Chapter 3: of the walkout, the railroad, a puzzle piece, and a The Game Of Puppets
Fact #5: Children who have special education services in public schools have special protections with the discipline process at their school.
The Game Of Puppets Fact #6: The parts of our brain that help us with multisensory integration and how to process them are the mid-brain and brain stem. These areas of our brain help us to process attention, coordination, our ability to stir us into action, and our unconscious or involuntary functions. After our sense pass through, they go to the other areas of our brain that handle other higher cognitive abilities, emotions and memory.
The dreaded parent teacher conference for the second trimester at that charter school in the County of Kent was here. Jon, his mother and father, and Miss Summertop converged in her classroom. The grades were given, and Jon’s mom and dad were shocked. It was showing that Jon was doing very poorly in pretty much every class he was in. Even what that charter school in the County of Kent called “specials” like Gym, Music, and Art. No advance notice had been given to Jon’s parents about his falling grades for three months. Jon’s mother became very upset and walked out of the meeting, explaining to Miss Summertop that Jon was suffering from the school’s lack of communication. Jon’s work in his folder was either missing or incomplete. It seemed like Jon was able to do nothing in class, but the sole focus of the school was his behavior issues. In fact, a few weeks later, Jon’s mother had reached out to the principal Lady Kathryn about this situation. Lady Kathryn pulled a meeting together with all of Jon’s teachers, including the specials teachers, Jon’s parents and herself. Together, the group was supposed to discuss ways of trying to help Jon focus in class. For the most part, the specials teachers sat there and said nothing. From this writer’s opinion, it seemed like they were appalled they had to even be there. A plan was discussed for Jon and his behavior. A first warning would be for Jon to get a little reminder to refocus. A second warning would be to redirect him and possibly move him to another part of the classroom. And then a third warning would be a discussion with the teacher or principal and to have Jon write a reflection form about the issue. Everyone agreed this was a suitable thing for Jon to work on. Jon’s parents left the meeting a bit peeved, but both agreed this was a move forward. It seemed like the school was finally stepping up to the plate and working to help their son.
A few days later, Jon’s mother received the following from Lady Kathryn: Academic & Behavior
Student: Date: March 22, 2012
Background: Over the course of the past school year, Jon has exhibited behaviors in his classroom or general school environment that are not beneficial to him or the learning environment. These behaviors have ranged from negative peer interactions to general disruption of the educational setting. A written plan has been put in place to assist Jon in having a more productive and successful experience.
Expectations: Jon is expected to follow classroom and school rules without exception and will be held to the student handbook code of conduct. Specifically, Jon is expected to avoid negative interactions with his peers and maintain appropriate on-task behavior in the classroom. That charter school in the County of Kent faculty and staff will work with Jon to encourage positive behavior choices and accept responsibility for his actions.
Jon will complete class assignments in school within the appropriate time. If the assignments are not completed or are unsatisfactory they will be given to Jon to complete at home that evening. Assessments to determine the level of understanding may require completion only in school.
Interventions: In the event of a mild issue Jon will be receive a reminder by telling him one and may be moved to a different location in the classroom.
The next issue Jon will be removed to a silent area place in the classroom, like the doorway, to redirect his behavior. He will be reminded that this is two.
The third issue that occurs, Jon will be removed to a different classroom, the hallway, or the office and complete a written reflection about the behaviors or engage in a conversation of the inappropriate behaviors with a staff member.
In addition to the classroom setting, Jon will be expected to follow teacher direction and school policies in the cafeteria, gymnasium, hallway, library, bus and/or other settings. If Jon’s behavior is disruptive in those settings he will be removed and brought back to the main building. If there are additional behavior issues, Jon may be excluded from the area or school for additional days or class periods.
If at any time, Faculty/Staff determines that Jon is not able to return to class a parent will be contacted and Jon is to be picked up from school immediately. Additional suspension time may be warranted depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Jon, his parents and his teachers will work to continuously monitor the plan’s implementation. If the plan is not effective in decreasing the frequency of disruptive behaviors, the plan may be modified. Jon continues to be responsible for compliance with that charter school in the County of Kent’s code of conduct.
When Jon’s mother read this, she was furious. This was not the plan everyone agreed on, and it seemed to serve the schools interest more than Jon’s. Jon’s mother wrote in response to Lady Kathryn that “in reading the contract I would like to mention that it was me that asked for help and consistency and it really feels like Jon is being railroaded. Had Jon’s teachers been doing what they were supposed to be doing to help him we would not be in March, almost April, trying to deal with an escalated situation to where we even need this written down for him specifically.” Jon’s father met with Lady Kathryn and told her Jon would not adhere to this contract and that it was set up for the school and not Jon. Nothing really came of the contract, because while this scenario was playing out, Jon’s mother made a discovery which would change many things for all involved.
While speaking with a friend, Jon’s mother was told of a child with something called sensory processing disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder, otherwise known as SPD, is described as a traffic jam in the brain. Stimuli comes in but it doesn’t filter through correctly. As per the SPD Foundation website, “A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.”
Jon’s mother discussed this discovery after reading about it online with Jon’s father, and it seemed to make perfect sense for Jon’s actions. The parents agreed to request for Jon to be evaluated at the school, preferably by an occupational therapist. Jon’s parents put in the request, and the school would have their occupational therapist, Miss Smooth, evaluate Jon. Miss Smooth owned a facility in the County of Kent that helped children, but her work for that charter school in the County of Kent was done at a contractual level. She was not an employee of the school.
Jon was tested and evaluated by Miss Smooth, and a meeting was scheduled to go over the results. Jon’s mother was unable to attend, but Jon’s father was there. Lady Kathryn and Miss Summertop (his teacher) were unable to attend as well. In addition, a new face entered the fray. Miss Short was the elementary school’s case manager for special education. Her job was to facilitate the meeting and render a decision based on the evaluation. Not included in any part of this evaluation process was the school psychologist, Miss Diagnosis. In fact, nobody had consulted with her about Jon at all. Jon’s father thought this was an interesting group of people and his hope was Jon would receive services to help him with his issues.
The meeting took place in Miss Short’s office. Miss Smooth went over the results of her data. Initially, a sensory profile was administered. This is a questionnaire that goes to the parents and it helps to preliminarily decide if certain parts of sensory processing might factor into everyday problems for a child. \par Miss Smooth conducted testing on Jon and found that Jon did well on visual processing, but the testing showed problems with the following areas of processing: auditory, vestibular (sense of balance), touch, multisentory and oral sensory. The report suggested Jon had problems in the following areas: sitting for long periods, remaining alert, maintaining participation with peers, anticipating how to move around safely without clumsiness, inccordination, frequent injuries, determining the appropriate responses for situations, being too excited or too withdrawn for demands of tasks at different times, responding appropriately to social and environmental cues, becoming inflexible or upset at situations more easily than others, and understanding the meaning and usefulness of visual information resulting in inappropriate responses. Finally, thought Jon’s father, things are making sense!
The report went on to say that Jon had issues with registration which is the time it takes to respond to stimuli. Seeking, which was noted that Jon had, states that children with this tend to be very active and their environment allows distraction from task completion. As well, Jon showed strong signs of Avoiding which can be described as a reaction to stimuli by having an emotional outburst. It was Miss Smooth’s final assessment of the evaluation that took Jon’s father by surprise. Even though he had all of these issues, it was the evaluator’s opinion that Jon’s sensory problems “do not appear to be significant enough to indicate the need for individual Occupational Therapy services. The Occupational Therapist may be available for consultation with the teacher to assist with classroom concerns. His gross motor and fine motor skills seemed to be within normal range, plus or minus a year, and Miss Short from the special education department agreed with the evaluation. Some suggestions were given that the teacher could adapt, such as having Jon wear headphones in the classroom, have heavy books placed on his lap during classtime, have him run errands, and even to try ankle weights at home. The school psychologist, Miss Diagnosis was not involved, the principal and teacher did not attend the meeting at all (which Jon’s father thought would have given valuable feedback), and Jon’s father felt defeated.
Miss Smooth did say that she can offer services at her facility to help Jon. When Jon’s father got home, he quickly called his insurance company to see if this would be covered for Jon. It would not. And the cost for out of pocket occupational therapy was very high. So we were pretty much back to square one, but with a few mild ideas to help Jon out. Jon had begun taking karate lessons and enjoyed it immensely. This was also helping Jon to control his coordination and sustain effort to a task. In fact, his friends from school were also there, and one of them was in his class. The three friends were now seeing each other out of school, but their playground problems did not come to karate.
The school still felt that Jon had attention issues and now knew about major sensory processing issues. No concrete plan came out of the meeting with the exception of the occupational therapist consulting with the teacher. The school wanted a 2nd grader to sign a contract that would put him in the position of accepting responsibility for all his actions, whether he was in control of them or not.
“Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered the most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Haile Selassie