Chapter 11-Walk With Me

Walk With Me-Eleven
By Carol Englehaupt

I have a love-hate relationship with IQ tests falling heavily on the side of hate. Every test Josh took, he flunked. Not because he didn’t understand them but because he couldn’t physically accomplish them.

For young children a lot of the test depends on their ability to follow instructions. Put the round ball in the round hole and the square block in the square hole etc. Josh understood the questions. He wasn’t able to physically accomplish the goals. Because he couldn’t complete the action they wouldn’t give him credit for it.

There weren’t very many times in Josh’s life that I found myself grieving about his disability but I did when I watched him take IQ tests. They seemed so unfair. I thought back to a six month old baby playing peek-a-boo by turning his eyes away from me. That wasn’t the action of a child with a mental disability.

The child who communicated with me with increasingly inventive eye gaze wasn’t a child who was mentally challenged. But because it couldn’t be proved on a piece of paper education opportunities were closed to Josh.

I wish I could remember the name of the man who changed Josh’s life. I’m not even sure what his title was. He was some sort of psychologist but he administered a test that Josh finished with a score in normal range.

That one test allowed Josh to leave Easter Seal and enter the public school system. Again, I have a love-hate relationship with this decision. I was happy that Josh would be in public school. I wasn’t happy to find out the public school was in Joliet, IL.

At age 9 Josh entered Sandburg elementary school in Joliet, Il. I was still driving him and the round trip was ninety miles a day. I don’t honestly remember how I managed it. I still had to make sure Richard got to school, and then I’d head for Joliet.

Josh’s teacher at Sandburg was a wonderful lady. I would have to hunt through his school work to find her name. She believed in Josh. Her energy made both of us feel so good. She decided that Josh’s yes had to change. Every time he would nod his head for yes, his head would drop, and he would have to struggle to raise it back up. She is the person who taught him to look up for yes.

He only attended Sandburg for one year. His second year of public school he attended Merrycrest Elementary. This school was also on the west side of Joliet so our ninety miles a day travel continued.

His teacher at Merrycrest decided he needed an augmentative communication device. We purchased a very nice system but it proved to be frustrating for Josh to use. It would scan the alphabet and he would have to hit a switch with his head to stop the scan. If he missed, he’d have to start all over again. It was slow, and awkward, and he didn’t tolerate it very well. His eye gaze was faster and far less tiring. After trying the device for two years we gave up on it. Several thousand dollars wasted.

His second year at Merrycrest the school system contracted with a bus company. For the first time I was going to let somebody else transport Josh. Again, it was love-hate. I was anxious to have some free time. The downside of busing was Josh had to get on the bus in Streator, IL.

I’d have to look at the map to get the directions but essentially it added about twenty miles a day to his daily travel. This meant really early days. I’d have to ask Richard to be sure but I think he had to get up with Josh and me and ride with us to the bus then I’d drop him off at school after Josh was on the bus.

One year at Sandburg Elementary, two years at Merrycrest Elementary. At the end of the second year at Merrycrest I received a shock. At the end of each school year I attended a meeting referred to as an IEP. I can’t remember the exact words for the acronym but I believe it stands for Individualized Education Plan or something like that.

What it boils down to is all the people involved in planning a child’s education sit down and discuss what’s best for the child. It’s a room full of people. In my naiveté I pictured Josh entering public school at the kindergarten level. I thought he would move through the classes just like other children would. To me, three years at elementary level put him in the second grade moving toward the third.

Suddenly three years in elementary school I’m hearing the words Jr. High. After three years in grade school they were pushing Josh into Jr. High. When I protested I was told that the purpose of placing Josh in the public school system was to be with his peers. Silly me, I thought the purpose was education.

No matter how much I protested, they decided that because of his age he should attend Jr. High. I could tell by their faces that once again I, being only his mother and what did I know, was being blown off. Nothing I could say would convince anybody that my son was bright, attentive, and motivated to learn. They looked at his disability, and didn’t see the bright mind observing, and learning, and taking in everything around him.

While I’m ranting about IEP’s I want to state here, for the record that at every single IEP I attended I requested home district. I didn’t want my child being bused close to 100 miles daily round trip to go to school. I remember the superintendent of our local school district looking at me and actually asking me what I expected them to do for Josh. I answered that I expected him to learn.

I never did, and still don’t, understand why they spent the money busing him so far, hiring an aide for him, and not keeping him in his home district. The amount of money paid out for transportation was huge. The aide had to be paid for regardless of what school he attended. As I blog about Josh’s education I’ll discuss in more depth the problems I had with the system. Of all the problems I dealt with education brings me closest to tears.

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