10) Other health-impairment means having limited strength, vitality or alertness, including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli, that results in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment, that is due to chronic or acute health problems, including but not limited to a heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, diabetes, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Tourette syndrome, which adversely affects a student's educational performance.
including but not limited to. Five words that are at the heart of a big issue.
When we moved into this new school district back in May, Kiddo had an IEP in place which classified her as a student with a disability, Other Health Impaired. The paragraph at the beginning of this post, taken from the state IEP guidelines, is the one that describes how a child can be classified as "other health impaired" and therefore receive services through an IEP.
(Side note, because I'm angry and bitter right now: I cannot begin to tell you how many people, including several people that work for this school district, have told us how lucky we are to be in this school district and how grateful we should be for being able to partake of this wondrous, super-awesome school district. I can't italicize enough to convey the tone with which I type this, but suffice it to say I am not feeling particularly lucky or grateful right now.)
Kiddo's old school district classified her as "Other Health Impaired" for her SPD because there is no specific category for SPD as a classifying disability. (Things like autism, deafness, emotional disturbance, learning disability, visual impairment and so on all count as their own qualifier. OHI is meant to catch the rest of the disabilities that do not have their own qualifying category.) The old school district read that paragraph that stipulates what counts as OHI and chose to include SPD because of those five words "including but not limited to" and all was well. Kiddo was granted the services she needed to succeed in the classroom, most importantly the aide to provide her sensory diet. (Yes, yes, getting the old school district to follow through and be in compliance with the IEP was a major battle, but at least we had the plan written and signed.)
The new school district? The one that is so awesome and the one that we are so damn lucky to be in now and for which we should be so grateful? They are choosing to ignore those five words. To disregard them completely. They have stated in no uncertain terms their intention to declassify Kiddo and therefore discontinue her services and IEP at the next CSE meeting on December 3rd. They say that SPD doesn't "count" as a qualifying disability, because it doesn't appear in that list. Furthermore, SPD isn't yet included in the DSM, so they say that means they don't have to count it.
But, but, but........ they really do. They do because of those five words. "including but not limited to" means that they can't limit what counts. That's our position, anyhow, and we plan to fight. Kiddo's SPD is a chronic health impairment. It does result in a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli. It does impact her ability to function and succeed in the classroom.
There are alternatives to the IEP. Implementing a 504 plan has been suggested. Not just suggested, but hailed as the shining beacon of perfection that will be the savior of all this mess. Except... a 504 plan doesn't give a child an aide. Aides (or "paraprofessionals" as this district calls them) are only available through an IEP.
Like that? Like how they're telling us we can have the plan that doesn't guarantee the services she needs, but that she doesn't qualify for the plan that does guarantee the services she needs, and yet they acknowledge that those are, in fact, the services she needs all at the same time?
Kiddo is smart. She's extremely capable of learning in a general education classroom setting and has consistently worked at and usually above grade level. She's a happy kid, well adjusted and with good self esteem and lots of self confidence. She has many friends. She is well liked by her peers. She enjoys school greatly.
If the CSE pulls her services and removes her aide and her sensory diet, that will all change. Kiddo will not be able to succeed in the classroom. She won't be able to focus adequately if her sensory system is disregulated, which it will be if she doesn't have the support in place. She will fail. She will suffer. She will lose friends, self confidence and self esteem. (We've seen it happen before, at the first preschool Kiddo attended. It took time to get her back to normal, to have an unstressed, happy kid, and that was preschool. These are much bigger stakes now that she's older.) We've been told that if (or really, when) that comes to pass and Kiddo fails, we could then go back to the CSE and say "See? She's failing!" and then maybe they'd be more amenable to giving her an IEP and reinstating the services they took away. Hubby and I do not intend to let it get to that point.
I think I need to go bang my head against my old friend the brick wall.
The CSE team wants us to agree to declassify Kiddo and to pursue the 504 plan. They're promising to give their best effort to arrange for services as best they can through the resources available at the school. (In other words: no guaranteed aide who has been trained in how to meet Kiddo's needs and supply the necessary sensory support as demanded at any given time.) We have said that this is not good enough. Not acceptable. We say Kiddo needs an aide. (They don't disagree, you'll recall.) They say that to have an aide requires an IEP, which they say Kiddo doesn't qualify for - unless, of course, we can come up with another diagnosis for her that would automatically qualify, like ADHD, in the next two weeks and show sufficient documentation to support that other diagnosis.
Oh yeah, you can bet we're going to fight this. Tooth and nail. We've already contacted a special education advocacy agency and are going to be strategizing like mad. We're also considering our route of due process in terms of appeals, mediation, hearings. We will fight this, because Kiddo needs the aide for her sensory diet. The thing that kills me is that no one, not a single person on the CSE, says otherwise. They all seem to be in complete agreement that she needs the aide, they just say she doesn't qualify.
We've got five words that say otherwise. I just hope we win.