Chapter 5: of eligibility, bubblegum, and a missing psychologist
The Game Of Puppets Fact #9: Under IDEA, each parent is given a copy of The Procedural Safeguards, which details exactly what parental rights are during the IEP Process. One key component of this is the right for parents to be included in meetings about their child’s placement or education.
The Game Of Puppets Fact #10: According to The National Institutes Of Health, “All students with TS (Tourette’s Syndrome) need a tolerant and compassionate setting that both encourages them to work to their full potential and is flexible enough to accommodate their special needs.”
Jon’s family was waiting for evaluations to be done prior to the IEP eligibility meeting at that charter school in the County of Kent. Jon had received a preliminary diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome from his pediatrician Dr. K, but a neurologist named Dr. V would give a firm diagnosis. In the meantime, Jon’s parents had met with the IEP team, which consisted of Lady Kathryn, Lady Ellen, the school nurse, Miss Summertop, and Miss Storm and Miss Short from special services. Miss Short was the special services instructor assigned to manage the case. The parents were not happy with how things were going in the classroom as well as the lack of communication from the school. Jon’s mother wanted more observation in the classroom. Both Miss Short and Jon’s mother had called Miss Smooth to discuss occupational therapy accommodations for Jon in the class, but she wasn’t returning calls. The school psychologist, Miss Diagnosis, did not attend this meeting. Jon’s parents left the meeting thinking tests would be done for Jon. It was a matter of signing forms. The team agreed to meet before the Thanksgiving holiday to go over the eligibility part of the IEP decision.
Jon met his neurologist Dr. V, and he quickly determined that Jon had Tourette’s Syndrome. As well as the sensory processing disorder, he also thought Jon had a strong case of Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD for short. He stressed quite vehemently that Tourette’s and ADHD together are very common, but the danger with using a stimulant to treat the ADHD can cause tics from the Tourettes to become out of control. So any medicine prescribed would have to be something that could be used for both. Jon’s parents really didn’t want to medicate their son. If they could have tried alternative routes first, they would have done so. They would decide on their next visit in a month how to deal with that decision. In the meantime, Dr. V felt getting Jon on an accommodation plan would help.
Meanwhile, Miss Summertop started sending many behavior referrals to the office. This is not something she had done prior. In Jon’s records, there were no written behavior referrals to the office from Miss Summertop until after Jon’s parents requested an IEP. One example, from early November, stated the following: Behaviors-disruption to the learning environment regularly, antagonizing others, other-refuses to participate in class activities regularly.” For the description, Miss Summertop wrote “Jon had a chance to participate in reading time, was asked to get a book 3 times given suggestions. Did not read, chose to draw instead. Was then not able to complete book report activity. When given the opportunity chose to still not read and respond so I collected his unfinished work and told he could just sit and wait if he was not participating in the classroom activity- then chose to crawl out of seat on the floor. Asked 3 times to return to sea. Instead snuck up behind another student who was working at her desk and scared her. Sent to office for above checked behaviors.” When Jon’s mother would see these types of reports, her first reaction would be “What types of strategies would you use to help Jon?” This was usually answered by “it’s very hard to determine that because he doesn’t listen”. Upon reading this particular report, Jon’s parents saw very few suggestions given to Jon by his teacher, or strategies along the way that might have generated another outcome. Miss Summertop’s reaction would usually be that she had a classroom of twenty kids, and it’s hard to give that kind of attention to one student. When Jon would get sent to the office, the behavior reports would say either removal from class or reflection time. For reflection time, Jon would have to write on the behavior reflection form about what happened. One question on the form for the student to answer was “What support or help do you need to do things differently?” Jon wrote “don’t know”. And apparently, neither did Miss Summertop.
Jon’s father helped out in Miss Jeter’s class fairly consistently until the Thanksgiving break. As a result, since it was in the same grade level as Jon, he was able to see Jon’s interactions with his peers during lunch and recess. He would usually be with his two other friends from the previous year. At recess, the three of them would run around and play tag, laughing and having fun. Frequently, their tag game would affect other peers since all three of them were very focused on the tag and not others around them. Many students would come up to Jon’s father about what they had perceived Jon had done. Sometimes they were right, and other times they were wrong. Jon was not always in control of his movements, especially when he would swing his arm out. This was one of Jon’s tics, and Dr. V had told his parents the motor tics usually come before vocal tics. There was evidence of this from Jon’s planner with Miss Cersi going back to first grade. As well, Jon’s father would frequently observe Jon in Miss Tom’s Match class during his break, and he noticed Jon seemed to be able to focus more. Miss Toms would call out students for perceived behavior issues, but it was done in a more calming, positive way than his father had seen with Miss Summertop. Jon would move around, but he wasn’t all over the place like Miss Summertop had submitted in behavior referrals.
The day of the IEP Eligibility meeting arrived, in the beginning of December, much later than Jon’s parents had been told. This was just the start of a communication problem between Jon’s parents and special services. Present at the meeting were Mom, Dad, Miss Storm, Miss Summertop, Lady Kathryn, and Miss Short. Miss Diagnosis did not attend this meeting either. There was an issue right away because Jon’s parents had not been given the notice of meeting which is required by law for the parents to sign. Miss Short asked if Jon had given it to Jon’s parents. Obviously he hadn’t. Nobody knew where the form was. Miss Summertop insisted it was put on Jon’s bookbag. The form was signed at the meeting. Lady Kathryn assured this would never happen again.
Miss Short indicated that they were meeting to determine eligibility for a 504 and to develop a plan. On the eligibility report-section 504 form, it showed Jon as being eligible for a 504 due to a disability of Tourette’s Syndrom/Sensory. It further stated that “the impairment affects the student’s ability to attend to classroom instruction; remain focused on a task; work completion; successfully and appropriately transitioning, especially during unstructured times.” Not checked off was the section showing a student has no physical or mentail impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. Miss Short advised that the next time to determine eligibility would be in a year. Miss Short wanted a psychoeducational evaluation done to determine if he met the criteria for an IEP. Jon’s mother wanted a reevaluation done for the sensory processing issues, but Miss Storm told her she would like to see more information from the doctor and to try some interventions in the classroom before doing that. Plus, the other evaluation had just been done eight months ago. IDEA stipulates that a permission to evaluate form be filled out, and Miss Short wrote that the plan for evaluation would include achievement and intelligence. Other areas that could have been checked off were diagnostics, perceptual, social maturity or adaptive behavior, speech/language, occupational therapy or other.
So now it was time to plan the 504 plan. A 504 plan is like an IEP, but it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of an Individualized Education Plan. There is no IDEA funding for a 504, just accommodations implemented by the school. The parents, do have a right to help determine those accommodations. Jon’s parents felt like the school finally knew what they were doing and Jon was going to get the help he needed and they would even get to be a part of it!
The 504 accommodations began with a Friday of Fitness activity. Jon’s mother strongly stated that she did not want Jon to lose recess or the Friday of Fitness activity. Every Friday, for an hour, every student had to follow certain plans for exercise. This was usually done by grade levels, and activities could include taking a walk outside, jump rope, Wii Dancing, or even walking around the school. Since half the activities were planned for outside, rainy days would consist of half the school walking around the building about twenty times. It was very loud and chaotic, especially since the cafeteria had loud videos playing for children to dance to. For Jon, with his sensory processing issues, it was way too much stimuli. So the 504 would address this by going over each activity planned for his class prior to the Friday Of Fitness. Jon would be given a choice if he wanted to go or not. The goal was to have Jon participate. If Jon chose not to, he would meet with a paraprofessional in a quiet place and he could read, talk, or play computer games.
The next accomodation given was work completion/on task behaviors. No goals were given or suggested. Jon would be allowed to use a computer for writing assignments. He would also be offered frequent breaks during class time so he could unwind or relieve stress. To give Jon a sense of confidence, everyone thought it would be a great idea for Jon to be given made-up errands such as bringing a book to the office. He would also be given a specific time limit to complete a task (which all teachers tended to do at that charter school in the County of Kent). Another accommodation was “ensure expectations of task are clear, explicit, and firmly stated directly to Jon”. Jon was to be given his own special area of the class to work by himself, which Miss Summertop had already done months prior because Jon was too distracting to others. When Jon had to work in groups, it was written that he wouldn’t work with more than two students and using friends would work better for him.
For reading, Jon would be offered the use of audio books. Assignments would be modified when appropriate, for example, instead of doing 20 problems on a math worksheet, Jon would only be required to do 10. Or for essay work, he would only have to write 3 paragraphs instead of 5. Every morning, Jon was to give his teacher his backpack and put his communication planner in a tray. At the end of the day, Jon was to write about his end of day activity on the computer, print it, cut it out, and paste it into the planner.
In the notes for the meeting, Miss Summertop indicated that Jon was having “mini breakthroughs” and he had already been starting to use the computer for morning work. She also said Jon can be moved in the class sometimes to have his own island. Jon’s parents had a big concern about substitute teachers. As Jon’s father was a sub there, he was never given information about what students had special accommodations. Miss Storm agreed this should be put into the sub plans for each time. Jon’s father notated he had read Tourettes sufferers may tend to repeat what others are doing. He asked for observation to see if this may be going on in behavior issues prior to him getting into trouble. He also asked how others were viewing Jon’s tics, to which Miss Summertop said she hadn’t noticed. Miss Summertop had some good ideas about reading with a buddy, but Miss Storm suggested “we just try some things to see what works and then we can write something into the plan”.
In the Kingdom of Del, all public school students were required to participate in the statewide standardized testing. Jon had done poorly on the Fall testing, and it was suggested that Jon be pulled out of the class and take the test with a small subgroup of students. Everyone thought this was a good idea. It was agreed that communication would improve between Miss Summertop and Jon’s parents. All parties agreed the best method would be weekly email. Jon’s mother asked what information Jon’s related arts teachers would receive and Miss Short said just a copy of the 504 plan. Miss Short said she would meet with each of them to discuss Jon’s plan. His parents asked if they should get anything from the doctor on his next visit, and Miss Short said a recommendation for Jon’s 504 plan is good to have in the records. This was not written in the meeting notes. Jon’s parents didn’t know a good deal about the whole special education process, but it seemed like they really knew what they were doing. While they didn’t walk out with an IEP, they had a 504 plan which was something more than they had before. The hard part was over, now the school just had to implement the plan.
About a week later, Jon’s parents took Jon to an emergency appointment with Dr. V. Jon had started a new tic with the inside of his jaw moving, and it was causing him excruciating pain. Jon was given a medicine called Intuniv, which would help with the Tourettes as well as the ADHD which was now confirmed by Dr. V. A potential side effect, although rare, was heart issues, so Dr. V wanted Jon’s blood pressure checked each day by the school nurse for a period of five weeks. Jon was also allowed to chew gum in class when this tic would start to manifest. Jon loved the original Hubba Bubba flavor.
Jon was starting to frequently have problems with one of the members of the trio of friends he was a part of. The other one would usually do something to Jon, to which Jon would have an equal or greater reaction to. As in the previous year, the initial behavior would often go unnoticed, but Jon’s reaction would and Jon would be sent to the office. Lady Kathryn began to see this, and told Jon’s father she would try to examine both sides of the story more often.
2012 was ending soon, and Jon would be off for the holiday break. Miss Summertop was very enthusiastic about the plan, and Jon had very little behavior issues for the next couple weeks. In the meantime, Miss Diagnosis, the school psychologist, would be doing her pyschoeducational evaluation. In fact, her testing date coincided with the same day Jon started his new medication.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
The Game of Puppets Correction #3: Lady Kathryn (the principal of that charter school in the County of Kent) did attend the meeting with Miss Smooth (Chapter 3)
The Game Of Puppets Correction #4: Mr. Namor was the writer of the very first “can’t keep hands to himself” concern (Chapter 1) not Miss Cersi. She wrote it in the planner, but records show he had emailed Miss Cersi with that information.