After several years of my son's elementary school touting progress that I did not believe he was making in either reading or writing, I consulted an attorney to get help understanding my rights as a parent. The attorney, upon reviewing my son's school records and finding basis for my concerns, suggested that I work with an Advocate. The role of the Advocate would be to help lay out an effective process for getting the school to hear me, and then to work within the process in a way that would hold the School Department's feet to the fire in providing a free, appropriate public education for my son.
I went into the process feeling a great deal of guilt for not having understood the kind of help my son really needed in school, and for my failure to get him what he needed in order to learn to read and write. I'm well-educated, I have always been involved in my children's education, and I had even rearranged my work schedule so that I was available every single day to help my son complete homework pages he could not even read. Why hadn't it been enough? What should I have done differently? There were a lot of nights that I spent, lying awake, worried that my son was about to enter Junior High with the ability to read and write at a second grade level.
After interviewing several Advocates at my attorney's suggestion, I decided to work with Buckley because of his ability to listen and communicate with me, and because of the depth of his knowledge of the process we would face going forward. In the six months that Buckley has been assisting me, I have learned things about my son's education that almost make me ill: the amount of "down time" he actually has while receiving special services, the fact that he could not, with his current abilities, actually have earned the standardized test scores that the school kept waving in front of me, and the school's sloppiness in trying process after process after methodology without any factual basis for their choices. A picture showing why my son cannot read and write at any functional level began to emerge very quickly.
Buckley has guided me in using this picture to gain the School Department's cooperation as well as their understanding that I am not going to go away. Their days of telling me what a great kid my son is, what a hard worker he is, and how well he is doing are over. They now know that I know what rights my son has to a free, appropriate public education and what their responsibilities are in providing it. Thanks to Buckley, we are making significant strides in getting my son what he needs in, despite its Norman Rockwell appearance, a very traditional and rigid system. I have learned that it is a system where, historically, the child gets what he or she gets because it is what the school has, as opposed to the child's needs actually being met.
Six months ago, I grappled with how I would pay an Advocate, and whether it would be worth it. It has been the best investment I have ever made. Not only has Buckley helped me get the School Department to pay for the testing my son actually needed in order to determine appropriate services-an enormous cost not covered by my insurance-but he has helped move everyone involved to the same side of my son's problems with reading and writing. What I understand, now, is that the work with Buckley has also minimized the legal fees I would have been facing without him, in trying to get the School Department to help my son. Buckley is very adept at showing me how to hold down the legal and consultative academic costs in having to prove the school's past failures so that my son's future successes are possible.
Sometimes, I still lie awake at night. Now, however, what plays through my mind is hope for my son and gratitude for the team that Buckley has helped me assemble in getting his needs met.
We have strived over the years to get good educational services for our special needs son (who has Down syndrome) on our own with 30-50 % success. The last couple of years were more frustrating than most. We actually found a program which taught our son to read and had trouble getting the school district to fully support it. The school district was seeing the end of our son's tenure and were less and less willing to put money into his education. We were seeing our son's last chance to get substantial remedial reading slip away.
Our son's freshman year we hired a lawyer to go to all the school meetings with us. (This amounted to a large bill, but not much action.) His sophomore year we went through Mediation on our own which ended in a draw and we taught our son at home for the whole year. His junior year we again taught at home and gathered our resources and hired Buckley Hugo from Midcoast Advocacy.
Buckley extensively reviewed our records and coached us on what we should emphasize in our son's IEP Meeting. When there was no positive response from the school district after the IEP, he advised us to hire legal counsel and file for Due Process. We proceeded to a second Mediation much more prepared than we had been for the first backed by Buckley and his sound advice when our words failed us.
There was no comparison between trying to Mediate on our own and Mediating with Buckley at the helm. Our Mediation ended after many hours with a solution that got our son the educational help that he needed and was respectful of the school's resources. Our only regret is that we did not hire Buckley a long time ago.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, learn from our experience and call Midcoast Advocacy sooner than later and let Buckley help you through the educational labyrinth. His charges are moderate and family friendly and his knowledge invaluable. Navigating the Special Education system is a much more pleasurable experience with Buckley as your advocate.