The Game Of Puppets Chapter 7 : of the poke, the manifestation determination, and the stand
The Game Of Puppets Fact #13: A manifestation determination is used to find out if a behavior a child with special needs has is a result of their disability.
The Game Of Puppets Fact #14: In Finland, considered by many to have the best education system in the world, Finnish children get 75 minutes of recess compared to an average of 27 minutes for American children. They also get a 15 minute break after each class.
Jon’s parents finally heard from Miss Summertop at the end of March. She let them know about a personal situation that was impeding her ability to accommodate Jon to the best of her ability. His parents understood that, but Miss Summertop was also concerned about Jon’s behavior and was avoiding having to talk to Jon’s parents about it. She attributed the behavior to Jon’s grandmother being ill and Jon’s sick cat. Those things may have contributed, but the lack of focus on the teacher’s part played a very huge factor.
April 2013 was a very rough month for Jon. Most of it revolved around his “friend” and their agressive relationship to each other. At a birthday party for Jon, the “friend” and two other kids were there. Jon’s mother watched in horror as Jon’s “friend” attacked Jon without any warning. After that, Jon did not go to his house, nor did the “friend” come over to Jon’s house. Spring break took up the first week of the month, and when the students returned to that charter school in the County of Kent, there was a major schedule change. Instead of going to recess before lunch, it was moved to the end of the day. The 2nd-3rd grade teachers felt it was a necessary change because students were unable to focus after recess and then lunch. For Jon, this was a nightmare of epic propotions. Since his teacher was not accommodating his 504 plan, and giving him breaks as needed, Jon spent more time in classroom settings without being able to cool off and release some energy. Jon’s parents were very upset about this change. As a result, Jon’s behavior increased on the negative side. Behavior reports were filled out almost every day, and Jon started getting suspended for his perceived actions. As usual, Jon was the center of blame. A student could spit in his face, but Jon would get in trouble for poking a student with a pencil when a tic movement would cause his arm to swing out. And as usual, no adult ever actually saw anything.
The school was very concerned about Jon’s anger and inappropriate comments to adults. His parents could not determine where it was coming from. The school was failing to adequately or even minimally accommodate Jon’s needs. The 504 plan, in their opinion, was useless. Changing the recess schedule was also causing extreme problems for Jon. There was no ability for him to release until the end of the day. Jon’s father heard his “friend” on the playground one day telling another student “to get Jon”. Jon’s father said “Let’s not get Jon”. This was just one example of this “friend” bullying Jon.
One day the father of the “friend” called Jon’s father to complain that Jon was out of control and he needed help. Jon’s father explained that his son was also causing a lot of the problems. The father said “It’s never Jon’s fault!” and hung up. One day, when Jon had to take standardized testing with a small group, Miss Short brought him back into the classroom while the other students continued testing. Jon started talking, and Miss Short took him out of the room. She called Jon’s mother and told her that Jon was being “loud and obnoxious”. Jon’s mother took serious offense to this and drove to the school. She asked for a meeting with Lady Kathryn, Lady Ellen, and Miss Short. Jon’s mother explained this was not a term for a special education teacher to use against a student with special needs. Miss Short stormed out of the meeting in anger.
After a few weeks of teachers and administration telling Jon’s parents about all of Jon’s behavior problems, Jon’s father had enough. He started going into Jon’s class more and more to observe. Jon noticed one day that Jon was sitting in the office. He asked Lady Kathryn why Jon was there, and she replied that she didn’t know. He had just gotten there and no behavior report was sent with him. Jon went to Miss Summertop’s class and asked why Jon was sent to the office, and Miss Summertop said “Not now” and ignored Jon’s father. This was the final straw for Jon’s father, and he started doing research into the Procedural Safeguards for Parents.
He spoke with the head of curriculum, Lady Blue, about his concerns with Miss Summertop. She said there wasn’t a lot she could do since she didn’t oversee 504 plans. Jon’s father spoke with Lady Kathryn, and both felt a conversation with Jon’s neurologist, Dr. V, may shed some light on what the school wasn’t understanding. Jon’s parents also made an appointment to discuss Jon’s behavior with Dr. V, but there wasn’t a lot of information to give to him aside from what was told to them. So Jon’s father wrote a very long email to Lady Kathryn:
I need a copy of all incident reports from the last several weeks concerning Jon. As well, I need further written documentation from Miss Summertop and any other teachers, paras, administrators or any other staff in regards to how any of these situations started. Some of the write-ups I have seen don’t go into a lot of detail about what happened before a reaction occurred. What were the factors or surroundings that may have led to that situation? We need this so Dr. V can ascertain what may be some triggers for Jon. I would especially like to hear from the computer teacher on this. There was a situation one day involving a transition with carpet time where Jon became quite agitated. My wife and I have an appointment with Dr. V this Friday at 7:45 a.m. so we need this by Thursday. Dr. V won’t be able to help Jon unless he knows what is possibly leading to these reactions. I would like to be able to give him at least ten specific situations. More would be even better.
I was very upset about the comment made by Miss Short about Jon being “loud and obnoxious” when he was put back in the classroom while other students were working on the standardized testing. Whether he was or wasn’t, I firmly believe that his case administrator for his 504 plan should not be using those types of terms to describe a student with multiple disabilities. It is discriminatory at best, and this needs to never happen again. I was also taken aback that Miss Short wasn’t aware of all these situations going on with Jon in the past month. It tells me there is a lack of communication somewhere, and this needs to be addressed.
I believe Jon’s issues are stemming from multiple issues going on , but like my wife and I have said repeated times, we aren’t seeing these issues even close to the severity in which they are occurring at school. I talked with Miss Summertop last week and she did inform me that those who instigate are being sent to the office as well as the reactor in a situation. Why is this just now being implemented? Many situations could have been avoided in the first place had this been done. If there is so much teasing going on in the classroom that is going unnoticed, that is a problem. I know it happens, especially at that age, but I also firmly believe a teacher can help to mitigate these things before they become as big as they are. Jon has told me of several occasions where he told Miss Summertop about a student teasing him and how he was told “One minute” by her most of the time and then there was no follow-up with him. This was also communicated with you last week by Jon.
As per Dr. V’s instructions, Jon is now taking his Intuniv medication in the morning as opposed to the night.
I went over the 504 plan over the weekend, and I do not see it addressing behavior in a lot of situations. Furthermore, ADHD needs to be added to it as the official diagnosis came for that a couple weeks after the 504 meeting on 12/5/12. I think some provisions need to be added to cover transition times for all areas: Regular class, math club, specials, club, recess, lunch, Friday of Fitness and any academic setting.
So much of what is going on with Jon right now is sensory overload. It has become too much for him. Any situation concerning him has become a huge situation for him in his head. He is scared, sad and angry. He sees other students getting away with picking on him, and he is getting in trouble for how he reacts. Not that this excuses his reactions, but we don’t know if they are neurological reactions or behavioral. I have been told that Jon makes some of these choices, but I don’t think any of us are qualified to diagnose that as I don’t believe any of us are experts on the trifecta of ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome and Sensory Integration Disorder. These are three very major things going on with a growing boy. I think a lot of these situations could have been avoided. I think we need to be aware of situations and triggers that could potentially cause a problem for Jon. One of our chief concerns at this point in time is next year as well. I would like his new teacher to be well aware of Jon’s disorders well ahead of next year and to have a plan in place at that time.
As well, we had discussed that there would be an evaluation of the 504 at the end of the year, and I am requesting this to be scheduled as soon as possible so we aren’t rushing and trying to put schedules together at the end of the year. We need more specific, measurable and timely goals set in this plan as they are severely lacking at this time. We don’t believe the plan is being utilized with the exception of Miss Toms. There is no evidence to support that it is being used in other areas. I don’t see the line placement that we agreed to (in the 2012 sensory processing meeting), I’m not seeing the coaching and one-on-one in situations that we agreed to, nor am I seeing the implementation of the idea we put forth together about Jon being sent on daily errands or breaks. I spoke with you about this last week, and I don’t know if this has changed at all since then. We had talked about afternoons specifically being a challenge area for Jon and that one of these breaks or errands should occur at some point after specials.
I will pick up the authorization form for the phone conversation with Dr. V, but my wife or I need to be present for this conversation. Thank you for your time, and it is my sincere hope that we can all do what is best for Jon.” That was followed up by Lady Kathryn with:
“I have asked Miss Summertop to allow Jon a break in the afternoon. As we discussed, if Jon is doing well then it would not be beneficial for him to go on a break. As far as reviewing the 504, we can coordinate a time that we can all meet and see what needs to be implemented beyond what is in the current document. I will discuss this with Lady Ellen, Miss Short, & Miss Summertop. Behavior can be included as a component and a behavior plan written for Jon that helps him be successful and holds him accountable, which will help him be successful.”
Lady Kathryn and Jon’s father had spoken that day at the school, and Lady Kathryn wanted Jon to have an FBA, which stands for Functional Behavior Analysis. But after yet another behavior incident later that day, Jon’s father got on the email again and wrote:
“My wife and I appreciate your talking to Miss Summertop yesterday, however, where was any talk with Jon during this event? We were also very curious how she could not see a student “punching” a student, the other student crying, out, and then Jon laughing. And she was in the classroom. I asked Jon where Miss Summertop was at this time, and he clearly remembered that she was on her cellphone and drinking a soda. I asked him how he knew she was drinking a soda, and he informed me that another student asked Miss Summertop why she was allowed to drink soda to which she responded “Because I’m an adult.” I have frequently seen Miss Summertop on her phone when I have entered the classroom, and Jon informed me that she is on her phone a lot. Our big question yesterday was how she could miss so many of these events. Perhaps this is a possible answer.
We went over the 504 plan again last night, and we have several concerns that have not been addressed from the plan or the very detailed notes within the plan. On the first page going over the 504 plan, it clearly states: The area of most difficulty is during transition times and unstructured activities, such as lunch and recess, walking the hallway. No specific accommodations were put in the plan for the following reason. Jon’s mother had suggested he be given additional time during transitions. Miss Storm indicated that different things could be tried and then it could be written into the plan. To date, this was never done. But yet, most of his problems have occurred during some type of transition time, as noted by Miss Summertop, yourself, and Jon. So our big question, if this is such a documented thing, why hasn’t the plan been modified? Which could have, once again, eliminated many of the situations that have occurred.
Jon also needs consistency from all teachers should a situation arise. First off, we would like it incorporated into the plan that the teacher will ask ALL parties involved, including Jon, before Jon is sent to the office. Furthermore, since most of these events are not seen by an adult, I would like the adult to try to make a judgment call on the behavior being intentional or a reaction to the sensory integration disorder, Tourette’s, or his ADHD. Additionally, if Jon is sent to the office, work needs to be sent with him. We are also requesting a report from each adult handling the situation on what exactly happened, and any potential triggers involved to be sent home with him the same day. In regards to his planner, it was communicated in the plan notes that Miss Summertop would prompt Jon to bring his book bag to her each morning and his planner would be put in her bin. Relying on Jon to do this, as it was written in the plan, does not work. And even though there is only three weeks left of school, we would like Miss Summertop to actually write something in his planner. I would like this to include one area Jon did very well at, and an area where he may have struggled. In addition, we would like to see a return to Jon typing something up for his planner as was agreed up in the 504 plan.
The plan has worked in providing Jon an independent place to work. It has also worked in terms of him being able to type up written assignments. (But) The plan clearly states to allow Jon frequent breaks throughout the day as this was needed to give him a refresh/reload time. We don’t see a frequency in this being used, with the exception of being sent to the office for potential behavior issues. I know it was decided to give him a break in the afternoon, but the plan indicates “frequent” breaks.
What we don’t know is how assignments are being given to Jon. It was indicated in the plan that not only would Miss Summertop tell the class, but she would have direct contact with Jon to go over the plan orally with him.
It was indicated in the notes by Miss Summertop that Jon has problems at recess when the kids are chasing each other. So what has been done about that? If this is a noted area of concern going back to December, why are students still chasing each other? If this is a behavior that is allowed to continue, with it being documented that Jon has problems during this, then we would like to request that an adult join in the chasing or closely observe the chasing and be able to quickly stop a situation prior to it escalating.
We have not seen any work sent home from any class since his last student-teacher conference with the exception of the animal project, as that was on a flash-drive and we helped Jon with it at home.
At this point in time, immediately going forward, if Jon is sent to the office and a teacher did not see the action, and it is determined through a manifestation determination that Jon’s action was from one of his three disabilities by the school, my wife or myself, we will file a grievance with the Department Of Education Charter School division.
Some recent examples of this are as follows: Yesterday’s situation with another student and Jon being sent to the office for putting his leg up when a group of girls were converging on him during recess which resulted in another student being kicked by Jon, and Jon’s “friend” being poked in the back with a pencil by Jon when his “friend” spit on his face. All of these are, in our determination, classic reactions from his sensory integration disorder which has been documented with the school and diagnosed by a certified neurologist. No manifestation determination was made to determine cause in any of these situations and they were treated as behavior/discipline issues. “I don’t know what happened” or “I didn’t see anything” will no longer be a sufficient answer for my wife or myself.
At this point in time, we are not giving permission for Jon to speak with Miss Diagnosis for a functional behavioral assessment, as I don’t believe the plan and it’s notes have been fully utilized or modified. In addition, we want to speak with Dr. V tomorrow to determine our next course of action. As well, we have requested a reevaluation of the 504 for the end of the year to be scheduled as soon as possible and I would like to add a request that a decision be made as soon as possible for this 4th-5th grade teacher to be determined prior to that meeting and for that teacher to be in attendance at the meeting. We formally requested Miss Nada for that teacher in a letter given to yourself yesterday. In addition, I would like Miss Short to take a more active role in following up with Jon’s teacher in regards to the 504 plan. As indicated last week, Miss Short had no idea about Jon’s recent issues due to no communication from Miss Summertop or Miss Short in regards to the 504 plan. We would like this to occur for the remainder of this academic school year as (well as) the next academic school year.
I will come to the school before bussing to pick up Miss Summertop’s notes on the recent incident reports.”
The response from Lady Kathryn, which never had the school admitting to doing anything wrong, was this: “The functional behavioral assessment is aimed at getting at the why of the behaviors, which is the reason I recommended this as a next step. Jon’s behaviors are such that I believe this would be helpful data for the team to include proper behavior supports in his 504. This information would also help us to recognize if his behaviors are a manifestation of his disability. If you would like more information from Miss Diagnosis I’m sure she would be willing to speak with you.
There are situations where Jon has been unable to have a respectful conversation and needed some cool off time before he talked about the event. It is appropriate for him to be removed during these instances to the office and a conversation had when he is able. One important component for us helping Jon is his following the direction of adults, which has been a recent difficulty for him, and without refusal or a disrespectful tone from him. These behaviors are not beneficial to the environment of all students and we need to deal with these and hold Jon accountable for this immediately. I appreciate your support when this has occurred and you holding him accountable for this will be helpful for him as he grows.
Recess is an open play exploration time for students. Not allowing students to run and play chase is not a reasonable request for all the 2/3s. If Jon continues to struggle at this free time we can look at alternate activities for him that will have him still get some exercise. Perhaps Dr. V can help advise us in this area as well. Miss Short has received correspondence as of the past week and I will continue to keep her informed of issues on a more regular basis.”
So a plan was in place to get Jon a functional behavior analysis from Miss Diagnosis. As well, a phone conversation with the 504 team, Dr. V and Jon’s parents was to take place. After the FBA was done by Miss Diagnosis, all the team members would get together to modify the 504 plan. Jon also began drawing pictures of students and violent situations. His doctor believed he was letting out his feelings, although inappropriate, it was how Jon was coping. At the same time, Jon started out a new medicine that Dr. V prescribed called Metadate. This was a stimulant, so Jon’s parents were very nervous. But Dr. V felt it could help the anxiety and aggression Jon was feeling. About five days into taking the medicine, Jon began to draw pictures of students and violent situations. This alarmed his parents, but Jon had always drawn pictures of how he was feeling. Jon’s parents talked to him, and he said he was just drawing crazy pictures but he would never act out on them.
It became glaringly obvious to Jon’s parents that the school was never going to accept Jon’s disorders if they believed “Every behavior is purposeful” (which was what Lady Ellen said to Jon’s father one day). That charter school in the County of Kent was not a good fit for Jon. Something had to change.
Meanwhile, Jon’s grandmother passed away. It was a hard time for all of Jon’s family, but his father had the phone conference the day after his mother died. Jon’s father drove back to the Kingdom of Del late that night.
Dr. V stressed that recess should never be taken away from Jon, or any child for that matter. He cited studies that had proven this. He also strongly advised against having it at the end of the day as there would be no major release of energy for Jon. Dr. V also stated it could take several months to determine how effective the metadate would be and what would be the correct dosage. Dr. V strongly reccomended Jon got occupational therapy, but Jon’s mother explained he didn’t qualify for services when Jon got tested the prior year. He felt Jon should get some social skills development both in and outside of school. He reiterated the need for frequent breaks throughout the day. Dr. V also stated Jon should have a paraprofessional nearby at all times during unstructured time, such as recess or lunch or transition time. He concluded that Tourette’s Syndrome can be very difficult to control but he felt confident with the right supports and better plans from the school that Jon could be successful. “
We’d been given a gift and our job now was to unwrap it, and see what’s inside.” Todd Burpo