8 Ways to Avoid Trouble with Medical and Educational Professionals
By Tom and Sherry Bushnell
NATHHAN Disclaimer: Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. If you need legal assistance, contact a competent attorney. We cannot legally advise you here at the NATHHAN office.
The first week of September is notorious at the NATHHAN office.
While many homeschoolers are starting a fresh and invigorating year teaching their children, others are fighting court and custody battles with their State's Child Protective Services.
In talking with numerous families each year, we have noticed some common themes in these encounters. Our hope here is to share some of the common things we see, so that others may take heed and avoid the trauma others have had to go through.
1. It is imperative, if you are a Biblical Christian home, that you take each and every decision to the Lord BEFORE you act. If you do not get an answer from the Lord, procrastinate.
Be in agreement as BOTH husband and wife. If one has a check in their heart, wait. Do not proceed. Prayer is the most valuable safety tool a Biblical Christian home can implement.
2. The father (husband ) must be involved in homeschooling his children. This is for the entire families protection. He is the home's best buffer against the curious, state officials and medical personal that would question the families educational choices. Husbands need to treat their wives as the weaker vessel.
3. Join HSLDA. The Home School Legal Defense Association is only ($100.00 per year, $85.00 for NATHHAN members.) Families call NATHHAN who have waited until the real trouble is upon them in the form of threatening school officials, before sending in their application to HSLDA. This is like calling an insurance company when their house is
presently on fire. #9;
Many of these unfortunate situations could have been nipped in the bud if precautions were taken ahead of time. If HSLDA will not accept your application, it is important to follow these precautions listed as the Lord leads you, as a husband and wife team, when homeschooling your children.
4. All of us become weary and have brick walls in progress when working with our special needs children. Irritating behaviors can be stressful. Aggressive behaviors can be frightening. Under any circumstances, if you are a dedicated Christian home and believe in Godly child training principles, do not contact your local social services agency. They do
have numerous attractive programs, among them respite care, day care, free medical services, paid for by tax dollars, but George Washington once said, "Government is not eloquence nor reason, but force." This is a true statement. The only solution the government authorities can offer is force, not compassion. Nearly every time a mother calls and has trouble with social services, she is the one who called them first.
Normal steps of events are: the state comes into the home and has the child and situation evaluated, usually this takes 14-30 days, during which time the child may be removed from the home, either during the day or in some case a temporary foster care situation. (We were talking with a guardian ad lidum the other day from the state of Minnesota. She had the child totally removed from the home for 30 days, and when the mother complained the guardian said, "Hey, you contacted us because of the behavior problems of your child, what do you expect!") After an evaluation period, the social worker lets you know their decision in the matter. At best, parents can count on advice to send their child to public school and a thorough review of which government programs they, as a family, qualify for. At worst the child will be removed from the home.
If parents do not agree with the decision made by the social worker, they can request a mediation. The social services mediation meeting generally goes something like this:
The agency worker tells the parent just what they told them before. The parent objects and the state worker responds with, "Fine, we'll see you in court."
At the court hearing, the administrator usually puts much weight on the findings of the psychologist who did the testing as well as the guardian ad lidum (the social worker who was asked to tell what the government is going to do to "help" the family.)
If it sounds like we are trying to discourage you from going to the state for help, you are right!! We have some better solutions we hope you try first. A. Start with the husband's (father's) suggestions for the situation. He may have some very good ideas that may be from the Lord. (Even if he is not saved.)
B. Reach out to extended family. They may be aching with you and very willing to help in some way. This may mean "burying the hatchet" or humbling ourselves and asking forgiveness if we are at odds with our extended family.
C. The local church you attend may have a family that can provide respite care. Often our polished outward appearance on Sunday, does not give away our desperate inside feelings during the week. They may not even know you need help.
D. Try suggestions from others homeschooling special needs children. A good resource for finding a Christian family to communicate with, is the NATHHAN Family Directory.
E. Homeschool friendly professionals are out there. These may take some digging to come up with. Use the phone book. Call around in your area, talk with other homeschooling moms.
5. Testing. Do not go to your local government school for evaluations and testing. If you have private alternatives - even if they cost more, you are ahead in the long run. A local school, legally, must give the services and testing you request. But let's be logical, if they spend time and funds testing your child, they will want some reciprocation to be sure they get paid. Just like any other government agency, their findings will reflect which of their programs your child qualifies for. They then fill out an IEP and send it in, ultimately to the federal government for payment of services they did for "free" for you.
Testing children privately, for needs other than life threatening medical needs, is a matter of preference. Many families choose not to "label" their learning disabled child because the remediation is basically the same...what ever works best. A parent can learn which symptoms their child is approximating and use those remediation suggestions and trial and error until they find which way works best. Placement testing is easy for parents who take the time to educate themselves.
If you think your child has behavior, ADD, hyperactivity, autism or other non-life-threatening behavior troubles, think twice before testing your child.
What is our true motivation for testing?
Is this label for the child's benefit or ours?
How will this help our family?
Can we safely procrastinate?
Here are some Professionals that are homeschool friendly:
Dr. Paul White
Prarie View East
2939 N. Rock Rd. Ste. 100
Wichita, KS 67226
Dr. Dale Simpson
Family Life Counseling SEvice.
3600 NW 43rd St. Sts. E3
Gainsville, FL 32606
The Learning Place
540 Ida Court
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056
(847) 222 - 1857
Dr. David Lanier
1303 W. LExington
Windchster, KY 40391
6. Keep records. Comply with your state's requirements as much as you are morally able. If you are opposed to testing, or if your child has a disability that makes it very hard to test them, keep an accurate journal. This is very important. Keep a daily record of what has been acomp-lished and any progress seen. Use pictures if explaining things are hard for you. If your state requires an IEP (Individual Educational Program) make one privately and do a good job. Keep examples of your child's work. Take pictures of your child's therapy progress. Keep it organized. This way, if you ever are approached about testing or your child fails one of their tests, you can show them progress with confidence. For more information on making your own IEP. CLICK HERE
7.. When a situation does arise and you are questioned about your child's education, medical or therapy needs, and you have chosen a different way than the norm, BE CONFIDENT in your choice.
Very few parents that are independent minded and verbally, concisely, confident are hassled. By and large only parents who make the mistake of waffling or belying their fears or incompetence are hassled by professionals. It may be true that you are frustrated or do not know where to turn in education next, but all of us reach plateaus and dead ends. These are starting points. It is up to us to educate ourselves, not beg for someone to hold our hands. Unfortunately, for a lot of parents, they get help, but the "helper" won't let go! #9;
It is a parental attitude of confidence that puts professionals at ease. They feel it is their job to evaluate you, especially if you have come to them for help. When you tell them you are failing, they believe you and naturaly want to do something for your child's sake.
If you are choosing to homeschool, practice preventive medicine at home, or do home physical or occupational therapy, you had better know what you are doing, and document that you are competent..
8. This important detail must not be over looked.
Do not talk too much.
When filling our forms, such as your local school district's letter of intent to homeschool, know what information is actually required and which is extra being squeezed out of you. Just because a form asks you a question, does not mean you must legally answer it. The same applies in a doctor's office. Beware of initial registration forms meant to catch those of us who are ignorant and simple. Those parents who tell too much are sitting ducks for a state's social service inquiry.
When talking to teachers, doctors, therapist and other professionals, even folks on the street, be very careful what you say, who you complain about and what you express, even how you express yourself to your children in public!
Use wisdom when disciplining away from home. When a conversation comes up regarding discipline, use ambiguous phrases such as, Biblical discipline, loving, consistent punishment and creative consequences. Do not use terms such as spanking, use of the rod or stick, or any other implement including your hand. Keep clam, Sam and you will stay out of the soup!
When you are in a situation where you must withdraw from a government or even a private professional's program you are not happy with, ALWAYS be calm, confident, and, with a smile on your face, be thankful. A soft answer turns away wrath. State simply, that you have found a private program that suits your child to a "T" and you are very happy with the progress you are seeing.
Thank them for their input and help thus far. Do not belittle them, anyone on staff, or their program in any way. Do not express frustration at them, even though you feel they deserve a piece of your mind! It is better to leave on good terms. JUST LET GO AND GENERALLY THEY WILL LET YOU GO TOO!
While nightmares do happen, many of them can just become a short bad dream if we use some common sense. Study what the Bible says about being prudent, quiet, keeper at home and not talking too much.
Pray for safety. Pray for wisdom.
Use the in-place safety net of a husband who would probably love to protect his family if the wife and children would let him.
Join HSLDA if you are financially able. Even if you do not foresee evil, you can be confident you are assisting families who are being hassled.
Do not contact the state for help. They do not have a Christian perspective and will not understand your choices in homeschooling, or temporary need for respite. (Until you can gain more strength from the LORD????)
If you choose to test your child, choose your professional carefully. If you do not agree with the test results, try to get a second opinion. Any processional worth his salt will understand. If the insurance company doesn't understand, know this ahead of time and factor it into your decision to test in the first place.
Be diligent in keeping a journal or IEP. Do not let laziness steal away your best protection. Doing nothing can be worse than a wrong choice.
Be confident in what you are doing to help your child reach his or her potential. Educate your self. Take the time to review all possibilities of remediation. Know terminology pertaining to your child's disability. Be familiar with what the professionals are using.
When speaking with professionals, do not assume they can look into your head and read exactly what you know. They will assume you know nothing, unless you lead them to believe otherwise.
Do not talk too much. Do not give information away that can lead to further conversation dealing with how things are "going at home." Professionals are trained to ask leading questions that can put you in a turmoil if you are not prepared. Know why you are homeschooling. Know what you are doing and how to very quickly give a confident answer. Do not be chatty with anyone you do not know. Do not share your frustrations with ANY stranger.
Learn to look and act confident about what God has asked you to do. Spend time at home preparing your children for those who would question them, if you plan to spend time in the community, subjecting them to the curious. Do not leave your children stammering and blushing. Prepare them to look to you if they are unsure of how to answer a stranger. Teach them to say, "You'll have to talk to my parents about that."
Save your fuming at professionals for the bedroom with your husband. Don't traumatize your children with your frustration. An angry person looks incompetent. They look out of control, which is exactly how you do not want to look. It is better to just state your private education, therapy, or medical decision, smile and wave goodbye. To not get lead into a argument or succumb to statements that insult you as a parent or your ability to do the job. It is better to smile, take your punches with grace and get out quick.
We hope you will benefit from these suggestions. Many NATHHAN parents have sent in letters, hoping you will escape any similar trouble they endured by telling you how they goofed.
May God bless you in all your decisions, as you continue to seek His guidance.