I need help with my son's iep
December 26, 2013 7:54 AM   Subscribe

At the parent-teacher conference Dec 5th the teacher told me my autistic/ADHD/OCD/GAD child is so aggressive the staff fears their safety and want to use restrainsts, and they want to bring it up in the next iep. This is the first I've heard of any aggression.

I don't see it at home, neither does his father. The babysitter has never seen it. His old school never reported an agression problem. I said I'd think about it and went home.

I went back over months of teacher notes and school paperwork. There has been zero documentation of agression towards others. The closest are vague daily behavior notes that say he had a tough day. No letters home from the administration. No phone calls.

A couple days later in his daily folder is an amendment to the iep. Shocked, I refused permission and asked for an informal meeting between myself, my ex, and the school. Then the day before Christmas, meaning the school is now closed and I can't talk to anyone, I get the request for a formal iep meeting on Jan 7th.

I need help. I need and advocate or someone savvy is wrights law to attend the iep with me. I research advocates and no one will help without a substantial payment and require way more notice than Jan 7th. Up until last July I was homeless. I have no savings. I live paycheck to paycheck. I don't have money for help, or extra money to wave at them because of the time constraints.

I'm in Monmouth County, NJ. What do I do?
posted by FunkyHelix to Education (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is there an Autism/Sensory Processing Disorder/ADHD/ASD group for parents in or reasonably near your area? If you can find one online, or via Facebook, you might find someone who has been through this to go with you.
posted by 41swans at 7:59 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is the NJ DOE guide for your rights; there are LOTS of contact names and numbers in the back.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:59 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hi FunkyHelix,

So sorry you are having to deal with this. I don't have any expertise in this but there is a BabyCenter group that seems quite supportive and knowledgeable. Maybe you can post this there as well.
posted by Kalmya at 8:00 AM on December 26, 2013

You can request reassessment in your district and request postponing the meeting until you can get the results of the new assessment. Call Autism Family Services of NJ and see what they recommend and what help they can offer.

Mention that the aggression has not been brought up in the past, and you have had NO notice of it prior to this very drastic step that they want to take. Explain that among these other care-givers that there has been NO aggression exhibited in other environments.

It may be that your son is reacting to something in the environment, but only a new assessment can make that clear. It is the district's responsibility to provide assessments, especially if they want to drastically change your son's IEP.

You have the power, not the school. You don't have to kow-tow to them. They are not the final arbieter in this, you are. You don't have to agree to restraints and they can't threaten you with his expulsion if you don't agree.

Your first step is to thoroughly understand your rights and your child's rights and to become an advocate for him.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

From the wrightslaw.com page, I found a link to this sample letter specifying that a parent does not consent to restraints being used and requesting a functional assessment of behavior. It seems potentially useful in your situation in terms of getting the school to hold off on implementing whatever plan they have unilaterally decided upon, and also triggering legal responsibilities on their part.

Best of luck.
posted by not that girl at 8:15 AM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here's a pretty extensive list or NJ organizations.... you might find some help..

posted by HuronBob at 8:23 AM on December 26, 2013

Hugs to you, OP. Definitely contact all of the NJ resources the other commenters here have given you.

Communicate with the school via email and save copies of everything. If someone from the school telephones you, send an email documenting what the conversation was about and save a copy: "In follow up to FirstName LastName's phone call of DATE, TIME, Mr So-and-so said X, Y, Z…" When you are on the phone, be sure ask them to spell out their first and last name for you, as well as their job title at the school, and make it obvious you are writing down what they say.

In preparation for your January meeting, one idea might be to email all the parties your own mini-agenda: "At the parent-teacher conference on Dec 5, 2013, at TIME, Teacher'sFirstandLastName told me my child, FirstandLastName is QUOTE "so aggressive the staff fears their safety and want to use restraints, and they want to bring it up in the next iep." Unfortunately, this is the first time any employee of SchoolName has informed our family of any behavioral issues. We find this is level of under-communication totally unacceptable. Since we cannot help to change the things nobody at the school bothers to tell us about, from now on, we hereby request that the school communicate with us, in writing, within 24 hours of any occurrence…"

Come to every meeting at the school with a large binder full of papers that makes it look as though you might be accumulating "evidence" of all of your communications with the school. (They don't need to know those papers in that binder are actually, say, totally blank.)

Keep your arms crossed during the meeting and let them do most of the talking. Do not agree to anything during the meeting. Say you'll think about it and that you have to talk to your advisors, and get back to them.

Do you have a family friend who is introverted but well-spoken, and who could attend this meeting with you since you can't afford an attorney? Preferably a older, stern-looking person who can sit there, look vaguely angry, and not say much? You would be amazed at how the presence of a silent, simmering elder male who is on your side at these meetings will encourage the school to respectfully defer to you more. (Ugh, patriarchy.) Mothers who go into these kinds of meetings all by themselves often (but not always) get outnumbered and steamrolled.
posted by hush at 9:39 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would suspect that the school would have to have done a lot more before they decided unilaterally that a child should have restraint in an IEP (otherwise, there would be a lot more chairs with straps on them in schools).

Things you can do (and you can use these as either delay tactics or to completely put a stop to it):
  1. Don't agree to it. You can reject an IEP either partially of fully. (we've rejected 3/4 of the IEP's we've received)
  2. Request a Functional Behavioral Assessment
  3. Request copies of all incident reports with details
  4. Request copies of proof of all techniques that were used in incidents
  5. Proof of all training and certifications that all staff who will be working with your child have, the dates, and providers
#1 is the easiest. In order for the school to implement restraint, you have to provide informed consent. If you don't give that, they can't (legally) implement it. #2 is probably really the thing that should be done. What it sounds like is happening is a behavior and if you understand from where the behavior stems, it is far easier to manage in constructive ways.

Here is a fabulous PDF with information on what you can do.

Also, I was at a conference with an IEP session and someone who is in similar financial straits as you asked what to do if you can't afford an advocate. They suggested bringing a friend who looks very good in a suit to come along with a legal pad and take lots of notes. You don't have to introduce them as anything but " who is representing me".
posted by plinth at 9:59 AM on December 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree with much of Hush's advice, except the "Since we cannot help to change the things nobody at the school bothers to tell us about," - try to make yourself sound as reasonable as possible, not snarky. You don't want them to see you as an enemy.
posted by corb at 10:29 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a speech therapist in the schools who works with kids with autism, and I'm sorry this has been handled this way. There should have been WAY more documentation to make you aware.

In our county, we have "MAC" holds, which are physical restraints involving just a staff member holding a child in a specific way to protect them from hurting themselves or others. For example, one student becomes aggressive when overstimulated, and the MAC hold most effective for him is for a staff member to have him lay down on his stomach, hold his arms behind his back, and keep his head down. This avoids extra sensory input by limiting what he can see, and also provides some deep pressure (from the staff member sitting on him/holding his arms) and is actually very calming for him.

Is your school district talking about these types of restraints? If they are, typically an incident report is required when/if one is performed. You can request notification of any restraints the day they happen in the IEP, if nothing else.

If your school is talking about other physical restraints such as a restraining chair or bands or anything, without knowing your son but from hearing your comments, that sounds SUPER crazy and over-restrictive.
posted by shortyJBot at 11:56 AM on December 26, 2013

I'm also a speech pathologist in a school (not in NJ). One of the easiest ways to get a district to follow the letter of the law is to say you are audio recording the IEP. We require advance written notice of audio recording and there is a place to indicate that you will be recording on the meeting notice (or you can just write it on the meeting notice when you send it back). You can just use your phone to record or any basic recorder.

My district also uses the holds described by shortyjbot above but a child must have a certain kind of behavior plan in place to use them AND the staff member must have training in proper techniques.
posted by scrubbles at 3:50 PM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know this isn't what you're asking, but if the only people/location that are reporting aggression is this particular public school environment - then it's a pretty strong indication that something on the Things to Seriously Consider list would be getting him OUT of the negative environment.

The difference between a child that's stuck in a bad place and that SAME child, moved into a mentally healthier situation, is HUGE. Please don't fixate on finding a way to tolerate it as your only recourse, because it has the potential to completely change the person your child will become.
posted by stormyteal at 4:10 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've already received a great deal of helpful advice in this thread; I would repeat the advice to request a Functional Behavioral Assessment before anybody even *thinks* the word "restraint" again. Also, you are absolutely within your rights to receive some kind of explanation of what has been going on up to this point. I would recommend requesting a formal meeting with the teacher(s) and the principal, and I would copy the superintendent. I would make sure to include the fact that they tried to get you to sign an IEP amendment with no documentation of aggressive behavior coming home ever and no meeting occurring.

You do not have to agree to the use of restraint at school. The following recommendations are based on research I did for a report on use of physical restraint in public schools, as well as my experience as an intern at an inpatient long-term psychiatric facility for children ages 5-18 which did use human physical restraint and locked rooms, but not mechanical or chemical restraint. I strongly recommend that you do not agree to the use of restraint at school if your child is not able to accurately report to you when/how restraint was used. If you do agree to some form of restraint, *prone restraint should never be used at any time*. Any staff using restraint should be trained in a system incorporating physical restraint as a last step, after steps such as de-escalation through positive behavioral supports, breaks, etc. have failed. Staff should have refresher training as often as the particular program recommends (usually once every 1-2 years).

If I can be of help in any way, please feel free to MeMail me. I am not a lawyer, but I have been a public school teacher, a long-term sub in a school for kiddos in the aforementioned long-term psych facility (so everyone had an IEP with behavior goals and all teachers and aides were trained in restraint), and now am a social worker who helps clients and families navigate school systems. I love fighting The Man! :)
posted by epj at 3:31 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just so everyone knows, we argued our case and restraints were removed from the behavior plan. Thank you for all your help and advice.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2014

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