Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Left My Dignity at the Door

There I was, in the principal’s office, with tears running down my face. Yep, I was losing my composure right there in his office. As I tried to explain why I was so upset, I could see THAT look in his eyes. You know the one, where people think you’ve completely lost it and they use that exaggerated calm voice to regain control of the situation. It’s probably in the manual for all principals under the title, “How To Calm an Out-of-Control Mother.” And even as I was considering how ridiculously this situation was, I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. I officially left my dignity at the door.

Now lets rewind a bit so I can share what happened to leave me in such an embarrassing mess.

As most of you know, I’ve been working with our school to determine if we should pursue an IEP for my son before he enters into middle school so that we can get the Study Skills class for him to do his homework at school. This seemed like a reasonable solution to a major trigger for my son. My concern is that if homework battles continue to escalate, his rages may jeopardize his future.

On Thursday, the principal informed me that due to his current state test scores being average, he wouldn’t qualify for the IEP. And even if they did test him, they wouldn’t run all the tests, instead they would only evaluate his academic skills and ignore all other testing, including those that test for executive and motor functions (areas that can be a deficit for bipolar children).

He encouraged me to contact the middle school to discuss options under the 504 plan. He explained that after discussing my son’s case with the school psychologist, they determined that it was a possibility that he could receive the Study Skills class under the 504 plan.

So the following day, I did just that. My call was placed with the head of the 504/IEP plans at the middle school. She shared with me that we absolutely could not get into the Study Skills class without an IEP. Then she told me, “And you can go back to your principal to tell him he is wrong!” When I asked why the elementary principal and school psychologist told me it was a possibility, she responded that it was because of all the politics and the cutbacks. She then went on to share how she lost her job for next year due to these cutbacks. I respond, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Then we went on to discuss other options for his homework, such as reduced problems and longer deadlines, but she followed that with, “but none of these options work, the kids still fall behind in the end.” The other option presented was an exploration class that comes with additional math homework.

When I asked her if she could tell me more about the Study Skills class in case we were able to get an IEP, she became very inpatient with me. She then demanded to know what illness my son had and why he needed these accommodations. I explained that he had a working diagnosis of bipolar, but we started our 504 plan with the diagnosis of mood disorder, depression, anxiety and impulse control disorder a few years back.

Then her tone changed and she became very skeptical. She asked me what type of bipolar diagnosis he had, if it was 1 or 2. I explained that the last 2 psychiatrists and 2 therapists think it may be bipolar 1. I then explained that getting the Study Skills class can be a huge help to him because he’s able to hold it together at school, but once home, he can’t hold it in anymore and goes into rages over the stress of homework.

In a very condescending tone she said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing! If he was bipolar, he wouldn’t be able to hold it together.”

Her words felt like a slap in the face. Another person who knows nothing about my son or his symptoms, doubting what is painfully our reality. She might as well have called me a liar.

In response, I felt a desperate need to convince her. I started by citing all the resources that support that bipolar kids can hold it together in public and further explained that they weren’t free of symptoms, rather they were just using restraint to avoid a public rage. As she continued to question the validity of my son’s illness, I began explaining all of his symptoms and episodes. This I deeply regret because it was none of her business.

She then went on to trash our former HMO saying that they were horrible at making proper 
diagnoses. I tired to explain that our new HMO supports this same working diagnosis and that our current psychiatrist suggested that we get an IEP before middle school starts.

The conversation ended with her telling me that, “If his grades are good at the yearly review the middle school could decide to take away his current 504.”

What???

When I tried to ask her more questions about this, she said that she refused to answer any more questions. Her exact words were, “I have spent 30 minutes answering your questions, I am done talking with you!”

I then asked, “Who then do I ask these questions? You’re the head of the 504 plans!”

She respond, “Call the district and they can answer all of your questions.”

I responded with, “Ok, thank you, I appreciate your time.”

Don’t ask me why I said this, I was confused and completely devastated that I was put into a position to defend my son’s diagnosis, but also, because I was still trying to be polite.

So there I am in the principal’s office asking to speak to him about this call, when the first thing he tells me is, “ I just received a call from the middle school principal who was told by his staff that I had called to demand that my son be placed into the Study Skills class.” He then went on to lecture me on how I need to approach the middle school gently and not be pushy and demanding because this will lead to them not wanting to work with me.

I think my mouth dropped open in shock.

Then the tears started to fall as I explained that I didn’t make any demands but instead was devastated that I had to defend my son’s diagnosis.

For the record, I can guarantee you that the mother of the girl diagnosed with lupus in my son’s class would’ve never been put in the position to defend her child’s diagnosis to the school administration. Instead, the school created a fundraiser to help with the costs of treating her illness.

Mental illness is painful in many unexpected ways.

* * *

My experience ends with an email from the middle school principal asking that I not contact the district but would really appreciate the chance to talk with me after the break. As for me, I regret crying.

39 comments:

  1. Can your son go to another school? I am concerned that given their attitude, even if you did get the requisite modifications they would still treat you and your son poorly. I have heard of schools that fail to implement IEPs/504s, their disgusting attitude toward mental illness is a major red flag.

    I foresee a major battle on your hands with this school. You and your son do not need the extra drama and stress. You have a more important battle to fight.

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    1. No, this is his only option, plus this is where his friends are going and that is very important to him. I am hoping that once I meet the middle school principal that things will improve. Maybe once he meets me he’ll realize I am not what I was made out to be.

      As for the battle with the 504/IEP plans, I think that will be the case anywhere in the district since the schools want to avoid it if possible. I hate that I don't know all the laws, I feel like I’m in the dark and that gives them the upper hand. I hope to get in touch with others that know more than I.

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  2. I feel for you Mama Bear. it is ridiculous that you are being ping ponged all over the school system. The meeting with the principal may be your last option for clarity so I hope it goes well. As for the other people you have talked to ...they sound as if they are burnt out. To sad.

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    1. I think that is part of my frustration, I keep being sent from one department to the next like I’m some hot potato!

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  3. Hi Mama Bear,
    Did you post your question about testing on the Balanced Mind Foundation Education forum group? I am pretty sure all you have to do is submit in writing a request for IEP testing and the school MUST comply. And it must be dealt with in the school he is in now. Any parent has the right to request testing and the school must comply. It seems like that is where your energy is best spent at this point, finding out exactly what your rights around this issue. It usually takes at least three months from request to meeting, so it would make sense get the ball rolling now. There is chance he won't qualify based on the testing and then you will have to work within the confines of the 504. But it doesn't make sense to put a lot of energy into discussing services with the school people until this has been done. And you have already found out that they are not agreeing amongst themselves what the law is around this.

    Hang in there Mama Bear!
    Betsy

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    1. Yes Betsy, that post on CABF was from me looking for info, I so appreciate all the great feedback people can share! One of the reasons I am asking all the questions is that I don't want to contribute to my son’s stress right now by making him go through all these test if it is obvious to everyone that he won't qualify. I agree that it is silly to put too much energy into the wrong place right now, but I was just trying to figure out if I should submit the letter in the first place. The elementary school principal told me if I went for the IEP and he didn't qualify for the IEP, then there would be no way we could get the Study Skills class with the 504. But if we requested it under the 504 we had a shot at it. For all I know, this may be him pushing me away from the IEP.

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  4. Oh Mama Bear! Your story is SO similar to mine. It breaks my heart having to relive it through you. :( I hate that we and our kids have to be treated like their illness isn't real and doesn't impact every part of their lives. It is so maddening. Through in that bit about the girl with lupus, and it's enough to drive a momma mad!

    Faced with nearly the exact same predicament last year, I gave up. I started homeschooling because I didn't have it in me to fight the school too. However, C wants to go back to school in the fall for middle school and I'm a nervous wreck thinking about dealing with the school again.

    I empathize with your situation and hope there is a great resolution to it!

    Sarah:)

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    1. You know Sarah, I can really relate to you giving up on the process. I’m just too burned out for all of this drama with the school. Hearing about lawyers, advocates, & laws just makes me feeling too overwhelmed. I can’t afford to hire someone, so I have to figure this out on my own with the help of you all and my local support system. I don’t know that I have it in me for much of a fight.

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    2. You DO still have fight left in you! I know you can do it, no matter what path you take. Take it minute by minute. Just know that whatever it is you do, you're doing it for what's right now. It might not always be right, but do what's right for right now.

      Sarah:)

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    3. I love what you said about, ”doing what's right for right now.”

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  5. Send you an email outlining MANY of the laws with a link to the rest of them. My heart is with you right now (as is my anger. grrrrrrr)

    <3
    MB

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    1. I so appreciate the links you sent! Thanks a bunch!!!!

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  6. This is the resistance to the accommodations I've been talking about. It's going to be a futile discussion and waste of your good energy without an advocate or an attorney to accompany you to ALL meetings. The elementary Principal is erroneous in not accommodating your son, but also won't until he is observed in class by their assigned Admin person. Call the District offices and tell them you have a high need child with a relatively new mental illness diagnosis which exhibits behaviors that can be disruptive; and ask them for a placement group of testings. They ALWAYS do psychological testing, as a matter of fact your son should be able to see the elementary school psychologist to do this, and many Districts have one that at least rotates schools. I wouldn't worry about setting up Middle School yet, deal with them when you get there, because it will be most likely re-tested there. You will hear the 'budget cut' excuse every time, remember, they will never just give these accommodations away freely!
    They DO 'red flag' parents who are called 'pro-active' parents who advocate for their kids. It's imperative at minimum to remain even toned, and not demanding, know what your child's rights are and base discussion on facts.

    "He has a diagnosis that is covered by the ADA and I would like a meeting to set up testing for an IEP". Period.

    Read from 'Emotions to Advocacy' now. Find a friend or mental health advocate to attend all meetings and take notes. Make friends with parents of other kids in the Special Ed program in your school district. Find out that way who to deal with and who will give you trouble.

    This is only the beginning of many battles, so be prepared and leave your emotions at the door. Crying at the board meetings is not going to work. Been there many times. These ppl are not your friends, they are now business partners who will need to be reminded of laws that protect your child.

    Sounds harsh, but that's the way it is. Also, the school psychologist was out of line saying anything at all about your son's dx. This is why you need to always have someone else in the room and have in person meetings. Keeps ppl like that accountable and with back up note takers they will watch what they say.

    Get accomodations for what he needs NOW, instead of projecting what he might need in the future, and it's much more negotiable when you address current needs--which in middle school will not just be a 'study hall'.

    "The increased workload in middle school with added assignments and reading" is what your concerns are. He won't fall behind, because he will have accomodations (reduced assignments, smaller versions of what others are doing).

    One more thing, I say this all from experience. You are going to be scrutinized, it's what they do. It's a cruel reality. Have your spouse attend the next meeting w the elementary principal. They need to see there's more about this than a 'frequent flyer' mother. (which they will classify you as).

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    1. Thanks so much for your advice, it sounds like you’ve been in this a long time. I will admit that it all feels overwhelming, I definitely need to develop a thick skin. I just have so many other battles to fight that one more with the school system is just too much to think about. I’m glad we have a week off from school, hopefully I will be more ready to tackle this, at least I won't be emotional ; )

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  7. Read this:
    10 Tips for Special Education Advocates
    http://www.wrightslaw.com/howey/10tips.advocates.htm

    Read that site and get the book, don't set yourself up in front of them anymore. They know the laws and are taking advantage of you. You are the advocate, and your spouse. Unless you get an advocate, you need to apply everything that reads 'for advocates'. Your son will benefit from this !

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  8. At work, we frequently use www.wrightslaw.com for information and to guide families. Look it up and see how you do have some protections under the law. Also, they will NOT drop the 504. The diagnosis still stands and you can file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights if they do. That will be their worst nightmare, but unfortunately, one they may need to learn. I'm sorry this is happening to you. I share your frustration and also your exhaustion. I'm there with you - my boys are in high school and the battles just keep coming. I've recently taken a teacher down who questioned my son's diagnosis. I let her know that her job was to implement the 504 as written, and those whose job it is to see that the 504 was warranted had already done their part. I added that I no longer care what teachers "think" they know about my son, that he's MY son, I know, and their job is to teach accordingly. Oddly enough, we were later in an IEP meeting together and she was my biggest advocate. Go figure. I love you so much for your strength and tenacity. Take a few days to regroup, and you'll know what your next move should be. *hugs*

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    1. Thanks for clarifying that it’s against the law to remove the 504 plan, I thought that was the case, but since this is so new to me, it gets a little confusing. I will definitely look through that link!

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  9. Have you considered a charter school that specializes in mood disorders? Our son has a mood disorder diagnosis, as well as Asperger Syndrome, anxiety & depression issues, ADHD. We found Lionsgate Academy in Crystal, MN. They get it & support the disfunction that occurs at home by limiting the homework. Main stream schools are not for these kids. Please look outside the box for your child's sake. We waited until 9th grade & dealt with many years of unnecessary grief. He felt so rejected by the adults & kids he considered suicide. Now he loves his life, he graduates next year. He too is high functioning/average IQ. We are unsure what post secondary school will look like, but for now we have peace.

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    1. Right now my son wants to go to school where all his friends are. But believe me, we will look at other options if the school gets to be too much for him. But until then, if we take him out he'll see it as a punishment and resist school even more. I’m sorry to hear about your experience, I really worry about going through the same thing you did.

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  10. Mama Bear, I am so sorry to hear your story. Ugh, it's so frustrating to hear! Please do not put to much weight on what you are hearing from these people. I've been on both sides-- as a school psychologist and as a parent of a child with a problematic behavioral and emotional history (why I know about your blog!) As a parent I know how incredibly infuriating this situation is (my son also did not qualify for an IEP despite proven attention problems or other serious issues), especially when told by people who you question are qualified to make such decisions about your child, are too busy to put any time into it, and just don't seem to hear or validate what you are telling them.

    Now, as a school psychologist I can tell you, what you need to do first is speak with the school psychologist -- not the principal or anyone else in general ed. If that does not work, take it to the next level within special ed. Talk to a Special Ed Program Coordinator, or write directly to the district's Special Ed Director. (Here is a sad but true reality-- the parents who push the most, and those with the most access to resources, e.g. attorneys, advocates get the most out of the system). What happens is that everyone you talk to will tell you basically what is in their best interest -- and it usually conflicts and is all very political. One of the things I hated about working in this system! School staff also can get very overwhelmed with parents making requests especially when they are swamped with so much work and if they feel those requests are unwarranted. HOWEVER, if you go to a good school and are in a good school system, it shouldn't be that way. They should validate your concerns and seek to help you and your son.

    I don't know what your son's school history is (has he ever been in special ed before?) The reality is that unless your child is significantly behind academically (they may look at state test scores but that's not the whole picture--they should also look at grades and classroom performance), he would not tested to determine IEP eligibility. Can you make the case that he is struggling and behind in school? (Unfortunately the model here is not one of prevention, more remediation for established deficits).

    When a child is transitioning to middle school, it's probably advisable to have them tested before they transition to make sure that it get's done. (Once there it may be harder due to the increased school population and difficulty of navigating a new school, staff etc). Schools have to honor the request when you put it in writing (depending on how they do things in your school district, they may tell you that you need exhaust general education interventions before they will test your child). It varies from place to place, but in California when you make the request in writing for an evaluation, they have to respond within 15 days with either an assessment plan or a prior written notice that should explain why they are denying the request. If they test, that does not mean he will qualify of course. That's a whole other conversation :)

    Bottom line, don't let these people upset you! Deal with special ed staff directly (school psychologist, special education programs coordinator, special ed director). What a 504 gets you is minimal and usually only involves in class accommodations.

    I'm sorry for rambling on, it's just that this is an issue close to my heart and I hope for the best for you! Let me know if you have any questions. Maybe my experience as a school psych can help?

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    1. Thank you, it sounds like you have a lot of experience in this. So I was wondering, is the only way to get an IEP is if he is 2 years behind? What if the only way to resolve his violent behavior with homework at home is to do homework at school? To do that we need the IEP for the study skill class. Are there any other options? Does a label of ED change how a student can get an IEP? Can the 504 allow access to a special class if it is needed for the child to avoid escalating behavior?

      Also, my son is continuing to fall behind in Math, he has a D, but it may now be an F since he failed another exam last week. The teacher says that he is getting a bad grade because he isn't doing the problems and just guessing, my point is that he may be overwhelmed due to deficits in working memory that can make long problems too hard to tackle. At what point does his class performance determine a need for testing?

      Also, is a school allowed to skip all tests but the academic one for the IEP? Or are they suppose to do all the testing?

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  11. I am sorry to hear you are going through this... I have actually had a great experience with our school and the accomadations that have been made for him we had a emergency IEP Case study done at the begining of the year. But I am one of those parents that advocates for thier child. We did get switched to a charter type of program within the school district. They call it self contained program. Now only if we could get my son to go to the new school. He feels that this change in school is a punishment instead for his own good. So ended up having a major rage about a week ago and he is back at partial. He attacked me the person who cares for him and moves mountains to try and get him better. I could not believe it was happening so I ended up having to call the ambulance that day to get him to calm down and we were not admitted that day.

    I feel that in a way I have been to leaneant with him ... so I am now taking a parenting course with our psychaologist. And have truely seen some improvement. We added more meds which i and my husband are not to happy about. But we are hoping it improves his impulsiveness.

    sorry i rambled ... But I I do say take a advocate cause sometimes you feel so alone in that room with all these people looking at you and telling you what they think is best.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, I’m sorry about the recent rages. So who did you take for an advocate? Did you pay someone?

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    2. Our Psychologist is very versed in this area and for just our copay of $20.00 she will go when ever we need her to. She has been a blessing and truely helped me understand my son and how to talk to him and own being the mom. We started intuniv this week and I am seeing a little bit of improvement especially in his impulsiveness. I wants to go back to his old therapist from a year ago... but she doesnt take our HMO anymore. So I dont know what to do in that aspect cause i really think he needs to talk to someone.

      She would have the session alone with him and what ever was told between them stayed between them only if he gave her permission then she could talk to me about what ever the issue was. He really liked that part. The other therapist we tried Rafael really did not like nor did I. We really liked Vanessa's style. Where he had some control. And ultimately it was to get his feeling out.

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    3. I’ll have to look into that with our psychiatrist, he may call them for me. I hope you find someone new like your previous therapist, it is so hard finding the right person. I really hate the process!

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  12. Mama Bear, some will say a student needs to be 2 years behind, but there is NOTHING in the federal regulations that says this. In fact, the discrepancy needed to qualify for an IEP is not between your child and his peers, but is between your child's ability and his achievement. Under the "Severe Emotional Disturbance" category for qualification, your son easily meets the eligibility requirements - such as an inability to maintain satisfactory relationships with peers and teachers, or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. He very clearly qualifies, the question is whether an IEP can provide the necessary modifications to enhance his learning. It's more a matter of what they can do under that umbrella. I recently had this exploratory meeting regarding one of my sons who had such a severely depressive episode when he was ten, that is caused a traumatic brain injury (well documented). The "IEP Team" totally understood the dilemma, and believed he qualifies, but then we couldn't figure out what exactly would help him under special education services that would allow him to still be in a regular classroom. He's very bright, retains a lot of information, but can't regurgitate it on the spot. He struggles to compose things, turn in work, brain fatigue, etc. He's already on a reduced load per the 504. So, in my experience, what your struggle really is, is not about qualification (you very clearly qualify), but rather, what the services would do for him. I can't believe they question the qualification....perhaps the principal is just assuming he knows the law, but he really doesn't. They can't change the regulations to suit their wants.

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    1. Very interesting, because the principal states that the law says he has to be 2 years behind compared to national average, and since the national average is lower than test scores in our district, he’ll appear even more advanced when compared to the lower national average. Also, I was already told by the woman on the phone that it wasn’t about what my son's potential could be, but rather how he compared to others because all kids could do better with special services, so for him to get an IEP to get to his potential would be considered an unfair advantage and isn't allowed.

      This is what is so frustrating, I feel like I can't get correct information because they want to move our son along to middle school without having to deal with this complicated step. The only reason we wanted to pursue the IEP was so that he could do homework at school, in that case the IEP would be helpful for our situation.

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    2. Our IEP is based on Severe Emotional Disturbance ... that is a big help. from what I have read you seem to have his DX well recorded. Any help you can get from his old psychathrist would be helpfull in documenting thier findings.

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  13. I second the recommendations to check out the Wright's Law website and to purchase their book "From Emotions to Advocacy." It provides step-by-step instructions for how to advocate. Find out if there is class using the Wright's Law material or something similar being offering in your area. It can be invaluable to meet other parents familiar with your district and find out what has/has not worked for them and which school personnel they've found most helpful.

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    1. That's a good idea to seek out parents in the area. I’m thankful to have a friend who has given me a referral to check out.

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  14. Hello Mama Bear,
    I'm not an expert in American ED (French laws are absolutely different), so I will let the experts speak.

    But make them accountable for everything.
    I will be even further, be callous with them. Don't treat them as partners, but as people who has to make their job. Period.
    Don't care about their emotions : they don't care about yours, so do the same with them.
    It doesn't mean insulting, of course. But never treat them as "partners", "team workers".

    As you can't hire someone, learn about the laws. Go to the links the others gave you, and learn, learn, learn.
    Document everything, even the slightest phone call.

    If someone tries to question the diagnosis, you tell them that it's your son's psychiatrist's job and not theirs, and that their job is implementing the 504 plan. Period.
    If they ask you about the HMO or so, remind them that it's not their job. Their job is teaching properly to your son, the HMO doesn't have the slightest link with their job, so it has to be left on the door.
    Be clear and firm with boundaries. The clearest and firmest you are with boundaries, the more they will respect you.
    Don't fear of hurting them, instead be callous with them.

    Have a partner if you can. But I know by experience with administration that it's not always possible, at least at the beginning.
    I have been for nearly one year and a half to fight to make a law change (it's going ahead, despite the exhaustion I sometimes feel), so I know what it means being alone against everyone.
    You're not alone even in France, even with a social system like our : so no, our social system is far from being Care Bear's world, despite Social Security (I had to fight against them because they didn't register a paper, so they didn't give me the money I was entitled).
    Sure having someone with you can help, but it depends who is with you, and if the person is solid enough to support you. If the person is not solid enough to support you, better going alone, otherwise you won't obtain any better.

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  15. I continue because of the character's limit.

    Fighting to make a law change is very difficult, especially when you are alone.
    Getting what your son needs at school is as difficult as making a law change, so treat all this battle like if you were having to fight and make law change for your son.

    Choose your battles. Legal fights are exhausting, you are learning it, so if you try to do everything at the same time, you won't manage.
    First and foremost, your health. If you're sick, you can't fight for your son. Obvious, but we tend to forget it, so it won't hurt to be told. I have to be perfectly honest, it's very difficult even for me, even as being a person without children.
    Then, learn everything about the spec ED laws. Be your son's and your own attorney, as you can't hire an attorney.
    Document everything, even the slightest phone call : name of the person, department, date of the call, what she told you. When you say something, document it. Your son has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder ? Carry a letter from his specialist.
    You say that children with BP holds it at school but lashes at home ? Carry the studies, or articles from specialists.Paper, paper, paper. No spoken words. Drown them with paper, to the point they can't swim.
    Unfortunately, I am not surprised that the principal didn't believe you : you are a mother and you only speak, so, for him, you are a mother liar who wants to make your son a brat. Don't let her ruin your day and prepare your weapons. Your most powerful weapon will be knowledge : as Act Up says, "ignorance is your enemy, knowledge is your weapon".

    We can make things change. If I have been able to convince and make ahead the change I want to make in a French law (it's very difficult, very pushy), you CAN make your son have the accomodations he desperately needs.
    You can make it. But prepare your health, prepare your head, prepare your weapons to win this harsh battle.
    I want no pyrrhic victory. You don't deserve it, your son doesn't deserve it.
    So fight and win, but stay healthy.


    Take care

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    1. That's a good point about choosing your battles, that is a must since we already have so much on our plate.

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  16. As a mother of a bipolar son I understand the frustration you are going through. It is very difficult to deal with because not a lot is known about bipolar when it comes to children. The website http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-bc offers great information about bipolar children and treatment. Hope this is helpful for other struggling parents with bipolar children.

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    1. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out!

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  17. Mama Bear,
    I know you've already been given a lot of great information and links but I would strongly urge you to also check out this site:
    www.p2pusa.org

    On that site you can search for your state's parent to parent group. I am sure the services vary, but in my state the help I got was invaluable. I was able to speak to someone immediately who told me exactly who to call in the special Ed office to get the answers I needed.

    My undstanding is that these groups in most cases function as an advocacy organization that I believe is actually required by the IDEA law. It's a bit like public defenders being required by law for people who can't hire attorneys- though in this case the protections aren't that strong, as you're certainly not provided with an attorney. But you do have the right to have access to the correct information in order to safeguard your child's rights to a FAPE, and these groups exist to assist you with that. I believe under the law, the name for these groups is PTI (parent training and information). It is possible that instead of p2p, your state may have a different organization functioning as the PTI but in my state and many others, P2P is the group that fulfills this role. The point is that your state has to have some organization filling this role, and you need to find them and contact them.

    Also- I am in the process of hiring an advocate and I would highly recommend calling some of them. I have called three different advocates and each of them spent about 30 minutes on the phone with me as an initial free consult. The information I gained just from that has been invaluable. You might end up, as I did, feeling that the fees are worth it even if extra expenses aren't easy to handle, or you might decide not to hire them but the initial calls are worthwhile to clarify a plan in your mind and validate your concerns. In none of the cases did I feel that I was being pressured, nor did any of them seem to feel that they were only giving me the time in order to get me to become a paying client. These are people who are passionate about what they do and want to help.

    And finally- just to let you know, I am a crier and I left my dignity at the door a long time ago. I cry at every single meeting. I still feel I have been an effective advocate for my son, and although it's humiliating and not the demeanor I wish to project, I just can't change it. I focus on what I need to say at the meetings and just say it through the tears. That said though, communicate as much as possible through writing. You need to do this anyway in order to create a paper trail. For example, right away I would put in writing your understanding of what the principal has told you. There is no question that he is not giving you accurate information. Put it in a letter or email and copy the school district on it. The reason he asked you not to contact them is because he knows he is in the wrong! I realize it is confrontational to involve them now but you really have no choice IMO. Do it in a very neutral, non-accusatory tone. Just list what he has said to you in response to your questions and ask him to confirm if you have understood him correctly.


    JMHO but if you are determined to keep your son in this school system (and I think your reasons for doing so are very valid), you need to immediately go from emotions to advocacy. You can't stop the emotions but start the advocacy anyway. I think for most people, the empowerment you feel will start to make it easier to remain composed (though I haven't been able to get to that point as talking about my sin's illness triggers strong emotions for me.)

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  18. I didn't read through all the above comments, so I don't know if anyone else suggested it, but you might look to Parents Helping Parents (PHP) for support. http://php.com/ I've heard of other people who got IEPs for academically gifted students who also have a disorder of some sort. I know that PHP has IEP classes (not sure when and I think most of them are in San Jose.) But they also might be able to steer you towards some help in your area? I haven't personally pursued the IEP (yet) because while homeschooling I'm not sure the advantages out weigh the hoops I would have to jump through to get one because my son is functioning above level academically. Our stresses while in school were all behavior based, (and the fact that he was falling behind his own capabilities.) But it is possible to get an IEP for someone who isn't behind academically--but you have know the right "buttons to push." Because legally your son is entitled to a "free and appropriate" education. (regardless of the 504/IEP "specialist's" opinion of bipolar.)

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  19. I need help. My 8 year old has an IEP because of emotional. she throws her rages at school. they lock her in a room by herself. she has come home with brusies on her arm. now they want us to travel 20 miles to a new school 4 times a day to take her to another school which has a special teacher.

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