Foreshadowing: Scheduling the evaluation

Today’s experience was my first official entry into the world of advocating for my child in the school setting. He is nearly three years old and will enter preschool this fall.

Two months ago, Toledo Public Schools sent a social worker to conduct a preliminary evaluation and recommendation for preschool services. My son, who has physical but not cognitive disabilities, was not in a great mood that day and was resistant to honoring the requests of this stranger. During that evaluation, the social worker consistently expressed doubt when we cited my son’s pre-school knowledge. Both my husband and I, along with my son’s nurse and Early Intervention case manager, attested to my son’s cognitive abilities. We even provided the results of a language test conducted by my son’s speech therapist. Still, the school social worker looked skeptical (like, really skeptical) as we discussed what my son was able to do.

I brushed aside his skepticism, although I was concerned that a person in this role was looking at his physical presentation as a marker of his cognitive ability, a novice error that parents fight against every day. The social worker left after informing us that appointments for the in-person evaluations at their location would be scheduled in late June to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Fast forward to last Friday, just three days ago. I received a voicemail message that stated, “I just want to confirm that you and your son will be attending your scheduled meeting on Tuesday at 12:30. Please call back to confirm.”

I was shocked because I had never received any notice of this meeting. First thing this morning, I called TPS and spoke to the secretary who handles the appointments, noting that I had never received notice of a meeting. She replied that the notices had been mailed last Friday, the same day I received the confirmation call. Surely they did not expect that I would have received notice of and confirmed an appointment when they mailed the notice on the same day as the confirmation call.

I have been dreading the process of school evaluations and IEPs for a year now, and this experience makes me more apprehensive about placing the care and education of my child in the hands of an organization that, on first presentation, seems disorganized and family-unfriendly. My son has a physical disability (congenital fiber-type disproportion myopathy) that creates significant challenges in terms of his ability to move, and the tests they use to assess cognitive ability often have physical components (stack the blocks, put this ball with the others), which makes me fear that he will not be assessed accurately or placed in a setting that will provide the nurturing, patience and challenge he needs to be successful.

My sincere hope is that these initial experiences do not foreshadow a relationship that is wrought with poor communication and struggle.

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Charisse Montgomery is the author of the Super Safe Kids series of books and safety tools. These tools engage children, parents, and their families in improving safety and advocacy in the hospital, the community and the home. A former educator, Charisse Montgomery has earned bachelor's and master's degrees in English, along with a master's degree in Educational Psychology, with research focused on informing and empowering parents of medically fragile children. She completed a graduate certificate in Patient Advocacy and serves on the Board at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

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