Sunday, August 5, 2012

Educational exasperation

So I attended another advocacy workshop, this one all about how to write 504 plans. At least I thought that was what it would be about, except it was actually about the law that governs 504 (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in case you were wondering) and about how 504 plans aren't as comprehensive as IEPs and no federal funding is allocated for 504s -- except for counseling, occupational therapy and speech therapy, for which funding comes from IDEA (aka the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which governs IEPs). So basically if we can get OT written into kiddo's 504, we won't be paying for it, I guess. Other than that factoid, this was mainly stuff I'd heard/read before. Oh, and that schools won't necessarily give you all their records on the child's behavior issues, so you may not know the extent of the problem, and that schools won't necessarily follow the 504 plan and you have to monitor them closely. Also, the state doesn't monitor for 504 compliance. But hey, if you've got a problem you can file a complaint with the state.

Honestly, the more I delve into these things, the more depressing it is. Not once have I heard or read or seen anything positive about any school district anywhere doing anything right by its special needs kids. Everything is "They won't tell you what you're entitled to, they won't follow the plan, they won't understand your child's needs, they'll belittle your child or they'll stand by while other kids belittle your child, and your child will have a horrible lousy time in school while not learning anything or having a social life so get ready for years of misery. Or just homeschool them."

I scan the message boards on ADDitude magazine a lot and it's more of the same. "My child has ADHD, the school won't give us a 504 or an IEP because he's not failing/he's too smart/they think he just isn't applying himself, he has no friends, he has trouble in class, I don't want to put him on medication/we've tried medication but it doesn't work/the medication helps but he's still having issues, please help!!!"

I've been reading "Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention" by Katherine Ellison, in which the author recounts the year she spent trying to help her son's ADHD issues, while also dealing with her own ADHD. Good book, well researched and engaging, I highly recommend it. But even she notes, at the end, that her son's school never told her that he was entitled to services because of his diagnosis, and he had an excruciating few years until they put him on medication, did neurofeedback and a few other things. She's an investigative journalist and she didn't know about special needs services. Because no teacher or school official could be bothered to tell her.

The across-the-board negativity is what frustrates me. I'm perfectly willing to believe that some teachers and administrators are uninformed and/or incompetent, because a certain level of incompetency is built into any bureaucratic institution. (Read "The Peter Principle.") I'm having trouble believing that no teacher or official anywhere is going to be helpful at all. Somewhere out there, there has to be a teacher who actually knows how to work with special needs kids, or an official committed to upholding the law.

All of this, of course, may have nothing to do with our own district. I've heard good things about kiddo's school-to-be from other parents, but those parents' kids aren't special needs. We're going to have to see for ourselves how things go, starting off with when we meet with the school to write the 504 plan.

It would be nice to hear someone's success story, though. There have to be success stories out there.


  1. The success stories I have heard are from parents who hound the school district to schedule every meeting, follow the plan to the letter, and rectify anything that isn't going as it should. In other words: vigilance. You can even hire an "educational consultant" to do it for you. That's what this world has come to (and how common these issues are).

  2. I've had a few successes along our journey, however those are marred by the more frequent failures. MOST of the other success stories I've heard are those who are able to make it their full time job. Often though, even that isn't enough in my township, which is profitable for the education lawyers in the area.

    1. What sorts of successes/failures have you had? Do parents see better results when they get lawyers?