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Too Tight = Too Soon

  • Posted on May 9, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Okay, so as I’ve reported, Ben was “suspended” from school.  We had our meeting on Friday to discuss what we needed to do to get Ben back in school.  As you may also know, I’ve been working with Dr. Vaughn Lauer, a fellow writer who is also an expert in the field of special education.  I’m currently editing a book he has lined up with a publisher, which coaches parents through the questions to ask during an IEP meeting.

My “sneak peek” at this material was immediately helpful.  It was proposed that we start the meeting off by going over Ben’s existing Behavioral Intervention Plan.  As per the book, I countered by saying that I would prefer to start by describing (or having described to me) the behaviors that triggered this meeting.  I asked questions to gain more information and I discovered that last week (the week of the bad behaviors) was a major transition for Ben.

You see, Ben had been struggling.  He wasn’t making enough progress to meet his goals.  So, because Ben needed it and because they would have an “extra” person for a limited amount of time, we started an experiment in which Ben would receive one-on-one support and would be in a smaller, less busy environment outside his special education classroom.  The week in question was the week they were transitioning him back to the special education classroom.  He was still getting the extra support, but he was getting that support back in the super busy classroom.

We also learned that the one-on-one support outside of that environment had been working.  His aggressive behaviors had decreased and his educational gains had increased.  In transitioning him back to the busy environment before he was ready, his aggressive behaviors had gotten worse.  So, basically, Ben was being “punished” for bad behaviors that were triggered by a situation outside of his control that adversely impacted his educational progress.  In other words, he was trying to tell us in the only way he had available that he was not ready to go back into that busy classroom—that place was too overwhelming for him to function in.

As we discussed what to do with this information, I pointed out—in a non-confrontational manner—that the only reason we couldn’t continue with what was working was because the district was experiencing significant financial hardships.  The budget was too tight to provide Ben with one-on-one support.  It was also too soon to transition Ben back to the classroom.  And, once I’d put it that way, it was suggested that Ben should continue to receive the one-on-one support that he needed, and that he could continue to receive this support.

This was a major victory for Ben.  This was exactly what he needed.  Then, the only thing left to discuss was whether kicking Ben out of school was an action taken too soon.  See, as you might remember, when Ben saw me he was better.  Then, I took him home.  We determined, if the need should arrive again, that I should try calming him down to see if he could stay.  That way bad behavior isn’t rewarded with a break from school.  We also discussed not sending him on an all-day field trip.  And, we determined that sending him and Alex to school when their classes would be gone on a field trip I’d refused to allow the boys to attend, would be a mistake, because they’d be going to school, but everything would be different—so they’re both staying home that day.

One more thing was brought up and that was the question of placement.  This one-on-one support is the last trick in the bag of resources available to this school.  The district representative suggested that, after we tried this for the rest of the year, we should consider the possibility of placing Ben in a different school next year.  So, there will be (at least) one more meeting this year.  *sigh*