When Our Issues Started

Our issues started in 2006.  That is when this passive mother became an outspoken activist.  This is when the district started calling me "that Tucker nut".  I sent this to the superintendent and the entire school board.  Nothing changed and in some cases things got worse.  Jake was forced to drop out on May 11, 2009.  It was his sixteenth birthday.

My son is 13 years old and has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (when he
was 5), Kanner's Syndrome (from the E-3 form through the Autism
Research Institute)and Asperger's Syndrome, Inattentive ADHD, and
Dysgraphia (through Children's Mercy Hospital when he was 13). He
had not had a private or school evaluation since he was five years
old, until this year, when I requested that his school give him one.
I have never had a reason to have him reevaluated until now. That
means that he had not been evaluated for seven years.

My son attended Prairie View, in Lee's Summit, from kindergarten
until 6th grade. The educators at that school are amazing, caring,
and wonderful people. I never had to ask for a thing for my son. They
knew what he needed and they did it.

My son is now in middle school. In the spring of 2005 we met with the
people from Prairie View and Pleasant Lea. We came up with provisions
for his middle school years. His educators from Prairie View came up
with 90% of these provisions based on their direct experience with my
son.

He does not like to break rules and his 6th grade teacher STRONGLY
suggested that he leave each class a minute or two early. That would
keep him out of the halls during the chaos and help him avoid getting
a tardy. She stated that, "If he gets a tardy it will ruin his whole
day. He will be lost to you for the rest of the day."

They also said that he should have a set of books in each classroom
and a set at home. This would also help him with getting to his
classes on time. It would help with his organizational issues that
all autistic people suffer from.

We also asked that he have music instead of art. His fine motor
skills are not the best and art can be difficult.

We asked that he have PE at the end of the day so that he wouldn't
have to shower. According to the University of North Carolina,
bullying can be at it's worse in the shower area. Autistic children
are often bullied and my son has not been the exception.

Pleasant Lea did not do any of these things until January when I
wrote to the Department of Education, the entire school board, the
superintendent, and Project Access. He did not get to leave class
early. He did not get a set of books in each classroom or a set at
home. He had art. He has PE 6th hour.

He got seven tardies in a span of three weeks. He became depressed.
He came home from school one day and put the thermometer in the
microwave. Of course that didn't work out the way that he had wanted.
He had wanted to make it look like he had a fever.

He ran to his room and put his piggy bank outside of his door. He
wanted me to take money out of it to replace what he had broken. I
went into his room and he was sobbing. He said, "I can't do anything
right. Your life would have been better if I had never been born." I
told him that a hole in my heart was filled on the day that he was
born. He said, "You never would have missed me if you had never known
me. A different child would have made your life better."

I immediately contacted the school. This was September and I didn't
want the school year starting out like this.

I had a meeting with two teachers, one co-teacher, and two aides. I
had talked about this with the assistant principal, but she wasn't
available on that day. Neither was the special education coordinator
nor the autism coordinator.

I tried to explain his tardies. Five of them were directly due to his
having to go to his locker after every class. This would not have
been necessary if he had a set of books in each class. One tardy was
because he couldn't get his PE locker open and he waited until a
child from the next hour came in and helped him. One tardy was
because he was late to home room. His bus had came back through our
neighborhood, I witnessed this, twenty minutes after it had picked
him up. A student had gotten sick on the bus and the bus driver had
brought her back home. This meant that the students got to school 20
minutes later than normal. He is AUTISTIC. He didn't understand that
his schedule had changed by twenty minutes.

His co-teacher would not even let me finish a sentence. I didn't get
to state what I just stated above. She said that I was wrong and that
his bus had never been late. She said that he was just being stubborn
and wouldn't take his book to PE. If he took his book to PE, he would
be able to go straight to his class after PE instead of his locker.
She said that he had not had a problem with his locker and that it
was stubbornness that made him late. The rule is that you don't take
your books to PE. Once again, he WILL NOT break rules. Real or
perceived.

I told her that I would like to have a book at home, as per our
spring conversation. She said that he didn't need a book at home. The
information was available online. I told her that I would need a
username and password. She said that I already had it. I told her
that I did not. She said that I did. Finally, another teacher
intervened and told me that he would get me the password and
username. What if the internet was down? Why must I count on my
server when I was supposed to have a book at home?

I explained that my son was depressed and related the incident of the
thermometer. I told them that I knew that his depression was a direct
result of coming to this school. The co-teacher said that he would be
really stressed and want to stay home on Friday. She stated that he
was going to have a test and that he was going to flunk it.

I asked her if he was being given tests in small groups as was stated
in his IEP. She said that she would have to drag him out into the
hall to do that.

My son has always gone to the learning center for his tests. Not once
was dragging him out of the class required. As a matter of fact, he
has never had any discipline issues until now.

The next day I called the autism coordinator to explain my distress
after this meeting. Never have I been treated in such a manner. I am
an adult. If the co-teacher treated me this way, how does she treat
children? She is in charge of children with special needs.

The assistant principal called me that same morning to discuss my
son's tardies. Because of the number of the tardies he was to be
disciplined. I told her about my meeting. She said that she would
talk to the co-teacher, autism coordinator, and special education
coordinator. The co-teacher is also my son's home room teacher. They
took all but two of his tardies off of his record. This will not
change the damage that has been done.

They kept my son out of home room for two weeks and the main teacher
took him out into the hall and gave him the test. He passed the test
with a "B".

One day his math teacher asked him to do an assignment. Then she
started writing the answers on the board. He thought that he should
stop. Her story is that she asked him three times and he didn't
comply. His story is that he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do.
He shut down and just sat there.

She wrote him up. They call it a commitment letter. To my son it was
a punitive action. He started crying. She called me to let me know
what had happened and that he was crying. I told her that I would cry
too, if every day that I went to work I was afraid that I was going
to get into trouble and I didn't know why. If I didn't understand the
rules and what was expected of me I would be stressed, too.

His teacher told me that she felt that he needed to live up to
expectations. I told her that I agreed. But, not the expectations
of "normal" kids. I told her that I had expectations the day that he
was born. Those are gone. I will give you the results of his Vineland
testing at the conclusion of this letter.

I received a call from the autism coordinator stating that she was
concerned because Jake had become depressed and lethargic. She wanted
to have a meeting to make a plan to help Jake. At this point, I had
spoken with all of Jake's teachers, the special education
coordinator, the assistant principal, and the autism coordinator. I
had expressed my concern over my son's depression. At no time was he
sent to the counselor's office.

I went back for another meeting. They felt that we all just needed to
be more positive and help my son to be more positive. They asked if
my being anxious had caused my son to become anxious. I assured them
that I was not anxious until my child began talking about dying.

It was suggested that I take my son to his pediatrician for the
depression. I did this. My pediatrician was as confused as I was as
to why the school was having such an issue trying to figure out how
to educate an autistic child. She asked me if they were having budget
issues.

We both agreed that my child should not be medicated for a problem at
school. She decided that she wanted to call the school and speak with
Jake's counselor.

I called the school counselor and told her about my son. My doctor
called the counselor as well. It took a week for my doctor to get a
call back. Still, my son has never been to the counselor. The school
blamed my doctor for the time it took for them to call her.

I researched many autism sites and tried to find information on
educating autistic children. Most sites stated that I should offer
the school any information that I found so that we could work
together on my son's education.

I contacted Jerry Keimig, Special Education Coordinator for the
Lee's Summit School District. I told him that I wanted to have my
next meeting with the staff at the school and give them a chance to
work this out. I told him that I would call him back after my meeting.

I emailed Mr. Keimig after the meeting where we discussed making Jake
feel more positive. I told him that I would like to meet with him one-
on-one to discuss my issues. I told him that I get easily intimidated
when I have to face many people at one time.

Mr. Keimig refused to meet with me one-on-one. He said, "I would be
happy to meet with you at any time, but not without direct input from
PLMS staff. I will ask that Emily Miller coordinate a meeting with
the three of us and any additional staff that might have more
background on your son. I have none." I would have thought that he
could have read my son's file and gotten all of the background that
he needed.

I called Mr. Keimig several time the next few days. He WOULD NOT
return my phone calls. I wanted to let him know what my pediatrician
and I had discussed.

I met with Mr. Keimig for 15 minutes. I told him that I had read that
most autistic children only respond to positive teaching. He told me
that I couldn't believe everything that I read. I told him that I
wanted my son in a class with a more positive teacher or in a
modified curriculum. He told me that he may not be able to help my
son in the future. I told him that my son was depressed and that
being in this class was making it worse. He told me that it was a
good life lesson for my son.

I informed him that I would be contacting Children's Mercy to have my
son reevaluated. I told him that my doctor felt that my son's
disability was not being addressed and that we would need
professional help to draw up his IEP.

It will take six months to get my son even started on the
evaluations. Children's Mercy suggested that I contact MPACT so that
they could help mean in the interim.

I contacted the superintendent to complain about Mr. Keimig's lack of
understanding about autistic children and his inability to discuss my
concerns without totally dismissing me. I was contacted by the
principal of Pleasant Lea instead of by the superintendent. I told
her everything that I have just stated. She suggested that I contact
the assistant superintendent, Dr. Ann Starlin-Horner.

I contacted Dr. Horner. I told her of my concerns. I told her that I
was having another meeting with the staff at Pleasant Lea. I told her
that I would email all of my correspondence to her. That is when I
found out that the public can not have access to Administration email
addresses. I had to send everything to her secretary.

Dr. Horner called me back several days later and stated that she had
found out that I was having a meeting with the Pleasant Lea staff in
two days. She went on to say that she hadn't known about that. By the
end of the message she said that I had told her about it and that she
had forgotten. She told me that she would contact me after the
meeting. She stated that she was writing it on her calendar right
then. She didn't call me back until I wrote a letter to the
superintendent in December. Two months after my initial phone call.

Jake is very smart, but he is getting an "F" in science, language
arts, and home economics. He has missed almost 20 days of school
because he has been sick so much. I believe that the stress that he
has been under has affected his health. I have, of course, received
the letter threatening me because of his absences.

Jake has to go to his teachers for his make up work and tests that he
missed. He never does that and that is why he is flunking. He is
supposed to be taking tests in small groups, but they say that they
will only do that if they "don't have to drag him out of class" to do
it. He has never had to be dragged out of class before. It states in
his IEP that he is supposed to take tests in small groups and that
the tests should be read to him. His case manager didn't even know
that that was in there.

I had another meeting in December. I must stress that the special
education coordinator for his school is trying to do her best. I just
don't think that the district has a clear understanding of how to
educate this unique population of students.

In our last meeting we decided that he needed a place to go when he
gets stressed. It has been working and he is no longer as depressed.

His teachers are supposed to write in his plan book every day so that
I know what his assignments were for that day and what we need to get
done that night. Only his core classes do this. And they don't do it
on a consistent basis.

He didn't get books in all of his classrooms until January. He wasn't
able to leave any classes early, with the exception of one, until
January. The staff felt that it was not necessary and dismissed it.

My advocate tells me that he should never receive a tardy. She said
that his paras should make sure that he gets his work turned in and
that they should be responsible for getting his make up work to him.
That is something I am going to work on for his IEP. I trusted the
school to write an IEP that would be the best for my son. I have
learned that I will have to have a great deal of input so that it
will address my son's disability and the issues that come with it.

I had a meeting with Ann Starlin-Horner in December. We discussed all
of these issues. Jake has started chewing again and he has gotten in
trouble for chewing in class. They said that it could pose a risk. He
is chewing on his fingers.

At our meeting, we decided that Jake should have something
appropriate to chew on. They decided that a bracelet, such as Lance
Armstrong wears, would be a good alternative. I told them that I
didn't feel that it would be good because he would have his wrist at
his mouth all day.

Also at this meeting, Dr. Starlin-Horner said that my son needs to be
held accountable for poor decisions. She said that his tardy in PE
was an example of him making a poor choice. I told her that I
disagreed. He was in a panic about being late and he couldn't get his
locker open. He didn't know that he had any choices. His disability
wouldn't allow him to focus on his choices.

After Christmas break they gave him the bracelet to chew on. The
first day that he wore it he got into trouble for chewing on it. His
teacher told him that "bracelets are for wearing, not for chewing on."

I have been posting on the EFECT board. It is a board for parents of
children with disabilities. At my last meeting I noticed that the
autism coordinator had a copy of every post that I had posted. She
tried to hide it, but I saw it as she was searching for a paper. This
board is for parents to share concerns, thoughts, issues, etc. It has
since been changed so that teachers can not access it.

My son has been reevaluated and a new IEP has been drawn up. At our
IEP meeting the school admitted that they had not properly prepared
for my son and it was the cause of most of his issues this year.

His co-teacher, that wouldn't let me speak in our first meeting, has
now said that he has lost the two books that were kept in the
classroom for him. He hasn't lost the books that he had to bring home
and then return or the books in other classes. Only the books in her
class. Now I have to pay a fine for that. When I asked the principal
about this on March 31st, she never responded. I'm sure that they
will wait until the day that yearbooks are handed out and then tell
him that he doesn't get one because he owes fines.




Sincerely,

Sherri R. Tucker

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