to have her baby back. Mom asks little one about her day at school but the little one is unable to answer with words so instead her body language does the talking for her. She is truly happy to see her mother.
I am now bursting at the seams with anticipation of getting my hands on my RM.
Buses have shown up and other students are making their way with their escorts to the front door. One by one. …“Autism is one word, but there is no one autism…” Each of the children ranging in age from 3 to 13 have their own signature style of exiting the building. Some are squawkers, some are flappers, some are just quiet and have the most peaceful looks on their faces. Regardless of the way they work it down the autism runway – they are all clearly members of The Club.
Now you might think I am an idiot, or just plainly a jackass – but I don’t view my daughter as a Club Member. Maybe it is because of all she has already been through medically just to be here. Or maybe it is just that I think she is the freaking most fabulous creature ever. Yes. I meant to word it that way. Freaking. Most. Fabulous. Creature. Ever. I really do not know why it is so hard for me to look at my little girl as autistic.
But here she comes. In all her glory she is making her way down that runway singing her heart out with lyrics no one is the wiser to and bouncing so joyously on those toes with every step. She is happy. HAPPY. I don’t know how I managed to pop out two of the most cheerful, positive rugrats on the planet – but apparently I did. And I do believe that nothing could change that about them. Not even autism.
I slip off my chair as she sees me and I throw my arms out wide. She runs to me screeching with excitement and smiling so hard I wonder how she can see where she is going with those chubby cheeks pushing up at her now squinty eyes. She throws herself into me hard and I squeeze her so tight perhaps I cause her to lose a breath. But no matter – we are both so excited to be reunited once again.
I stand up and she takes my hand as we walk to the car. She is bouncing on clouds every step of the way. As it should be. Who am I to judge my daughter by her disabilities rather than her happiness?
It may have a name – autism – but it doesn’t have anything on my bouncy, flappy, beautiful girl. She is my daily gift to remind me that we are all unique by design. Pure and simple. We are all graceful in our own way. Whether we sashay, roll, stumble or toe-walk our way down that runway.
A toe-walking she will go. A toe-walking she will go.
She is mine. Fashionably bouncy and ALL. MINE.