Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Helping unusual children with schooling

Catherine at Her Bad Mother asked for a Call to Action a while back. She wanted to know what people were doing as activists to help make the world a better place. I was hesitant to post what I do, because it seemed self-serving and against the tenants of tzedakah, the Jewish way of giving. But since my clients know who I am, I figured why not give it a whirl.

I've been an activist my entire life. I was a red diaper baby and was born going to protest the injustices of life. I've marched on Washington for Abortion Rights twice, and have attended protests recently against the slaughter in Darfur and Harvard's invitation to the former President of Iraq. As a kid I protested Ronald Reagan and especially Richard (BOOOO) Nixon. I volunteered for MassChoice, the abortion rights grassroots movement in MA. But those political things are not what I'm all about, it's just something I do because I need to have my voice heard when the world is heading towards disaster.

My real passion, and the thing that I do that seems to be the most righteous of my activist activities is to volunteer as an educational advocate for twice exceptional children. What kind of children, you ask? Twice exceptional kids are children that have tested in the Gifted range but also have learning disabilities that can range from emotional challanges to neurological disorders. These are children that are the most ignored and poorly served by the public school system, mainly because the schools can claim that the children aren't working enough below grade level to get services. And most parents just buy that crap and don't argue with the school systems until it is pointed out to them that the schools have a vested interest in keeping a child out of special education. Special education is very expensive, and every child that carries a 504 or an IEP costs the schools much more than another student.

There are many ways that schools can manipulate testing data to deny 2E children special education services. They can 'misread' the testing data, or use tests that will not show the learning disability. This happened to my daughter and I saw first hand what a crock it was. They can also refuse to acknowledge outside testing, and the school psychologists are not really qualified to work with exceptional children. Most don't know about Giftedness, nor do they understand the learning differences that came with a 2E child.

What I do is to help parents fight the school systems. When a parent calls me, I refer them to special schools for outside placement, or I recommend certain testers that work exclusively with 2E children (there are very few of them). I will attend IEP meetings and open my mouth to speak up for families that don't know the educational laws. I research particular school systems to learn what law suits they have had, which are pending, and which might pertain to a particular child. I can arrange at-home tutoring for children that can't handle school because of bullying or for physical reasons. I can help arrange special residential or day programs for children in crisis. I work with both Mass Dept of Mental Health and DSS to find help for families in crisis. I also advise families on how to deal with school systems that are essentially OK, but have teachers that will not follow the child's IEP. This is not uncommon, and can drive parents nuts. If you recall the teachers that tried to do this last year to my daughter, and the outcome, you will remember who was successful. Hint: it wasn't them!

I do this because I'm the parent of twice exceptional children, and I have seen first hand what the school systems have tried to do to my kids. I'm formidable and I will literally fight to the death for my own children. But many parents can't do this. Or won't do this. I was talking to a woman today about her 2E child and his IEP review is upcoming and she was just going to accept the school psychologist's testing. I told her that this was unacceptable for her particular child and that school system. She needs to find outside testing, so I referred her to someone I know in Rhode Island that is a 2E specialist. The testing will be much more accurate and the accomodations will be better suited for her child.

This past weekend I was researching and recommending special schools for a child that was forced out of his schools collaborative and the superintendent "forgot" to inform the parents. When school started, this child had no place to go. So the parents are terribly upset and the school system realized it's screwup and gave them three schools to chose from. Well, those weren't the BEST schools for this child's particular issues, so I spend hours researching which schools might be better, which schools have rolling admittance, and which schools would take a child that age.

I love doing this. It's the best work I've ever done and I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to me to hear that a child I've helped has gone on to success in a new school setting. This is really a gift from my heart and I invite any of you who have 2E children to contact me if you need help with your particular schooling situation, even if you homeschool.
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Blogger panthergirl said...

Oh good for you!!! I had just mentioned in my other comment about the program in our school district called Bright/Fragile and it is SPECIFICALLY for these "2E" kids (I had never heard that term!)

Lucas is now in middle school, and the B/F program has 4 6th graders, 4 7th and 4 8th graders. There is one main teacher who moves around the groups, and FOUR teaching assistants. The kids mainstream for "specials" (gym, music, etc.) and lunch.

This program runs from elementary school through High School, and there's always an opportunity if the child is ready to mainstream in any academic subject.

Whenever I think I'd like to move, I realize that we are soooooo lucky to have this, so I'd be crazy to give it up.

24/9/06 6:19 PM  

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