It was May 27th. I arrived at the meeting, tape recorder in hand. The meeting was going pretty smooth. We were all playing “nicey nice”. Then we got to the discussion about my son’s writing and the topic of Assistive Technology. I decided to let them do most of the talking as best I could. I was attempting to learn the art of being quiet which was a very hard task for me but an important factor in advocacy. As a good friend told me, “A school district will always find the only tree in the desert to hang themselves on.” After I sat and listened then I’d go in for the kill if given the chance.
Here is a portion of the conversation which I painstakingly transcribed myself afterwards with an old fashioned tape recorder and hundreds of times hitting the rewind button. Yes, I am not the most technical person and do things the old fashion way. Sort of like my grandmother who peeled potatoes to the day she died by hand with a knife instead of using the vegetable peeler that I bought her. In any event, here is the relevant portion of our conversation.
Case manager: In the writing goal that 3.3 this just changes from the 3rd grade rubic that they used to the 4th grade.
Danadogooder: Uh Hum
Case manager: And the rubic score we were going to ask for a 3 or a 4 because a lot of times this year he was getting much higher then a 3.
Danadogooder: Uh Hum
Case manager: This brings us to the writing area. We are going to have available if he needs it next year the Alphasmart as well as the computer in the back of the classroom.
Danadogooder.: Uh Hum
Case manager: He can always use that.
Danadogooder: What type of Alphasmart? Cause, because there is different kinds. I know that some kid’s I know (pause) I think the newer one is actually called the “Dana” like my name. The “Dana Alphasmart”. Because I know some children have a problem with the screens being so small and not being able to see everything that they are typing.
Case manager: Actually the occupational therapist does not recommend the Alphasmart.
Danadogooder: Uh huh?
Case manager: But we were saying we could make it available if we see he is having trouble . The occupational therapist believes just by his written work and his test scores that he is doing above average and he can certainly manage and that all kid’s have difficulties as the length of assignments go on and their handwriting gets more sloppy and they get more tired and so on.
Danadogooder: I know the occupational therapist doesn’t think my son has a writing problem but I disagree.
Case manager: So that’s why again we’re willing to provide him with one. I don’t know what exactly we have. We can check into it. Um if it’s not going to be the right one then we can look into ordering it. But if I could just finish for a second.
Danadogooder: Uh Hum
Case manager: What the occupational therapist was saying too, and the reading specialist was saying and I think the resource room teacher was saying too was we have some computer software programs that are really good.. The Kidspirations, there’s a word prediction software program, the one we have is um Co-Writer. And we also have something called Write Aloud which he can speak into. And all those things would be available to him and would probably be more useful then the Alphasmart. And the other kid’s are using them too.
Danadogooder: To be quite honest my research, Where the heck do I have it, I don’t know where I have it. I actually met a guy. I drove all the way to Jackson, N.J a few weeks ago. Where is it? He does some work for you at the district. And when I looked at the back of brochure and I said, “Oh my God I drove to Jackson, N.J. and you’re office is five minutes from my house!”
Teacher: Oh no!
Danadogooder: ( Locates brochure) Do you know him?
Case manager: And I spoke to him too! We had a phone consult.
Danadogooder: Ohhhh? In regards to my son?
Case manager: Well I didn’t bring up his name, but said I have a student and what do you recommend with these issues? And everything he recommended is stuff that we have and that we have used. So umm
Danadogooder: Yeah because I was looking at some stuff you know with his written expression and for the dyslexia and I actually got to see how it works. I’ll tell you Write Aloud, No Co-Writer is amazing. I was like WOW my kid spells phonetically. So if you go LF, if the kid is trying to spell elephant and you just put LF boom the computer knows it is elephant.
Case manager: It comes up. Right!
Danadogooder: I was like that is pretty amazing. So I was was ahhh actually thinking about more about you know the Co-Writer and the Write Aloud and all that kind of stuff.
Case manager: And those are the ones we have.
Danadogooder: But how would my son access that as far as home? Would I be??? (cut off)
Case manager: Well that is the thing you can purchase these for at home use if you want. Most of the time though I believe that they are given a lot of time in class to work on assignments if they are having
Danadogooder; But he won’t have that available to him in like you know just in the regular classroom? There is not a computer right there , Is there?
Case Manager and Resource Room Teacher: There is a computer in the back of the room. There is a computer in the back of the room.
Resource Room Teacher: Um I think most of his writing assignments would take place in the resource room. And he would have access to either the computer lab or to the computers in the resource room to do writing. So I don’t think that is going to be an issue. And for the mainstream classroom there is a computer there if he needs it for something.
Danadogooder: Wouldn’t they make that available to him for his homework assignments? I mean I thought that uh as far as you know the programs and stuff they wouldn’t be able to make that available?
Case manager: I think that is something you can purchase for him if you want.
Danadogooder: But I think that is something that the school can actually have for my son’s homework assignments and you guys own the programs don’t you?
Case manager: Yeah we own the programs but I don’t believe that we can send them home. You know I don’t believe they can just be copied. But that’s all stuff I’d have to look into.
Danadogooder : Yeah because if that is something he is working on at school I’d also like to have that at for home. I think the school should be able to provide that and also parent training on that.
Resource Room Teacher: I know that with the software in the computer lab there’s very stringent copy write laws that she can only install on so many computers when you buy one set.
Danadogooder; Uh huh!
Resource Room Teacher: Like she can’t install even in the computer lab and in my room. It has to be in one setting. So I don’t think there’s
Danadogooder: They can purchase another one I’m sure.
Resource Room Teacher: Perhaps you’d have to check that out.
Danadogooder: Because in other words if he’s going to be working on that at school, I should also be working on that at home, and I should have parent training because I know me and my husband should know how to be able to help him with that so he can do his written work at home. Because that is where we are having a huge struggle is at home.
Case manager: I think that some of these programs are pretty easy to use. Just like almost any other software you can buy. There’s some pictorials and it is very user friendly these days. I don’t think you’d need training. You know, I mean I’ve read the manual.
Danadogooder: I think that I’d need training (Laughing) Believe me I know how to send (cut off)
Case manager: But anyway parents always have the opportunity to supplement at home. So you are more then welcome to purchase any of the things that we have in school for yourself as well.
Danadogooder: Okay well one of the things I am definitely asking for is uh. Those actually are the programs I thought would be beneficial to my son but I am asking for it to be provided by the school here and at home and for parent training for both me and my husband. And I think that is really the only one thing I was really looking for this year. Because I was really happy with the IEP that we finally came to agreement on this past December. I was very happy with that. I thought that the goals needed to be changed of course and to go up in grade level. Ahhh, my only other area of concern and I really thought the assistive technology between the books on tape and I’m really happy that you are telling me Co-Writer and Read Aloud cause those were exactly the programs that I thought would my son would be beneficial but I do think that needs to occur in both settings and I believe that the school is responsible and also responsible to provide parent training for me to learn how to do it. Because I am not a whiz on the computer and I do want to be able to help my son. And my husband is actually pretty good on the computer so it would probably be pretty simple train him. So that is definitely one thing I am asking for.
Conversation moves on to other areas.
Learning consultant: The only four things: Earobics, Extended school year, those two things you need to get to us on as soon as possible so we can put that in the draft before she gets that down to them. And, the two open ended questions regarding the Co-Writer and so forth..
Danadogooder.: What do we need to get that done? We can’t make a decision on that today on the Co-Writer stuff and parent training?
Case manager: Well I don’t know as a team how do we feel about that? Cause we usually, parents usually do what they want to do at home on their own, with their own funds, their own time, with their own resources.
Danadogooder: I know a lot of parents that have Kurdzweil and a laptop coming back and forth to the house so I don’t think that is true for a child with a disability like my child. I’m not just saying like I want to have this program because it is fun and something extra that I just feel like doing with my kid. I do supplement a lot for my child. I put him through social skills. My son has $2000 worth of social skills. And my son attended an ADHD group that I paid for out of my pocket through Fairleigh Dickinson. He’s also gotten two years of medical occupational therapy that I’ve been taking him to with a $20 a week co-pay. I do supplement a lot.
Case manager: I am not saying that you don’t. I’m just saying that is usually our recommendation, generally.
Danadogooder: I just think because of his disability and because of his needs that it should be something I should have access to at home so we can stay consistent between school and home. So I just think if we could all agree on that one issue.
Case manager: Guess we also feel like all of his scores on all of the testing are above average in writing. He’s got really good scores. Our occupational therapist doesn’t think he needs any assistive technology at all.
Danadogooder: But he doesn’t have anything he is basing that on? That is just what he feels.
Case manager: No, He gave the WOLD test and it’s what he sees in his work with him. Yeah!
Danadogooder : Which I don’t.
Case manager: It’s the writing scores that we got from all of the tests we gave him.
Learning Consultant: I think in order to make a decision about the software we would have to check with:
A) The person who runs the software programming and computer programming for the district and find out if a copy of it can be sent home. If we have the right to make that copy.
B) If we don’t if it is appropriate for us to buy a copy. We can’t make that decision. And of the question regarding parent training, if the word comes back no we can’t make a copy, no we can’t buy a copy, then of course there’s no training. Yes, we can buy a copy then we can find out who can do the training when and where?
Danadogooder : Who would make that decision as far as who runs the assistive technology stuff?
Learning Consultant: Well the person who runs the technology department is Mr. V
Danadogooder. Mr. V?
Learning Consultant: Yeah he runs it, he is in charge of all the computers.
Danadogooder : Oh, I don’t know who it is?
Case manager Well we’d probably start with our Ed. Tech. We’d ask her first.
Danadogooder : So Mr. V purchases the technology?
Learning Consultant: No he runs the
Danadogooder: Where’s he out of?
Learning Consultant: Central office. He manages the whole technology program in the district.
Danadogooder: And who’s our ed person you said?
Case manager: Our ed tech is Mrs. O
Danadogooder: Mrs. Is that spelled?
Case manager: O ……
Danadogooder: So can I get back to you with the ESY and Earobics and you can get back to me
Learning Consultant: Sure uh hum!
Danadogooder: Um I do think that this something to be consistent between school and home. I mean he wants to sit down and what we started doing was we go into Word Perfect and we do a google. And we’ll google a Komodo Dragon. Then we’ll take the picture and he’s been keeping a little book at home. And then we’ll give him the picture on Word Perfect. Then we sit there and let him try and type a story. I think if he has access to this at home this would be something he’d be doing his book reports on. And (cut off)
Learning Consultant: It may turn out that the software is $29.95.
Danadogooder: Oh actually maybe I have a price on that?
Learning Consultant: No, it may turn out it’s a really inexpensive piece of software. I have no idea.
Danadogooder. : Oh they actually do they have prices in here (looking at catalog again) Because uh I’d be willing to have this on my home computer. It’s not like I’m asking for a laptop here. Let’s see Draftbuilder, Write Aloud and Read Aloud, SOLO, I guess would that be the SOLO program? It would have all that stuff built right into it.
Case manager: I don’t know.
Danadogooder: I think that if you buy purchase the SOLO program it has the Read Aloud, Write Aloud, Co-Writer and Draftbuilder. I don’t know it says Mac window single users is $785 and 10-19 users $525. Alright well if you can just check into that. I think that is the only issue that we’ll have.
Case manager: And about um meeting next year? Because right now we are on every other month.
Danadogooder : Uh Huh, I’d like that to continue.
Conversation continues into other subjects.
How nice the child study team had given ME permission to buy all the things my son needed! And apparently, the child study team was willing to give me things that they already had in district to shut me up even though they “felt like all of his scores on all of the testing are above average in writing. He’s got really good scores. Our occupational therapist doesn’t think he needs any assistive technology at all. ” However, this wasn’t about me getting stuff, or shutting me up. It was about me making sure my son got what he needed. I strongly disagreed that my son’s writing skills were above average and to be clear there were no other tests they could show me other then the WOLD Sentence Copy Test (which was not even available during this meeting). The WOLD Sentence Copy Test was a writing test that had the child copy the following text:
“Four men and a jolly boy came out of the black and pink house quickly to see the bright violet sun, but the sun was hidden behind a cloud.”
Surely, if my son could copy this passage in the allotted time he was “above average” and the child study team was making an intelligent educated decision that he really didn’t need assistive technology… Too bad for them I wasn’t buying their theory!
Copyrighted 2011: danadogooder and DMT