As many of you know from my past blogs, I have had a hard time enrolling Little Brother in a school that meets his needs.
I have spent hour upon hour on the phones trying to find someone who will take him in their school district. All I have heard is “no” upon “no”.
I just didn’t know how to make something happen for my little guy. I was feeling fenced in and unsure how to break through this “no” barrier.
Then entered Lynne Master, a sweet seventy year old lady who oversees, or is possibly president, of the Learning Disabilities Clinic in Oak Park, MI. A friend of a friend referred me to her as a resource. This kind woman, who was still on vacation, took time to talk with me via cell phone. I even woke her up in the morning and as she fumbled for her glasses and grabbed a pen, she told me everything I should do…
“First of all, tell me your story.” I shared with her all the details (of which I will spare you all) of my difficulties enrolling him in school. She asked a lot of questions and when she had a grasp on the situation, she advised me: “Set up a meeting with the Superintendent of your school district. I know him personally. Mention my name when you make the appointment and you will have no problems getting in. I want you to tell him everything you just told me and be very reasonable in your presentation. He is a very reasonable man and will listen to what you have to say. Let him know that the school in Highland Park doesn’t meet your son’s needs and that you would like your city to pay for your son’s education in another school district within your county. The Superintendent would have to approve it, but if he does, then your issue will be resolved.”
I was surprised I could ask for such a thing. She informed me that the amount my city pays for my son’s education is required by law and if my city cannot meet my child’s needs, they are required to pay that exact amount to another school district.
When I scheduled the meeting, the Superintendent’s assistant informed me that the Special Ed Director would join the meeting to help answer any questions that might arise. I then received a call from the Special Ed Director who wanted to ask me a few questions….and OH MY, I could tell I had stepped on her toes. We tried calling her several times earlier this year and didn’t receive response, but that was not the point of my meeting. I assured her on the phone, “I am not trying to point fingers – I am just trying to find a school for my son and need the Superintendent’s help.”
As I sat in the waiting room to meet with the Superintendent (and Special Ed Director), I was nervous. The meeting was short notice as they had a last minute opening for me. I had jeans on and did not look professional. My husband couldn’t join me and Little Brother’s caseworker couldn’t make it on short notice either. I felt all by myself.
Jeff encouraged me. “Just go in there and let the Holy Spirit lead your conversation. He will give you the words to say. And focus on Little Brother’s past and WHY he has social and emotional delays.”
I was led to the conference room and shortly after, the Superintendent walked in. He was such a nice man, sharing with me that he always has time for students. I shared with him a little bit of Little Brother’s story. I shared some of the details of WHY he is so challenged emotionally and socially. He rubbed his head in genuine sympathy and I could see he understood this was not about pointing fingers at anyone – we just needed to provide a school for Little Brother.
THEN, the Special Ed director entered. She came in like a hurrican and plopped a huge three ring binder on the table and said, “OK, so what’s the issue here?!” In my mind, I instantly thought, “Oh no…here we go.” She took the first five minutes of the meeting declaring that her office never heard from anyone. Then, when I tried to diffuse that whole issue, she reported to me that our city only works with Detroit schools. As she said that, she batted her fake eyelashes at me, almost saying, “Now, what are you going to do?” She then told me that there is a whole process I have to go through – even though I have an IEP (special needs report for schools to refer to), I have to have a caseworker come visit my home and fill out all the paperwork and yadayadayadayada – “And do you live in this city?” “Yes I do.” “At what address?!”
I said a quick prayer in my heart, realizing this was NOT going well.
At that point, the Superintendent said, “Well, ladies, I see this is something that the Special Needs Department can help you with. I have other things to attend to and will let you ladies continue this conversation.”
My mind panicked and then I blurted out, “Thank you so much for your time Dr. _____. I have one final question before you leave. Lynne Masters explained to me a law that gives me as a parent the right to determine if a school my child is placed in is suitable for his needs. She explained that if it does not meet what I feel are his needs, then I can request for him to attend another school district within this county and my city is required by law to pay for his education there. Is that accurate?”
2 Second 180º
Within 2 seconds, the WHOLE meeting changed. The Special Ed Director instantly said, “If you give me a list of schools you are interested in, I will make the phone call to see if we can transfer him to a place you are comfortable with.”
It was like I was talking to a totally different person. She continued, “I know you are just trying to help your baby.”
I don’t believe it was just my mention of the law that changed her so quickly. I think God changed her heart.
It was a 2 second 180 miracle that took place and I was able to leave the meeting encouraged and equipped to meet my son’s needs. All glory to God!