My son became a special needs child last year. He was in a serious car accident that involved my mother and my daughter as well. My mother died from her injuries, and my daughter suffered a brain injury. She recovered fast and well, but my son did not.
After my sons discharge from the hospital, I was told to take him to our school district and have him evaluated for an IEP, or an Individualized Education Program. This testing would help the school to understand where my son was at academically, physically as well as socially. It was my understanding that he would be attending this school once the IEP was completed.
I went down to the school to meet with the Child Study Team. This team is usually made up of a social worker, psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist (if available), as well as a physical therapist (if available). They interview the parents to see where the parents think the child is at, and then write a brief summary of everything said, before even meeting the child.
I told the Child Study Team that my son was cognitively sound, although he did have some permanent brain damage. He cannot speak or walk, and chews his food slowly, but for a four-year-old, chewing slow is not that big of a deal. No one on the team seemed concerned about this. I was told that this school had lots of kids with CP and Downs Syndrome, and that they did fine in their physical disabilities program that they offered. I was very excited about this. FINALLY, a place for my son.
A week after the meeting with the team, a form was sent home for me to sign, releasing my sons medical records for the team to look at. I did not think anything of it.
A few days later, I get a call from the head of the child study team. She told me that my son might be “too severe” for them to take. That he would need too much therapy during the day and his class time would be extremely minimal, and that I might want to look into other options. They offered me two other schools I could send him to.
I was livid. Before they had even met my son and evaluated him, they had judged him by what they saw on the medical records. Never mind the fact that my son had been improving so fast that the reports could not even keep up with him!
I looked into the two other schools. I found that one of my best friends actually worked at one. She flat out refused to let me send my son to her school, stating that he would never fit in there. She comes home with bite marks and black eyes from her kids that she teaches-she informed me that they would not take my son either, because he was not severe enough. The other school said the same.
So, here I was back at square one. I took my son in for his IEP at the first school. Upon evaluating him, they found that I was not such a liar after all. That my son IS smart, and CAN function. He just cannot speak or walk. I told them that he received therapy outside of the home, and that that therapy would continue when he started school, just that the times would change so he would have a regular school day. Apparently, this did not matter.
I got his official report a few weeks later, all stating how smart my son is. It is now week two after receiving this form, and I still have nowhere to send him. I called the Child Study Team again, and am awaiting a call back. What do I think the problem is here? I think they are afraid of taking on a child with a “different” disability. My son has aphasia, which means that he can hear, and understand, but cannot speak. He is basically what we would call a “mute”. But there is nothing wrong with his mind.
What I think is wrong here is that there are no resources in my state (New Jersey) that offer any programs for aphasic children-only aphasic adults. This makes it very hard to train anyone in the school districts when it comes time for them to take on an aphasic child. They assume the child is dumb and deaf, when they are most certainly not.
What is a parent like me, in a unique situation like this supposed to do? He is not autistic, so I cant send him to an autistic school. He is not deaf, so I cannot send him to a deaf school. But, he is not “normal” so I cannot send him to a “normal” school either. What choice do I have then? None.
I am continuing to fight this, but would like to get the message out there that there are special needs kids that are of DIFFERENT SPECIAL NEEDS. We need to start making the public aware that there are problems within the schools when it comes to these kids and their education.