The SEPRC* was on the top floor of one of the congregated (segregated) schools in Toronto. The room opened and there was a wall of windows behind the committee. Very welcoming. There were only 4 sitting at the table and 4 of us walked in so a bit less intimidating than I imagined.
And it’s finished!!!
Every day I’ve felt that ache that comes with anxiety or drinking too much coffee. Combined it’s been doubly painful. I try deep breathing. I try praying. It dissipates while I sleep and in the first few moments of waking my stomach is calm. When I walk down the stairs in the morning it creeps back in.
On top of the SEPRC (school placement meeting with the TDSB*) we also had the meeting and report from the school psychologist (it was better than I had anticipated), hippotherapy start back up on Monday for the season (yay!) and dental work under anesthetic (yikes!) the day prior to our big (30 minute scheduled) meeting. I’m so glad we were their last one of the day because it went a bit longer and started a bit later.
We started with sharing a video Ali put together of clips of Sebastian and then I passed around an updated version of the student profile with the strengths that the resource room teacher from our home school had failed to complete from the reports she had been given. I think that people who are unfamiliar with kids like Sebastian are unclear on the specifics; such as ‘a clear yes and no for communication’ is definitely a strength and not a need. Sebastian’s school representative then shared his strengths and needs based on the same reports as well as discussion with his teacher. We were asked what kind of placement we wanted for Sebastian and they then shared their recommendation. The two were not the same.
Because Sebastian cannot respond to a standardized test as he communicates differently and cannot physically manipulate objects on his own, finding out his knowledge and understanding is a challenge; especially for people that don’t know him. We like to start at the top, meaning we expect the most of him and we work our way down as needed. Often others start at the bottom and aren’t sure how to work their way up. A couple years ago I saw the film ‘Certain Proof: A Question of Worth.‘ That phrase has stuck with me. We are constantly proving to others what Sebastian Can Do because they assume what he CAN’T and allow it to define him.
Enter the SEPRC. Although Sebastian’s academics are modified through his IEP* he is at grade level (grade 1) with the exception of literacy which is a mix of kindergarten and grade 1, depending on the skill. Though as I mentioned before the way we access his knowledge is very different from a verbal child.
Sebastian loves learning. And he can learn. So I’m going to make sure we continue to nurture and foster those opportunities for him. And that’s why I fight to make sure he’s in the right environment. The problem with the system is that it’s broken. The laws in place say they he should be able to be more integrated than they want to suggest. He needs extra support so they want to put him in a class which is segregated because it allows for optimum support. Because Sebastian relies on others for interactions as his communication is partner assisted, he really benefits from being around both typical and non-typical peers. The funding isn’t there for the maximum support needed in an integrated school setting even though the law says that he has the right to be included.
I believe in inclusion. I also know that Sebastian has a lot of needs. But I believe that it’s possible to accommodate them in an inclusive environment if everyone works together. I know that inclusion only works if the proper supports are in place and if the team working with Sebastian wants to work with him and help him achieve his potential. I do agree that being around others with similar abilities as himself may be necessary when forming an identity (one of the arguments from the committee) but in an ISP* class both could happen. In a DD ISP* class, there would not be integration. The committee argues that because of the current system (and funding) optimum support is put in place for the DD ISP which was their argument over the ISP class. Not only is the DD ISP segregation, it also doesn’t teach the skills that Sebastian is already LEARNING, such as reading and writing. I was not going to leave that meeting signing an agreement for DD ISP. And I didn’t.
They hold the SEPRC so that you feel like you are heard and that you have some impact on where your child goes to school. They tell you that it isn’t set in stone and if the placement they offer and you ultimately accept – after a school visit – isn’t the right fit, you can meet again and change schools. I don’t understand why they think this is a process we would want to continue to repeat or why it is acceptable to move our children from school to school. When we went in there they already knew what they wanted to offer us in terms of a placement. I believe they even had the school in mind. But they do listen and give you the platform you need to share. Whether the next steps occur as they said they would (getting an invite to visit the type of placement we asked for) remains to be seen.
*SEPRC (Special Education Program Placement and Review Committee)
*TDSB (Toronto District School Board)
*IEP (Individual Education Plan)
*ISP (Intensive Support Program for physical disabilities)
*DD ISP (Developmentally Delayed Intensive Support Program)