Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hoping in Circles

This makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

Kids who need help, kids like mine, kids like Karianna's, kids with OFFICIALLY DIAGNOSED medical issues that make it harder for them to learn in traditional schools, are falling through the cracks RIGHT NOW because of this kind of Byzantine bureaucratic nonsense. Educators who know kids will need help to succeed in the classroom are forced to turn children away knowing they need services, or lie about the kids' conditions to get them the help they need.

In the long run, refusing to provide early intervention to children who need it costs public schools— and taxpayers— more money than it would to provide services to every child with a serious motor skills, adaptive skills or social skills delay.

Because small children who have motor delays have trouble mastering skills like paper cutting, and writing. Small children who have adaptive delays have trouble unzipping their jackets, putting their things away in their lockers, or going to the bathroom by themselves. Small children who have social skills delays fail to understand directions, or get into arguments with other children and teachers. Small children facing these challenges who are not receiving any help in learning how to deal with such challenges can find a school environment baffling and frustrating.

And small children who find school baffling and frustrating because they are not getting any treatment for a disorder that is totally beyond their control often turn into pre-teens and teens who HATE school and skip it, or who test below grade level even though they have average or even above intelligence, or who behave disruptively and prevent other kids from learning. When a district refuses to pay for early intervention for a child who needs early intervention, a decade later that district often ends up paying for anti-truancy programs or tutoring programs or increased security at schools.

I seriously doubt Karianna's son Cat will wind up being a truant or a troublemaker. I doubt any such thing will happen with my own son, Isaac, either. Because both of these kids have mothers fighting tooth and nail to help them become successful learners by whatever means necessary, even if that help has to come from outside of the school system. But not every child has parents who have the time or resources to secure other services.

Health insurance companies often refuse to pay for occupational therapy, physical therapy, or psychiatric therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory integration problems, and if insurance companies do pay for these services, they often severely restrict the number of visits a child can have during a year.

Because of the reluctance of health insurance companies to pay for such services, many occupational therapists and physical therapists and development experts who specialize in working with children cannot find steady full-time employment anywhere EXCEPT within the public school system. So even if one has insurance that would pay for such services, it can be very difficult to find a qualified therapist with an opening.

I spent six months searching for a specialist who could treat Isaac. I spend hours each month hacking through red tape to get my insurance company to authorize and reauthorize and rereauthorize his treatment, and the only reason I don't spend DAYS each month doing this is because our family doctor goes out of his way to make a lot of the calls for me. And I consider myself lucky to be able to spend hours arguing with a balky insurance company, because families of kids with developmental disorders often find themselves much worse off.

I understand that public schools are nearly always strapped for cash and makng compromises. But investing in a little extra help early on for kids who need it is actually a proven way to economize in the long run.

So why aren't more schools doing it for more children?


Awesome Mom said...

There is so much waste going on in the public schools. It makes me sad that kids that need programs are getting the short end of the stick and school districts are being administered to death.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what it is. It's so frustrating. Seems it's human nature: we're so busy trying to fix up our mistakes from the past that we don't have time/energy/money to prevent the mistakes of the present/future. Soooo frustrating!

Ruth Dynamite said...

It's criminal, Jaelithe. You are savvy and educated and motivated to fight for what is right. Just think of all those who don't even know where to begin.