“Help!”

Lucho has improved incredibly through his rehabilitation since he acquired a traumatic brain injury in 2013. His hyperactivity is his strength because his drive to be mobile exceeds all other tasks he may attempt. He started attending public school this year on a part time basis, allowing him to be counted for attendance and receive his therapies and FAPE (Free Access to Public Education). I drive him to school so that his access to education isn’t taken up in transportation. In his class are other students unique like himself. There are currently nine students in his class when he attends. He started with five classmates. He has one teacher and an assistant in his classroom at all times. Each classmate requires direct attention for feeding, changing, comforting, moving and teaching. His classmates are nonverbal, just like him. If there is a problem, discomfort or seizure, he and his classmates depend upon the attentive eyes of the adults present. There are only two adults present everyday. Occasionally, there are three adults in the room.

Lucho and his classmates use wheelchairs to move around. Many of his classmates can not propel their own chair. Lucho learns and practices propelling his chair according to his immediate wants. Most often he will impulsively move his chair toward his immediate want. Currently, there are nine wheelchairs in a room with a size of 20’x23′. I asked if there is a limit or ratio of teacher to student for the school district. I was told there is not. This means that as more parents with medically fragile students need to work because there isn’t any other means to provide for their child, they will have to enroll their medically fragile child in school. While I am confident in the teacher and her assistant, who has almost thirty years experience, I have concern about the amount of students who may arrive due to economic circumstances and life as it happens.

When I discussed this with friends and family, my husband didn’t seem at all alarmed. He said, “All they have to do is call 911.” I thought on this. Yes, this is true, but given the development of children and my son’s hyperactivity and easy ability toward boredom, this may cause a problem for him and them.

When I picked him up from school the other day, I was informed that he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. He was pinching others. Oooh, I thought. This isn’t good. It’s not fair to the others because they can’t pull away from him. In a regular classroom, he would receive a time out. He did. In a regular classroom, the other children would have moved away from him or told the teacher. His classmates can’t do this.

I have to ask myself is this is fair to anyone? According to ed.gov:

” An “appropriate” component means that this education must be designed to meet the individual educational needs of the student as determined through appropriate evaluation and placement procedures. However, students with disabilities must be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.” <https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/frontpage/pro-students/issues/dis-issue03.html&gt;

I agree with FAPE and its purpose, however, I wish it were clearer by stating a ratio of  student to teacher. I fear that the natural events of the economy and legislature changes with Medicaid and Social Security will cause these small units to swell beyond what is appropriate. I fear that my son may express himself, which may or may not be appropriate because he will show his frustration regardless of what is considered appropriate student behavior.

My fear and concern is for my son’s teacher, who is given more and more students on her class roster. A person can only push two wheelchairs in the event of a fire alarm or a lock-down. If one teacher is given nine students in wheelchairs and one or two assistants to help with student care and teaching, how many students will be left without someone to take them to safety? And will the door already be open?

I hope that the school district will open another unit, rather than over-crowd an already existing medically fragile unit. It’s not FAPE and it’s not fair to over-crowd a classroom of medically fragile children who are in different stages of rehabilitation. How will annual growth happen to my child if he doesn’t have the academic and personal stimulation of a teacher to help him grow? I hope the school and the district will seek to be proactive toward a situation that will continue to grow. Legislators have a way of affecting others without realizing. I hope there will be more medically fragile classrooms within this school district so that medically fragile students can obtain FAPE without risk of neglect.

Under Title II, they have a rights to communication in ” related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.” <https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html&gt;.  While this may mean additional assistants, it should include teachers and communication devices.

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