Sunday, May 30, 2010

Forgetting to Follow the 504 Plan

The new school had a copy of the 504 Accommodation Plan set up for MJ, and we had met with the school Principal, psychologist, and his teacher, so we figured all would be well. However, we soon began to see holes developing in this plan and things were not working out as hoped.

Not that the teachers were doing anything wrong. They were just often forgetting the things about MJ, and how certain things should be handled. I know it is difficult to be a teacher enough as it is with having close to 30 students in a classroom. It is hard to remember everything with that many students, but I thought that was the point of having a 504 Accommodation Plan so that it was something in hard copy that could be looked at to help remind them.

MJ had a wonderful teacher, and we were lucky to have her. She had previous experience with other students with Asperger's, and so we knew she would work well with him. The problem we were having is that MJ was coming home again without assignments, or he was not even doing some assignments because she was not being literal enough. He was having meltdowns in class because he wasn't being told to go to other classes on time. He wasn't communicating with the teacher and so was missing out on various things. He wasn't finishing tests because he wasn't being given enough time to write.

Now, as a refresher, I'll explain some of MJ's difficulties;

With MJ's Asperger's, it affects the way he is able to process information. While he is super smart, he is unable to process the information quickly enough to put it out in words or on paper. This has caused him to fall behind in timed tests or not be able to finish things at the same speed as other students. His motor skills are not very smooth and so he appears awkward and clumsy. His handwriting is very forced, slow and sloppy. He doesn't see spacial relations very well and so any information on paper that he writes appears jumbled and smooshed together. He doesn't understand personal space and so often gets too close to others. He doesn't understand a lot of social cues or rules. He only understands direct, literal communication and instructions. He becomes too focused on most tasks and so cannot remember smaller tasks. He must be constantly cued to remember when or what needs to be done or what to bring home.

So, because of all of these things, his Accommodation Plan was set up to help him to succeed despite these challenges. MJ was super intelligent, but in order for him to live up to his full potential and succeed in school, he needed these few directions:

His Plan listed 6 accommodations:

1-To be allowed extra time to complete written work, or cut written work in half, or perform assignments/tests orally if needed.

2-To be cued when invading others' personal space.

3-With the teacher's help to go through his planner at the end of the day and make sure all needed materials for homework are getting in his backpack to go home.

4-Seating closest to the teacher and importance of teacher in using only direct and literal instructions.

5-Allowing him to use graph paper to help better organize work on the written page, especially in math.

6-Having the teacher cue him when talking inappropriately loud or soft, or too fast.

So, anyway, yes, it was a lot to take in, but not that difficult to accommodate. Well, at least I didn't think it was a big deal. Then again, we've been doing this for years.

MJ was coming home from school and he didn't have homework again. He brought home a midterm with all A's, yet a C in English because he wasn't finishing written essay questions on tests in time. He wasn't completing tests or doing certain assignments in school because he was not being told he "had to do them", but only being asked, "why are you not doing this?"

Nothing huge. I just had to email the teacher several times, and at one parent teacher conference I had to remind her that he can't ask a kid with Asperger's why they haven't done something to mean that they are supposed to do it. They will not understand. I was surprised when meeting MJ's math teacher (They had recently placed him with a higher grade math teacher.) that she had not even been told about his Asperger's or shared his 504 plan.

I guess it was just a little frustrating to have to keep reminding them of what was supposed to be taking place. Yes, they were always very very nice and accommodating, so I guess I should be very grateful, but I just thought the whole purpose of this 504 Plan was so things could go a bit smoother. This was life I guess. Always a challenge. I'm sure it will continue to be a challenge. We just keep taking each day a step at a time.