Trust your gut, and don't give up!

Earlier this year, we had many changes to our happy little lives.  Specifically, the kids went from having a full-time nanny, Karla, to attending aftercare since Tyler began school.  Karla was not just a nanny she was, and still is, and important part of our family.  Karla loves our children as much as we do, and has been in our lives since Tyler was born.  Karla experienced some of our highest times, and our lowest times, and we know we can trust her with anything that comes her way.  The transition to school for Tyler, and aftercare for Savannah was rough to say the least.  Tyler cried most of the day, and when I came to pick him up I would often find him with his coat and backpack on, sitting in a chair facing the door waiting for me. Savannah on the other hand, was used to Karla picking her up then transitioning to ABA therapy at home. With the new routine, we requested that the ABA therapists come to aftercare and help with the transition.  Initially, the aftercare program agreed to having the therapists come.  On the second day of school, I came strolling in to pick up the kids and was greeted by the aftercare director.  She asked me to come speak with her in the principal’s office.  The director explained that the school had denied my request to have the therapists there during aftercare.  She kept stating something about the building use policy would not allow for the therapists to provide services after school hours. 

I learned a long time ago, it does not pay to fight back in the heat of the moment.  Also, the messenger usually has no power to change the situation. I thanked the aftercare director and asked who I needed to speak with to resolve the issue.  After many conversations and emails back and forth with the senior leadership at Savannah’s school the answer was still a hard no.  Trusting my gut, I contacted the local advocacy group. (See the resources page to find your local advocacy group).  They provided me with an initial consultation and advice for free. 

While I was busy advocating, I was also taking mental notes every day when I picked Savannah up from school. Many times, she was playing by herself and her homework was not completed.  On two occasions, Savannah was NOT in the aftercare classroom when I came to pick her up.  The first time, there was a substitute in the classroom and Savannah was nowhere to be found. I freaked out!!!!  I ran to the front desk and announced to put the school on lock down.  The assistant director of the aftercare program came with me to locate Savannah. Luckily, we found her in an adjacent classroom within a few minutes.  The second time, was much like the first.  Found a substitute in the classroom and Savannah was not there.  This time I immediately called my husband and notified the director.  After searching the nearby classrooms and the bathrooms, we could not locate Savannah. Dread came over me.  I began ugly crying in the school lobby and threatened the aftercare director with a 911 call if they did not locate Savannah quickly.  The longest 20 minutes of my life passed and we got word over a two-way radio that a teacher had found Savannah. 

That afternoon we met with the principal and the aftercare director to ensure Savannah would be safe during aftercare.  The ultimate solution was to allow the ABA therapists in during aftercare.  Although we took many other steps in between Savannah’s disappearing acts and the final decision, I think her safety ultimately pushed them over the edge.

What does advocating look like for us?  Since Steven and I are very logical, box checking people we approach advocacy in the same fashion.  First, we identify Savannah’s needs, then we request the services. 

For us, the check list looks like this:

Identifying Needs:

  • Have lots of meetings.
  • Ask for progress reports
  • Talk about areas of improvement
  • Talk about areas of strength
  • Talk to other parents
  • Connect with the local advocacy group

Requesting Services:

  • Over request
  • Expect “no”
  • Keep asking
  • Get an advocate
  • Ask a different way
  • Be respectful

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