Tag Archive | class sizes

Special Need Kids Or Kids With Special Needs?

alluI picked up the local newspaper this morning to find Special Education as the front page story (Toronto Star also wrote a thing or two here).   I’ll admit it — a smile crept across my youthful face and dark laughter roared loudly in my mind as I rode the subway to the downtown core. The school boards have finally been exposed! Truth be told!  Then the reality set in and the day went on…

“Special Needs Kids Often Told to Stay Home from School”, the title of the Toronto Star article read and I really had to scratch my head. It’s 2014 people – we have technology and knowledge at our fingertips, thousands and thousands of teachers out of work. Children with special needs are no longer locked up in homes across North America so why are children like A are just “Special Needs Kids” not “Kids with Special Needs? Are we really progressing as a society?

Will the average person remember this issue, do something about it today or bury it tomorrow and forget? What about the politicians? I read the same stories time and time again and the school boards crying, “No money.” The recent articles on this topic re-opened wounds I previously licked clean. The dejection of being wound tight in the red tape of our current educational system reared it’s ugly head again. Fighting to the death to ensure A had a Special Needs Assistant in his classroom.. only for him to be placed in a new school, “behavioural program” far from home. Ah well, remember — I pick my battles.

The article (and subsequent stories) leave us to pass the blame instead of working together to find a permanent solution. Children with special needs are casualties, one falling through the cracks every day. Parents on the front lines are left to fend for their families while others don’t even make it. Will anyone ever truly understand the challenges I face more than the average parent? Heck, most of the people I run into week after week don’t even know I have kids. I just don’t talk about how my day really was any more.  I’m so proud of my bright eyed boy – my driving force – but because no one I know can ever possibly relate, I keep quiet. “Good” is always the universal and simplest of answers. The constant whirlwind of doubt, perceived failure, anxiety, empowerment, success, sadness, anger, confusion, despair and more all directly related to the fight no one should ever have to fight.

I just want to know what the future holds for my family. Will my son be allowed to return to his neighbourhood school and learn in a regular classroom with support? Will he be able to hold down a job with the (lack) of support he receives today? Will he ever be treated as an equal? Am I doing enough? Will parents facing the same struggles be able to rise above? Most importantly – will change happen?




Yet another idea not received well..

A’s first day of school and subsequent days were fantastic. A stayed all morning on the first day with no behavioural mentions. And to believe that his principal wanted him to go home at 9am!! He proved them wrong again by doing well the following two days. I will be asking the teacher to write a log so that I can keep abreast of his morning in class. A was able to tell me what he did at school, what he had to eat each day and that he made new friends. He also divulged to me that he is bored in his classroom. What he is saying is not too surprising. His accomplishments are astounding.

He can count to 100, sing the entire alphabet, socialize well with peers his age and older and read many books by himself (the ones with lots of words). He is currently learning more about time, money, adding and subtracting. Daddy is a certified school teacher and thinks that A meets all the requirements for Grade 1. If he went to grade 1, he would be learning beyond socializing and block time. On the first day of school, I discussed this with J.L. but she wasn’t having it. She hasn’t got to know A yet and maybe a teacher to principal chat will get things moving. I feel the dreadful feeling again that any meeting with J.L will be a pain yet the nagging message in the back of my mind to try and get along as much as possible.

Today, I was told A had an excellent day but had difficulty cleaning up. Ms B’s response specifically was, “A had an excellent day but he struggled with clean up after circle time. I just let him stay there instead because I have 20 other kids to look after”. Her tone of voice and defensive response really cast a sour mood during the short conversation. She had two children left whose parents’ had not arrived yet she behaved as if she had a whole class left to dismiss. My response was to share A’s thoughts and to explore the idea of full day Grade 1 with an SNA/EA support. A meets many expectations of Ontario’s Kindergarten Curriculum such as;

  • identify and use social skills in play and other contexts
  • demonstrate an ability to use problem-solving skills in a variety of social contexts
  • demonstrate a beginning understanding of the diversity in individuals, families, schools, and the wider community (empathy)
  • demonstrate a sense of identity and a positive self-image
  • demonstrate independence, self-regulation, and a willingness to take responsibility in learning and other activities
  • demonstrate an awareness of their surroundings (A can tell you almost every store, most subway stations and street names with ease!)
  • demonstrate understanding and critical awareness of a variety of written materials that are read by and with the EL–K team (I like the Clifford book because I really like dogs)
  • communicate in writing, using strategies that are appropriate for beginners (he likes to write e-mails to Grandma – I’m sure that’s beyond appropriate)
  • demonstrate a beginning understanding and critical awareness of media texts

Ms B immediately dismissed this – again I heard its not age appropriate AND, read this, “I have many JK students who can read by themselves”. I’m beyond awe – what did the last school say about us?? Who is this woman?  I ask myself why is no one considering that A possibly has enough potential to try Grade 1. He would require an SNA most likely for transitional periods and the SNA is already available for children in Grade 1 and up according to J.L. So what is the harm? A has plenty of time spent socializing with older children and also again surpassing curriculum expectations for SK and JK alike. How is A hanging out with 3 year olds  for half the day any more beneficial than placing him with children who can model proper social norms (e.g. sitting at a desk) or talk about interests A’s actually interested in? It continues to amaze me how A’s teacher knows so much about the rest the class but hasn’t really commented on anything positive about his day other than he was “excellent”. Any word can become far from music to the ears after a while.

Furthermore, A shared that in today’s class that Ms B yelled too loud at William****** (changed to protect identity) and covered his ears while explaining. He went on to say that he wants to be in Mrs F’s class because she doesn’t yell at her class and he was told “writing is not allowed” and that he must draw dots instead. I believe that while children tell the occasional white lie, A is very much able to articulate his feelings. I asked him about his last teacher, Ms A, and her classroom etiquette. “I like Ms A, she doesn’t yell.. why can’t we go to Q.V? Ms B makes me feel nervous.” The more days A goes to school, the more he shares his feelings of sadness, nervousness and fear. Is all the progress A has made and the hard work we do at home all in vain??

Our first step is to draft a letter formally requesting another IPRC meeting for the ‘review’ component of said acronym. It should not be an issue since I have offered A’s principal copies of IPRC, SST and Safety Plan notes (and she refused). We have contacted our lawyer in the interim and will be also drafting our own letter in a few weeks. P and I felt it was best to naturally give the school a few weeks before sending our first legal letter. In the meantime, hubby and I have some work to do of our own.

While many children frolicked off to school for their first day…

ImageMy son sat on the couch at home with puppy dog eyes and his brand new Super Mario backpack. The questions for us were endless this morning; “Why am I not going to school today?” “When am I going to school, Mommy?”. While I could think of a million distasteful responses directed towards the Toronto District School Board, I simply explained that his new school are still figuring out what classroom he will be in. When A asked me the same questions again in a few short minutes, it became harder to lie. I hate lying to kids.

From my last post, A finally received a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) in the afternoon for the remainder of the school year. To accommodate our growing family, we have since moved into a larger house in a different ward, so alas, are at step 1 again. Atleast it feels like it. In May, I went to meet with A’s new principal who did not seemed to thrilled to meet me. I’m sure D.F. (A’s old principal) may have passed on the word that I am very persistent and in not so nice words. During that visit in May, S did not hesitate to make me feel unwelcome. She began by refusing all forms of proof of address because they were not from an utility company or had my spouse’s name on it. Afterwards, immunization was an issue. A is fully immunized, however, being that we moved and already provided this information twice last year – you’d think we’d get cut a break. Nope. Then when I mentioned that we would like A to start SK in September, she put on a big, fake smile and told us to come back then. Today, I dreaded the idea of having to go back and deal with S. To my surprise, I was introduced to a new principal, J.L.

Our conversation seemed positive at first as she asked questions that gave the illusion that she was truly interested in A, his learning and even boasted that she had her Spec. Ed qualifications. Gradually, the illusion was just that – an illusion. One teacher was permitted to persistently interrupt what I consider to be important learning time between parents and school administration. Not only did I feel like my time wasn’t valued, I was hit with the nauseating line, “We have 500 students whom all need access to our SNA”. Then came the double whammy – “A may not be able to start until next week”. J.L mentioned that A’s OSR was still at his previous school despite my efforts to get the ball rolling back in May. She also expressed concern regarding when and at what length A should start school although A has already been through full-day Kindergarten – many months without support at school. Among all that was mentioned, I was expected to pick up A from school if the school could not “handle” him. While the short conversation was blood boiling to say the least, I learned a lot. A’s new class, whatever one that will be, won’t have more than 20 students and will be a half-day SK class. J.L. stated she would contact me at the end of the day to let me know where they plan on placing A.

I went about my errands for the day was eager to return home to locate new contact information for the new Superintendent and Trustee for our ward. Just before I headed home, I received a phone call from J.L stating that A can start school tomorrow for an hour, progressing eventually to the full half-day. Once I got home, I shared the great news with A and our family. By then, it seemed like the thrill was gone for him as he probably could sense that it was going to be the second day of school not the first. We looked up J.L. on the Ontario College of Teachers, only to discover that the illusive feeling I picked up was right. J.L has no qualifications for Spec. Ed, in fact, has very little teaching experience in the classroom period.

Despite all that has happened today, the one thing that stands out is the look on A’s face when he couldn’t be at school like all the other little boys and girls in our community. No child should be excluded or sent home from their very first day at school due to lazy, incompetent school administration and staff.

Stay tuned for my next post on A’s ‘first’ day of Senior Kindergarten and  strategies to get a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) in the classroom for your child

Please Excuse Us While We Think Of Some More Excuses..

The Principal might as well have said that today when I went to ask some hard questions. As you may or may not recall, A came home from school yesterday with cup hook screws. It was difficult to sleep last night let alone maintain my cool this Morning when I spoke with school administration about my concerns. While I will never send A to school in bubble-wrap, it all boiled down to lack of supervision in the classroom of which I maintained I felt was unacceptable. I toured the classroom again looking for the fire alarm A spoke of and found that it was within a child’s reach. Said fire alarm was also on a wall beside the door.

The principal, D.F., was quick to sympathize but the notorious “there are over 30 students in A’s classroom” line reared its ugly head. It was irritating to hear but better than the “we have 1.5 Special Needs Assistants for 800 students” line we usually hear from E.S., Vice Principal. I maintained that while I sympathize that teachers have to pay attention to every student, it is imperative  that children with Special Needs get adequate amount of supervision and an inclusive education – there was no excuse for A to come home with scratches from other students with no written explanation or even worse, coming home with dangerous objects he found in the classroom.

“We will look into it when N.A., teacher, returns on Monday and I will contact you sometime next week.”  It was the response I expected. I hate to sound pessimistic but I have a feeling the school will blame A rather than placing the blame where it truly belongs:

  1. At Board level (TDSB) for knowingly delaying families from receiving the supports that they deserve and are mandated by Provincial and Federal law – support that can enable the teacher with more skills to truly reach A and take pressure off
  2. At the Provincial level for failing to invest more in hiring qualified teachers to reduce class sizes and truly ensure that every child is reached

Children are our future; education and keeping them safe at our schools should be our priority.

Has Your Child Returned From School With………

Cup Hook Screws in their hand? Mine did this afternoon. We recently hired a walking buddy for A so that I can rest for the two weeks remaining in my pregnancy. His walking buddy dropped A off as usual and handed me two screws. By that time, A’s behavioural therapist had arrived for a scheduled block therapy appointment. I thanked his walking friend profusely and we said our goodbyes.

A told BT and I that he found them on the fire alarm and that N. A. (teacher) asked him not to touch the fire alarm but didn’t take it away. I asked him if he pulled them from the wall and he said no. Observing the thread area of the screw, I could not see any evidence that he did either. I rephrased all my questions and asked new ones to see if his answers would change. They had not.

This is not the first instance where A has not been supervised. On Feb 1st, 2012, N.A. asked me where he got the scratch under his eye. I responded and stated firmly that A did not leave the house with any scratches and did not enter the classroom with them either. A told me that a specific classmate scratched him and stated that they were both being mean to each other.

Other instances occurred in January as I personally observed A outside his classroom door. I made a few unannounced visits and peeked through the window to see A playing with a green train or other objects near the bookshelves while the other children sat in the circle. I noted that the teacher had not been using ideas given to her by us such as giving A a special place with his name on it, a cushion or having the EA redirect and sit on the carpet with him. In fact, the EA was not in sight for most of my viewings. A’s gym teacher Mr. O also admitted in the Behavioural Logs that he gave A a train to play with on several occasions so that he can teach Phys Ed to the rest of the children.

Class sizes in our province need to be reduced so that teachers have more time to focus on our children and reach every child. Parents should not have to fight to get Special Education supports that will assist their children in receiving an equal education. Nor should they have their children bringing home screws that could have harmed them or other children.