More Special Ed Coverage

KUOW also has a report on Special Education in SPS.  It is heartbreaking and, to me, confusing.

Confusing because in the first story, about a little boy named Ryder, it labels him as being on the "autism spectrum."  It states he received services in  preschool and yet, he can't get them in SPS?  If he has a diagnosis, then he should be receiving services.

Then there is another child in the story, Tenzin, who also has autism and yet he can't get something simple like instructions in a written form.  (I was able to get that for my son in high school and that was multiple teachers and no one called it a problem.) 

His mom says,
"...the quality of special education in Seattle schools depends too much on how well a school’s principal understands the federal law that guarantees services to kids with disabilities."  It shouldn't be that way.   

This almost seems to echo DeBell's comment about how expensive it is to serve Special Ed students.  We all know that but the alternative is to ignore or frustrate them and their families?  I'd really like to know what President DeBell thinks should be happening.  Does he think families are looking for these diagnoses for their children?  Does he think it is easy to have a child with special needs? 

Banda says:
"I need someone who’s actually been in the trenches, who’s been in the battles. Somebody’s who’s seasoned. Somebody that has been in that level of leadership in administration that is not only familiar with special ed needs but special ed law, building team, potentially with the idea of restructuring that whole department," Banda says.

I'd like to do more than cross my fingers that SPS finds that person. 


Unknown said…
Melissa, as far as Ryder goes, diagnosis does not get you services. The defined disability has to "adversely affect educational performance." And it sounds to me like someone soemwhere decided it didn't. She needs to request a re-evaluation. If the evaluation she gets doesn't say that his disability adversely affects his performance, then she has the right to appeal.

I am not surprised at all about Tenzin's experience. My son's teacher hadn't even read his IEP 6 weeks into the school year and didn't know he had a diagnosis of PTSD before he decided to lay on him. He didn't know my son didn't have an adverse intervention plan. He was simply treating my son the same way he treated every kid in the classroom, which is exactly what Tenzin was getting.

The one concern in Banda's statement is about someone who's been in the "battles." We've had enough of the battles.
Anonymous said…
"Confusing because in the first story, about a little boy named Ryder, it labels him as being on the "autism spectrum." It states he received services in preschool and yet, he can't get them in SPS? If he has a diagnosis, then he should be receiving services."

A medical diagnosis is not the same as meeting special education eligibility criteria. That is a big area of confusion. 504 eligibility equals 1) have a medical or mental health condition (disability) that 2) substantially limits (has a real impact) the ability to engage in a major life activity (for most kids, learning, thinking, attention etc). Special education requires 1) meeting categorical eligibility requirements (there are at 8 I think, each of which has specific definitions and requirements under the WACs), that the disability that meets the categorical requirement impacts ability to access education and 3) that the student needs specially designed instruction as a result. The medical diagnosis of Aspergers and Autism are not the same as the educational definition (and are currently in debate as the DSM-V is proposing changes). A medical diagnosis of Aspergers may meet Health Impairment category requirements if the student doesn't meet the Autism category requirements, but it isn't automatic. No judging if this student was or should have been eligible of special education, just saying it isn't as simple as diagnosis equals eligible.

mirmac1 said…
Ryder's mom is like many SpEd parents in SPS, who are working fulltime and believe what some staff say is best for their special-needs child. I suppose if I had a child who appears to function well, academically, but struggles with friendships, I might think "maybe it'll get better next year as s/he and peers mature." Frankly, that describes where I was at in 2007.

Ryder, like many other 3rd graders, are the unwitting guinea pigs of MGJ's 2009 gutting of a continuum of placements for children in the wide swath of gray area between regular ed and special ed, one of her most damning legacies...
Anonymous said…
Mary, you are jumping to conclusions about Tenzin's situation.

My child shared that kindergarten class with Tenzin, and I volunteered in the room. Tenzin was definitely not treated "the same way" as "every kid in the classroom." Many modifications were put into place, and I have to say that when I saw him in the classroom he was happy, engaged, and successful. That's not to say his mother doesn't have legitimate complaints about the services her son received or didn't receive, but he was not treated like everyone else except in the most appropriate and ethical ways. The work that came home from that classroom ALL had written instructions. It was kindergarten! Show and Share was explained in writing, homework packets were explained in writing and the teacher is one of the only teachers who puts together a gorgeous newsletter every Friday to fill us in on what happened that week, what was coming up, and that had little (well explained) activities. I do not know what Shaun is talking about when she says she couldn't get written instructions.

Seattle's special ed debacle is just one of the many ways this district is floundering, but let's keep some perspective. It is possible for some parents to have unreasonable expectations. It is possible for a child's IEP to be honored and for a parent to still be unsatisfied.

Tenzin's teacher is one of the best I've ever seen. If she wasn't able to meet Tenzin's every need, it's because doing so presented an impossible task in the situation. Not because she didn't try or care.

The bigger issue is that a general ed teacher cannot care for 28 sudents in a k-1 classroom and also be perfect when it comes to making the parents of every child happy. The reality is that Tenzin has a disability and is legally entitled to extra services, but the other 27 children in that classroom all had special needs of one kind or another. In a class of 28 six-year olds, every child loses out.

We are asking too much of our teachers. If we are going to expect inclusion to work well, we need to invest a lot of money into training and we need to lower class sizes.

Bagley Parent
Unknown said…
@Bagley Parent,

It sounds like you know more about this situation than I do, and it does sound like I was jumping to conclusions about what was going on in the classroom.

I can tell you though; that what I said happened with my son happened to my son. I have emails between the teacher and his supervisor where he says he laid on my son for up to 30 minutes at a time. And the only way I found out that he was laying on him for that long was when I requested records and was told they didn't keep any, so we had to rely on emails.

Restraints were a routine intervention in my son's classroom, not a last resort. No one had even bothered to read my son's IEP until I said this abuse had to stop. This staff was ignorant, desperate and isolated in a building of gen-ed programs supervised by a principal who had no special ed experience.

And to those who say this was an isolated incident that won't happen again, I can tell you that it is not. Nothing has changed. There are no policies that would prevent this from happening. There still is no mandatory training for special-ed teachers which would train them in the use of de-escalation. There still is no records management of use of restraint. There is no requirement that teachers notify parents if their child was restrained or put into seclusion. There are no statistics kept. It would be hard for anyone to prove just how bad the situation because they do not keep any statistics.

I have recently talked to other parents who asked their boys if any adult ever held them to the ground with any part of their body, and guess what, my son's teacher laid on other kids, too. And so they didn't find out that their child had been abused for years until a month ago. Can you imagine?

How would a parent know what was going in a classroom if their child had an expressive language problem? Wire them? I have raised three other children who are now all adults. I never had to ask any of them, hey honey, did the teacher lay on you today?

Yes, it’s illegal. Yes, it’s not “best practices.” SPS has known about this for three years. They have taken no action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in another classroom with another teacher and other children. They need to do that.
Anonymous said…
Mary, I hear you. Your complaints are valid, as is your experience. I'm not even trying to say that Shaun's an unreasonable parent. I just wanted to make sure that in our dissatisfaction with the district's special ed situation we didn't start tearing down a teacher who is a great teacher, or start laying experiences on Tenzin's situation that simply didn't happen.
Bagley Parent
Anonymous said…
Sad but true: principals can be an obstacle. That is why consulting teachers and special education supervisors are an important part of an IEP team. Principals have caused more problems than I have time to enumerate.

SPED staffer
Anonymous said…
SPED staffer, consulting teachers and special education supervisors are not always reliable and this has hurt the image of the SPED Department big time.

The real target ought to be the people who supervise principals and the establishment of performance evaluation criteria for how principals support sped in their buildings, generate buy in from teachers so as not to isolate sped and nurture relationships with families and teachers around these students. Mr. Banda can't foist this off on a new sped executive director should one ever materialize. This is his responsibility.

TS said…
In the districts I have worked in, the principals had nothing to do with what did and didn't get approved on an IEP, as they had no control over the special education budget at the school site level.

I taught RR and self-contained in Federal Way (I felt it was very well run) and fair. If I was proposing any dramatic or costly changes to an IEP (greatly increased service minutes for example, or a change in placement), a representative from the special education dept had to be there. Are you guys telling me that an IEP team in Seattle can just decide to give a kid something as costly as a full time aide without any checks and balances? That the principal has some sort of say in funding that? If I wanted to propose something like that, I would need loads of data and documentation to back it up, and a specialist (or two) would come in for lengthy observations.

I was annoyed by this process at times (it slowed things down), but on the other hand, so often the behavior specialist would come in and spend a few hours watching one of my students (and meeting with their parents) and she would offer up an alternative plan that actually worked. Does Seattle have Behavior Specialists who do such a thing?

To clarify some of the earlier confusion:
To qualify for special education, you need to answer yes to two questions:
1.Is there an identified disability?
2. Is the disability preventing Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

It's possible a child with autism (or any other disability) is making (AYP) in the gen. ed. classroom and they would not qualify for additional services. Where it gets tricky, is that often children could make even greater adequate yearly progress if they had more services, but in accordance with IDEA, schools are only required to provide a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). School districts are not required to offer the "best" education for each child, they are only required to provide an "appropriate" one. When parents sue for additional services case law tends to favor school districts when a child is making "adequate" progress. There is a great deal of debate about the definition of "adequate".
TS said…
To clarify, a child with a disability may also not receive any special education services if they are making AYP.

When I was getting my principal credential (in another state) I was required to take a class on education law, 90% of that class was spent deciphering sped law. I wonder what WA state admin programs entail?
Anonymous said…
Certainly, it is possible to be diagnosed with autism, and not qualify for an IEP. But the reality is, it never happens. If you've got a documented case of autism, the district will give you an IEP. They will cave. They wouldn't last 10 minutes in court if they didn't. The requirements for getting a diagnosis imply an educational need. Never seen the district not give services for autism. What probably happened here is that Ryder didn't get the same services in elementary school that he got in preschool. That is because ICS = no service. So no, nobody gets the same service in elementary because they get practically nothing. But, the resource room teacher will show up every now and then and that will be your special ed.

Sped Longtimer
Anonymous said…
Actually, Spreadlong timer, having a student with Aspergers or PDD-NOS is not going to necessarily mean eligibility for special education. If the student is not having any issues related to making educational progress, they may be served by a 504 or not eligible at all.

By the way, the standard is "some educational progress "not adequately yearly progress. Adequately yearly progress is about compliance with NCLB. That is a school or district level issue, never measured as individual student.

Jet City mom said…
Going by what is available on the association of Washington school principals website , ie. continuing ED & the like, I would have to say that knowledge of IDEA & 504, as well as best practices for students eligible to receive special education services is not a concern.
Lots of info about STEM, however.
TS said…
Thanks for the clarification SWWS, you are absolutely correct.
Clueless said…
I am a teacher who had Special Ed. training at the U.W. for children with learning disabilities but not for children with emotional/behavior disabilities. This is the first year I have had to teach an autistic child and I am clueless. This child came to me having spent 5 years only reading books all day (nothing else). So, the child is 5 years behind their classmates in all areas but reading (which is quite high). For those parents who have autistic children, is this normal or an exception? If this is not normal, how do you motivate your autistic child to do school work?
Anonymous said…
Right SWWS - if the diagnosis is autism by a medical professional, and there's a category "autism" on the paper (eg. the IEP), yes you will qualify. Because the bar for a medical diagnosis is argueably higher than the "educational" IEP category. Right, if you've got PPD-NOS (are they really still giving this out?) or Aspergers, you might have some problems getting an IEP. But, those 2 are going away under the DSM-V to be replaced with the blanket "autism spectrum disorder".

Clueless - no. That's not "normal" for autism. If you've met 1 child with autism, well then, you've met 1 child with autism. Many have language difficulties which make book reading difficult. But for others - well, you see that's their passion. Students with autism often have difficulty with motivation. Extreme difficulty. Moving to a systematic reward scheme helps students perform non-preferred activities. Eg. Reward, visually, and with escalating rewards - any behavior that you wish to increase. Eg. Time spent doing something besides reading.

Sped Longtimer
Anonymous said…
Restraint is being practiced at one local school in NW. I have seen this with my own eyes. To my eyes it looks inappropriate. The students are there for behavior problems but I can't see how restraining them in ways I find personally jarring helps them change their behavior.

Anonymous said…
sped longtimer, I have a child with an autism diagnosis who is no longer on an IEP after a reevaluation. When you say it never happens in this district, that is not the case.

Anonymous said…
parent, occassionally parents don't WANT IEP service nor special ed. In that case, they present autism as not too serious. And, sometimes it isn't too serious. Do you feel your child needs special education? If you want an IEP, you can definitely pursue this, and I'm sure they would cave with the smallest amount of pressure.

-sped longtimer
Clueless said…
Thank you, SpEd long-timer!
Unknown said…
Clueless, you don't seem happy that you have a child who can read and is motivated in that way.

One of the difficulities with autistic children IS motivating and keeping them on-track.

It really helps to give written instructions, where possible, and NOT verbal. They can't retain it and they get easily frustrated. For Asperger's students, they also take words literally, so clear, non-confusing words are best.

It helps to give them a plan. Go over it with him/her and ask the parent to help the student follow it.
Anonymous said…
Right Melissa! Students with autism like checklists that they update as they go through their day, or through a single activity, especially if it is challenging. They like seeing unequivocal measures of success (like the checks in achecklist). Sometimes that alone is motivating, other times you need more tangible rewards. They like simple language without a lot of embedded clauses or double negatives or metaphors. (A highly literate student may not need simple language). Like everyone else, they like learning things that are relevant to them - but they usually have peculiar interests so making that connection requires forethought on the part of professionals. Students with autism like lots of praise - probably because they mostly hear negative comments from others. That's why you have to really go out of your way to be positive, to undo all the negative feedback the student has already received.

Anonymous said…
I'm already tired of Banda's big plan to solve sped's mess: hire someone.

Another word for that is Pass the Buck. It's what the district has done for a decade.

How about he digs in right now with his own 2 hands?

Waiting for Godot
Anonymous said…
Clueless - PS. It's best to use a student's interest to teach them. Your student is very lucky if he likes reading so much. Nearly everything can be taught to a reading lover. If math's a problem, then turn it into reading (it seems that the curriculum already does this for you). If social learning and teamwork are the problem - then there are many strategies to get this to work. Even giving the student clear markers of where to sit(like a specific mat to sit at during circle time) and where to locate his body is important, as are instructions to orienting his body - like "face the speaker". Very often, you will see the autistic students in the back of the room, turned the wrong way, and then they are lost to the instruction and usually start doing something nonproductive.

Anonymous said…
Right on Waiting!

What are we waiting for? This job has been posted for eons, (many years) and nobody has showed up that passes the interview. What's going to be different now? I totally get it that there has to be a single go-to person, and one that doesn't change every 6 months. But really, it will take years before somebody coming in will have enough knowledge of who does what to even have an impact - even if they were good. Just hire somebody already!

Backscratcher said…
Holy crap.... This is the smoking gun we have all been looking for.... I just found some hidden camera video tape of a top-secret meeting Marni Campbell held a couple years ago about program placements. This will knock your socks off -- somebody inform Rosenthal immediately!
Anonymous said…
Bagley Parent, I just want to speak up as another Bagley parent with a kid with an IEP: there is lots that goes on with a kid with a disability that you might not be able to see if you don't know what to look for. And that's not a slam on any teacher. My daughter also was a part of the first year of ICS. She came from a very supported developmental preschool and was thrown into a gen ed classroom with minimal to no support. She didn't even meet with her special ed teacher (who was TOTALLY out of her depth--and who was also Tenzin's spec ed teacher I believe) for the first six weeks of school. We also had one of the best gen ed teachers around, and thanks to her, my daughter did fine, good, OK. I'm sure she looked happy and engaged to casual observers too. But 3 years of almost no meaningful modifications to her curriculum (and a gen ed teacher who's less supportive of special needs kids than our K-1 teacher) have really taken their toll on her. She's anxious. She cries about going to school. She's a crazy smart kid with a real love for learning and that fire is going out.

The sad part of this is that Bagley does some of the best inclusion in the city, thanks to the legacy of the inclusion program that MGD threw into the garbage. That legacy is going to go away if Banda doesn't leverage it. You just can't throw these kids into a gen ed classroom and call it "inclusion"--if it's not supported, it's not inclusion. It's neglect.
Jan said…
"If it's not supported, it's not inclusion. It's neglect."

I want the T-shirt with this on it.

I want a large roomful of SPED parents, all wearing T-shirts with this printed on it.

And I want the Board, Mr. Banda (who I suspect agrees -- and should be wearing the T-shirt too) and the upper SPED management at a table facing the roomful of SPED parents wearing the T-shirt with this printed on it.

And when the Board, Mr. Banda, the SPED staff, and all the parents in their T-shirts finally file out at the end of the meeting, I want the decision to be that we go "back" to inclusion, real inclusion -- and that we do it right.
Anonymous said…
"If it's not supported, it's not inclusion. It's neglect."

This is the crux of the matter. What one person or team or school considers "supported", another considers " neglect".
It's not black and white but many shades of grey. It's not a static process but rather, very dynamic.

SPED Staffer
Anonymous said…
SPED staffer, say what??? As a professional, you should know what constitutes "supported" versus "neglected" and the data systems to show the difference. There is a peer reviewed literature out there, didn't you know, that sets these standards?

Anonymous said…
Sped Staffer, I too am baffled by your comment and your point. A kid who is sitting idly in general ed, because there's no one supporting him/her, accommodating or instructing him/her - is neglected. That's what monkeypuzzled is talking about.

Sure, there may be some argument about how much support is necesssary. Is that what you're trying to say? But to plan for no support (because you're calling it ICS) is a plan for failure. It is neglect, and it happens everywhere with ICS. Especially the new, post-stimulus ICS that doesn't have enough aids.

-sped parent
Anonymous said…
Amen Jan! Thank you!

sped parent
Jet City mom said…
If every school is going make inclusion successful, every principal should know what is necessary and support that.

Get rid of the principals who are all about advancing their career and promote the ones who are educators.

It's tragically funny that some of the very worst principals, the ones who have been moved around the district from school to school staying just long enough for the community to be outraged, are then moved into district administration.
Anonymous said…
And once they are in district administration, they're hired for life. That's whether they abuse families, lie to staff, are absent from the office most of the time (and can not account for their time), etc. I'm not exaggerating here.

Marni Campbell loves to say she "inherited" ICS. By my calendar, she was in charge the summer before ICS began in 2009-2010. She didn't miss much in "planning" because there really wasn't any (unless you call spending $M of ARRA funds on aides planning and "implementation"). She was there for over two years. Yet she had "no control" over how it was botched? She had no influence to set things right? To even tell families the truth? Even this Sunday she's still trying to place blame on someone, anyone, else (it's Ilene's fault).

Are these the qualities needed in sr. leadership? Isn't there a spot for her in Highline?

How Lame
Skelly said…
Marni Campbell loves to say she "inherited" ICS.

Yeah, I've heard her say that in meetings more than once. That's BS. She campaigned for the SpEd director's job because she had forced ICS down the throats of SpEd teachers at Hale (or was it Ingraham?) where she was principal.

That's why GoLoJo hired her to be Kommissar for the program.
Anonymous said…
She said that today, in fact. Hey, say it enough times and a new superintendent might actually believe it. It kind of fits with all the other excuses (funding, whiny parents blah blah), mixed in with the high-fivin' (We had seats for all the butts!)

I'll say that I believe there are many spec ed staffers who do want to help kids, and are as frustrated as the rest of us.

How Lame
Jan said…
You know what? If Marni would turn that narrative into "woe is me, I inherited ICS, but I loathe it too and we are scrambling to ditch it in favor of a return to inclusion (the way it USED to be practiced) -- and then we will work to improve that (because what we had was far from perfect) -- I would capitulate on how she wants to frame it. That is probably craven of me. But I would give her all the cover she wants, if they would just get to work on a turnaround.
Anonymous said…
The Special Ed Post web site ("news for the special education community") posted the Seattle Times article on Seattle School District Special Education problems here:

with the title: "Is Seattle School’s Special Education Department Beyond Repair?"


Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools