November 22, 2009

Little Red's Mother

The program read:

This is the second play for Alex at BHS and we welcome her talent and dedication to theater. Alex is currently practicing with the Lady Longhorn basketball team and quickly leaves practice, changes into her costume, and jumps on stage.

Yes, after weeks of practice, the play weekend finally arrived. Alex reprised the role of Little Red’s Mother in “Not so Grim Fairy Tales”. I must admit, I had been a bit confused about Alex’s responsibilities with the play. Her explanation skills are lacking at times, although we did get to play practice every Monday and Thursday without any problem. I trusted the process and a successful play and happy actress emerged.

Alex was in the first scene of the play and had three lines. She handed Little Red the basket, explained what was in it, told her to take it to her grandmother and reminded her to be safe. I can not recreate the entire dialogue, as I did not understand every word. This was not only the case with Alex’s lines – but the entire cast. I do not think my hearing is going bad yet – I am going to blame the acoustics in the room, as well as Alex's articulation.

The first night we went to the play John and I sat at a table (it was a dinner theater) with the Principal and Assistant Principal. We did not do this on purpose; they were not sitting at the table when we joined. I did find this slightly coincidental, or as I do not really believe in coincidence anymore, fateful.

Fateful because the day before, I had met with the Principal and Assistant Principal, about Alex, and here we were together again. I have reached my breaking point – I do not believe Alex is receiving all the services and attention she needs from the school district. My particular and ongoing concern has been speech services.

In past entries, I have explained about our relocation and the incredible school district we left behind in IL. I shared that we live in a rural school district with limited resources. I believe most of our educators really do care about Alex and the Special Ed kids in the school. I also believe, they are so encumbered by their lack of funding and inability to attract specialized talent, they give up.

I have tried to work within this system for the last three years. Alex’s current teacher is very good, and genuinely cares about her and her success. Last year, I found him to be a very vocal advocate on her behalf. From my perspective, this is not happening this year. I know I am partially at fault – I have trusted the process and in this case I was wrong. No longer is my new mantra!

I insisted to Alex’s teacher that we meet with the principal and/or assistant principal. To their credit, they both attended our meeting. I explained, very nicely I believe, my concerns. I also shared how appreciative I was of the inclusion and acceptance that occurs in all non-academic aspects of Alex's school life, particularly sports and drama.

I suggested that we create a “team” to work with Alex. To me this includes the Principal, Alex's teacher, the speech therapist, the school counselor, an aide, a regular ed teacher and someone from the sports department. These are the people that interact with Alex, and I believe consistency across their interactions is important to her success. This has been my request since we first move to our beautiful valley. I will not give-up.

As a starting base, I asked for a complete re-evaluation of Alex – an early “tri-annual” as required by law. When the results come in (by the beginning of December), we will work with the “team” to create a new IEP. This will be implemented and constantly monitored by bi-weekly team meetings – just like it is supposed to work. I will explain more about our past successful team experience in "Educating Alex – Team Building”, later this week.

Back to the play; the Principal said to me, after the play, he thought Alex was great. I could not hold my tongue -"She could have been more articulate”, just seemed to shoot out of my mouth. "Point well taken” was his very appropriate response.

I hope, and I want to believe we are back on track. I am proud of Alex and what we have accomplished so far. But I know that is not enough - Alex has such a bright future ahead of her and my job as the parent of this extraordinary girl is to make sure it is realized. No more slacking...on anyone's part. Next year I plan to understand every line she has in the high school play.

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