Chapter 6: of accommodation records, maps, and a growing illness
The Game Of Puppets Fact #11: As Common Core implementation has increased in American schools, so has teacher dissatisfaction.
The Game Of Puppets Fact #12: The two most common co-morbitities that can accompany Tourette’s Syndrome are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
2013 was here, and that meant a fresh new start for Jon. He was enjoying the XBox he got from Santa, and he was talking to lots of friends on there. This was very therapeutic for Jon because he didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing his tics, and he could have conversations with people about anything. Jon’s parents quickly found out how difficult it would be to get Jon off of it when he needed to, but for Jon’s well-being, the benefits outweighed any negative aspects. Jon loved to play Minecraft. It was creative, artistic, and he could build whole new worlds. His parents would hear him laugh all the time, which was something Jon desperately needed to do more of.
One day, when Jon’s father was going on a break while working at that charter school in the County of Kent, he saw Miss Cersi. Jon’s first grade teacher was always very polite with Jon’s father. But Jon’s father never trusted her. There was something off about her, and he always felt that Jon’s best interests were not a part of her agenda. Jon’s father made a point to tell her about Jon’s diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome. She tried to take credit and said “I told you there was something there.” He told her that had he gotten Jon diagnosed with ADHD two years before, Jon would have probably been given a stimulant medication and that would have made Jon’s manifesting tics much worse. Miss Cersi just laughed and said “Everything happens for a reason.”
Before 2012 ended, Jon’s teacher was on top of the 504 plan. There was a problem with the school nurse and the blood pressure being read, but for the most part, the school followed through on Jon’s accommodations. But once the students returned from the holiday break, things started happening, all at once.
As part of Jon’s 504 plan, weekly communication via email was supposed to take place between Miss Summertop and Jon’s parents. Instead of email, Miss Summertop would give Jon’s father a copy of the 504 plan with her updated notes from the classroom. It was very hard to gain any useful information from her notes. An example of her notes under the goal of explain instructions to Jon would be “directions explained to Jon one-on-one”. Essentially, it was Miss Summertop explaing what the goals were but that Jon did them. There was no data to support it, nor was there any further explanation. Was it working all the time? There was no way of knowing. Constant emails were sent from Jon’s mother to Miss Summertop requesting information. After a while, she would partly answer her questions, but not to either parents satisfaction. Jon’s mother emailed Lady Kathryn about who oversaw the 504 plan. Nobody really knew. Was it Lady Kathryn? Lady Ellen? Miss Short? Miss Summertop? Or maybe Jon could figure it out. It became a bit of a joke. Jon’s mother had to request that Miss Summertop get training for monitoring and reporting on the 504. The final straw for Jon’s mother was when Miss Summertop asked Jon in class if had taken his medication in front of the whole class.
A meeting was soon scheduled to go over these issues, as well as to go over Miss Diagnosis’ evaluations. Miss Short referred to it as an ER meeting. The lack of communication and the failure to fully implement the 504 were the main focus of the meeting. As the head of the school, Lady Ellen hadn’t returned any of Jon’s mother’s emails. The meeting took place, and in attendance were Jon’s mother, Miss Summertop, Miss Short, Lady Ellen, and Miss Diagnosis. Jon’s father was not able to attend. Miss Diagnosis went over the results of her evaluations. For observations, Miss Summertop and Miss Toms wrote about Jon’s strengths and weaknesses. Miss Summertop stated that Jon needed one-to-one attention to complete tasks and that he is easily distracted by others and calls out, especially during transition times. Miss Summertop wrote that Jon used good self-direction in Math, while Miss Toms said Jon lacks focus during Math. Both wrote that he liked to draw and doodle. Neither wrote about strategies they used to redirect that behavior, aside from Miss Tom writing about shortening his assignments. Miss Diagnosis wrote that Jon had been referred for a “psychoeducational evaluation to determine if additional services via an IEP are needed to maintain academic progress”.
For the testing, a Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV was done. Jon scored average or higher on every test. These included verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, working memory skill, and speed of visual processing skills. She also did a Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-III which Jon, of course, did average or better on everything. For Social/Emotional/Behavioral Assessments, the school psychologist did no formal testing. She did ask Jon some questions though. What do you do at home? Do you think school is hard? What is your favorite subject? What problems do you have at school? Miss Diagnosis concluded with the following summary: “A 504 plan currently addresses needs associated with Tourette Syndrome and sensory integration disorder. Possible diagnosis of ADHD is pending. Jon appears to be a capable young man however has difficulty focusing and completing assignments in a timely fashion.” So even though Jon had Tourette’s Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder, a strong likelihood of ADHD, couldn’t focus in class, wouldn’t complete assignments, had difficulty with peers, wouldn’t read at school, and doodled half the day, he still didn’t meet the criteria for an IEP plan. Because he was too smart. So on the Eligibility Determination, it was checked off on “Does not meet the eligibility criteria to receive special education and related services in the following disability category: Learning Disability.” In the Statement Of Assurance section, Miss Short wrote “Based on evaluation results, Jon’s functioning is at or above age expectations in all areas. Therefore, he does not meet the state’s criteria as a student with a learning disability that would require support from special education services.”
Since it took so long to go over the IEP denial (again), and the meeting had been scheduled at the end of the day, there was not much discussion about Miss Summertop’s lack of communication and her inability to follow the plan.
Jon did receive support from one of the paraprofessionals at that charter school in the County of Kent. Jon’s father had met Miss Kindheart while working at the high school. She was one of the few paras that stayed on at the elementary level. She was a very sweet woman, and you could see in her eyes how passionate she was about helping students in need. She would help Jon during the Friday of Fitness, and Jon enjoyed his time with her. Another source of help was in the form of an outside counseling agency that was placed in the school. Miss Auburn would help Jon with social and behavior strategies. After each session, she would write down what Jon could do, and both would sign it. Jon would tape it on his desk. For the next few weeks, whenever Jon got in trouble, he would go see Miss Auburn. And another behavior contract would be signed. Which would have been great, however Jon didn’t have the ability to commit to a signed contract.
Miss Summertop seemed to be doing a better job on the weekly communications. But she would complain about how he still needed reminders to do things. She wanted more involvement from Jon with these everyday events. But she didn’t realize that Jon would have done all those daily events if he got reminders. That was the whole point of the 504 plan! The snowball that was rolling down the hill quickly gained traction, and got bigger and bigger. His 504 notes would say things like “did not require any breaks this week” or that he “stayed on task during academic time” even though other notes would say things like “did not use time to finish questions, given more time, sat in chair with feet up”. Jon’s parents began to wonder why there were so many conflicting statements in these reports. The purpose of the breaks was for Jon to wind down and decompress. If he wasn’t taking any or being directed to, no wonder he wasn’t completing work. And the great idea of giving Jon errands to do was done once. It seemed as if Miss Summertop was disengaging, and when that occured, the behavior reports came roaring back!
It was about this time that Jon’s father was getting a lot of calls to sub for the middle school levels at that charter school in the County of Kent, especially math. He couldn’t get away from it. Jon’s father noticed that a lot of kids seemed to be out of control. Everything that was written about Jon in the behavior reports was being mirrored in these older children. Jon’s father was never given any IEP or 504 information on these kids, so he had no idea what to think. If a student got too unruly, he would have to send them to the office. Once in a while, someone would come to him and say “He/She has some issues, but we will take care of it.” Jon’s father had floor hockey sticks thrown at him in gym class. In an English class, one student cursed at him, and as the student was going to the office, he said the same word over and over again. It wasn’t just Jon’s class. There was a systemic behavior problem in the entire school. Jon’s father noticed a lot of the students seemed to be very angry. He hadn’t seen that in the high school. It was an enigma to him. Jon’s father didn’t have a lot of faith in his son’s future abilities at that charter school in the County of Kent.
Jon’s behavior was getting worse. Communication from Miss Summertop just stopped for a long time. Almost a month had gone by and nothing. The one student Jon had probably tangled with the most was becoming a more frequent event. The two had played together well out of school many times, but in school they were in such competition for another friend’s attention that conflict would ensue often. But the other friend didn’t even need to be there. Jon would tell his parents how his “friend” would get other people to chase him or attack him. The game of tag wasn’t that fun for Jon anymore. Around this time, Jon started to not comply with adult requests. As a result, teachers would argue back with Jon. And in a battle of wills at a school, the student usually loses. Jon’s parents didn’t know what to think, but something obviously was going very wrong at that charter school in the County of Kent, and Jon was getting worse by the day. It was like he was feeding off the illness that was infecting the place.
Meanwhile, many miles away, in the Kingdom of Pa, Jon’s grandmother had been put on hospice at her home. She had a long, debilitating illness, and Jon’s grandfather had been taking care of her. Jon knew she didn’t have much time left. This was something very sad for Jon, and it began to trouble him as he had never dealt with something like that before. Jon’s father had been up to see her, and he knew.
Usually Jon’s mother took up the mantle of the “bad cop”. She would be the one to email everyone, and find out what was going on. Jon’s father was usually the “good cop”. He would talk to Jon’s teachers and the administration and try to find out what was going on. Plus, he was also in the odd position of working there as a substitute teacher, and he got along well with most of the teachers. But Jon’s father knew his son was not being treated the way he should have been. He had a 504 plan, and they couldn’t even handle that. His teacher was there, but something was obviously going on with her. They hadn’t received anything from her in a month. Did Jon even have a 504 plan anymore? Jon’s father began to open his eyes.
“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” W.B. Yeats