I would like to express my appreciation to DisAbility Rights Idaho and especially Dina Flores-Brewer, for their assistance. My foster child has significant social skills and behavioral problems dating to early childhood. I allowed the school to enroll him in the EXCEL program, which was presented as an opportunity for the special attention on social skills he needed. It was quickly apparent that my child’s problems were made worse by how he was treated instead of making them better. Worse still, since he was segregated away from his peers for most of the day, without good role models, he was learning new and different manipulative behaviors from the EXCEL students.
Even though he was not a dangerous child, he was traumatized by being placed in a padded room for minor acting out, was not allowed to be with other children before or after school, and had his backpack searched daily, despite the fact he had not brought anything dangerous to school. It also became clear this was not the temporary placement the school made it out to be. It was at this point that I enlisted the help of DRI.
Other parents who have been through a similar experience know how difficult it is to advocate for their child at school meetings where the “team” consists of 5-6 school officials presenting a coordinated and unified front. If the parent, who is often thought to be “too close to the problem”, disagrees with anything . . . well, the vote seems to always be 6 to 1.
When Dina and my child’s service coordinator started coming to the meetings, the atmosphere changed dramatically. Dina lobbied effectively for my child’s fundamental right to have as normal an education as possible and not merely to be isolated out of sight with other “problem” children. While we have for some time recognized the right to inclusion for children with physical limitations, she helped enforce that right for emotionally challenged children as well.
While my child technically “graduated” from EXCEL program, I am convinced that never would have happened were it not for Dina’s assistance.
*Name changed to protect privacy.