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The Truth About Special Education in Texas, Y’all

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We’ve all seen the lists of things that other parents or family members shouldn’t say to an autism parent.  In light of the fact that I’ve had four IEP meetings this year, I thought I’d put together a list of things that school personnel shouldn’t say to an autism parent, based on my experience this year.

I’ve culled these little pearls from prior IEP meetings.  The most recent meeting this week was when we finally reached agreement on all of the issues.  Although they emphatically will not put into writing that his recess time is protected (because the “district will no allow it”), we’ve managed to add a number of behaviors to the BIP to prevent any interruption to recess.

1.  “We use positive behavior support, unless we think it’s a ‘typical’ behavior, then we will punish.”

Listen up.  If you are autistic, then all of your behavior comes from being autistic.  You can’t separate the person from the autism.  Everything the child says or does is through the lens of autism.  EVERYTHING.  Making this kind of statement tells me that you do not have a firm grasp on what autism is, or what it means to have a disability.

2.  “We’re trying to help him to be more like the other children.”

You just told Connor and me that he is not good enough or valued as he is.  You’re saying that he needs to “blend” in order to be valued.  It’s extremely insulting, as well as being detrimental to his self-esteem. 

3.  “We want to discourage him from wearing the noise-reducing ear muffs during assemblies, because in the real world it would be odd to walk around wearing them.”  (this was said in kindergarten)

Bitch, please.  If my child needs those ear muffs during assemblies because the noise is too much for him, then he WILL wear them.  You will not dictate what accommodations he needs.  Nor will you burden him with your “real world” concerns, especially when he’s just in kindergarten.  His ear muffs are no different than a cane or wheelchair.  Shame on you, for making your own prejudice painfully obvious.

4.  “He isn’t eligible for ESY because he has not demonstrated a regression in skills that can’t be recovered in six weeks.”

No, that is not the only criteria for ESY.  Although each state has their own rules and legal criteria, the following excerpt is from IDEA regs:

S. 300.106 Extended school year services.

(a) general

(1) Each public agency must ensure that extended school year are available as necessary to provide FAPE, consistent with paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(2) Extended school year services must be provided only if a child’s IEP team determines, on an individual basis, in accordance with S300.320 through 300.324, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the child.

(3) In implementing the requirements of this section, a public agency may not —

i. Limit extended school year services to particular categories of disability; or

ii. Unilaterally limit the type, amount or duration of those services.

Do your research, and consult an advocate, if necessary, if you feel your child needs ESY and you are being denied, like we were.  We will be getting ESY this summer.

5.  “He knows what the rules are, he just chooses not to follow them sometimes.”

Yes, it’s called ‘autism’!  See, knowing what the rules are if asked and not being able to control your impulses are things that work in opposition to each other.  It’s not a purposeful, willful choice, it’s a lack of impulse control.  It will take him much longer to develop that impulse control.  Why not set up something he can earn for following that particular rule?

Lest anyone think they can sully my good name by insinuating that I’m not being truthful, or may be exaggerating,  I’m attaching a picture of part of a page of the IEP – the declarations page, which summarizes the conversation that took place during the meeting.


And this, my friends, is what special education looks like in Texas.  At least, in the Pflugerville ISD.  Texas falls at the bottom of the country for special education funding.  More than that, it lags behind in terms of disability understanding and awareness.  While many states forge ahead with respecting autism and other disabilities, and teaching to the student’s strengths, Texas still lives in a world where it’s considered appropriate for staff to say that the student needs to fit in and be like the other students.  THE STUDENT WITH THE DISABILITY MUST FORCE THEMSELVES TO BE LIKE THE OTHER CHILDREN, THE CHILDREN THAT DON’T HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS AND CHALLENGES.

Fuck you, Texas.

Systems don’t change overnight, so we soldier on.  The thing that helped drive us toward agreement was the fact that I employed a very tough advocate.  Although it was costly, it was well worth it.

And THIS is why I blog.


About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

27 responses »

  1. Autism Mom Praying In The Storm

    We had to fight our way through the school system, and my son is in his 20’s. He wears hunting style ear muffs in church now and I think some noises have become more sensitive to him. We were able to have ESY, an Aide, he stayed in our normal after school program and they started a self-contained class while we were there. I’m glad we did this, not so much for my son but those who come after. Look for support to go with you. My hubby always went and at times, we had others. Some states have Protection and Advocacy when the school will not fund what they should – according to the situation. The school suddenly saw the light on several occasions, especially concerning an aide, and these services are free. God bless and best wishes. You have to work with the school but advocate for your child at the same time, a balancing act always. But God is all about balance, right?

  2. It’s actually the same way in California. At least outside Sacramento where I am. We get told all the time how my son needs to be more like the typical kids. And not only that but his report card is lower in the exact area whee his disability lies. Independent work and oral communication skills are marked below average. Would you give a student in a wheelchair below average in PE?! It’s ignorance & prejudice combined and Texas, my dear, is not alone.

  3. Yikes. I am constantly confused by my experiences, how we as a society try to get everyone to fit into the “norm” yet idolize people (far from us) who are different. WTF. Thanks for the post.

  4. You go girl! I always say we never knew in having Boo that not only did we have to be parents but advocates, therapits, researchers and sometimes Doctor. And I so hope that the Bitch, please was said out loud and not just in your head!!

  5. We have had the exact. same. conversations here in Ohio too. I was once told that LM would not be given access to sensory items (like a fidget) because the school did not want to get her used to using supports that were not typical in the classroom (fidgets are now written into her IEP). Little Miss has lost her entire recess for behaviors she could not control ( and we were told the exact. same. thing about ESY ( — we did eventually get it.

    The whole system is so effing backward that it’s insane. Would they make the star quarterback prove he needs a helmet? Then why is my daughter any different?

    • I am also in Ohio and feel like it is the town that time forgot! So so bad and I know it “ain’t” just us. As a former teacher it makes me sick that they are so clueless and content to stay that way. I could go on…….

  6. PERFECTION. You know, I didn’t know that there were other qualifications for ESY until this post?! And we’re about to fight for it for Abby. Thank you, friend.

  7. fuck Texas. Yeah. i said it. WHATTYAGONNADOABOUTITREDNECKS?

    and if someone tried to take Ben’s headphones away, i might have to cut a bitch.

  8. Holy Shitballs!!!!!! “This helps Connor appear to be like all of the other children.” Are you bleeping kidding me? Hey Texas! Get your shit together!

  9. My husband says #5 all.the.time. I die a little inside every time I hear those words come from his mouth.

    I’ve lived all over the place, and I think that every district tries to provide as little as possible. It costs money, it’s inconvenient, there’s paperwork to do…whatever, they all try to strip out supports and accommodations that seem to help.

    My son attends a self-contained program for kids on the spectrum. It is a pleasure dealing with them – it is the first time that my requests have not been called into question. I still have shitty district stuff, but the school is wonderful.

  10. Oh yes…it’s similar BS in NYC. The public school system for kids with autism pretty much sucks. I remember when Norrin was in Kindergarten, the first month of school the Asst Principal told me “It doesn’t matter if he has a disability, he will need to be held accountable” when Norrin tripped walking down the stairs and pushed a kid.

  11. We are so fortunate that, for the most part, the special ed staff who work with my sons really get it and we don’t have to fight for much. Reading this infuriates me, though. We do have to soldier on!!!

  12. Fit in??
    I wonder where our world would be right now if those brilliant minds who developed things like computers, life saving medications, space exploration and such were forced to fit in.
    Screw fitting in. It’s overrated garbage. We owe our lives to those who didn’t fit in as children. They grew up to be out of the box thinkers. The world needs MORE of those, not less.
    And what has Texas produced? The Bush family. Nuff said. Come live near me (though there is similar BS in my state as well).

  13. I officially proclaim your new persona, “Ninja Flan”. The color of eye mask you choose is completely up to your discretion. Anyone who has to sit through IEPs like that could be nothing less. You amaze me.

  14. Wow. Just…wow. I’ve gone through similar discussions, but ironically it’s not been with the school system but with private therapists (we’re looking for new ones now). Making him “be like the other children”? Punishment for behaviors they see as “typical”? Everything with regards to an autistic child – including behavior management – should be looked at through that lens. And conformity? Way overrated…

    For what it’s worth, my kiddo (he’s 4) is getting ESY for the second year in a row this year. This year it’s for regression and retention. Last year, it was because he was at a “critical point of learning”. He had only been in school for 7 weeks prior to the end of the school year, but because he had an IEP goal for feeding that was due in October, he got ESY (still didn’t make the goal, though).

  15. RECESS is a CIVIL RIGHT – it can and should be written into his IEP, if it is taken away on a regular basis call OCR and file a complaint —
    For assistance related to civil rights, you may contact the OCR headquarters office in Washington D.C. or the OCR enforcement office serving your state or territory. Contact the enforcement offices if you wish to file a complaint (or use our online complaint form) or if you need technical assistance on a problem or assistance to prevent civil rights problems. Contact the OCR headquarters office if you have a question on national policy, to make a Freedom of Information request for information that is national in scope, or to request publications or other assistance that is not available online.

    We encourage students and parents, representatives of education institutions, and other OCR customers to use e-mail or fax to communicate with OCR when possible. For those without current e-mail accounts, Internet access may be freely available from your local public library, and free e-mail accounts are available from several large providers. Fax numbers and email addresses for each OCR office are provided below.

    To locate the enforcement office serving your area select the state or territory where you live.

  16. 34 C.F.R. Part 104





    104.34 Educational setting.

    (a) Academic setting. A recipient to which this subpart applies shall educate, or shall provide for the education of, each qualified handicapped person in its jurisdiction with persons who are not handicapped to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the handicapped person. A recipient shall place a handicapped person in the regular educational environment operated by the recipient unless it is demonstrated by the recipient that the education of the person in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Whenever a recipient places a person in a setting other than the regular educational environment pursuant to this paragraph, it shall take into account the proximity of the alternate setting to the person’s home.

    (b) Nonacademic settings. In providing or arranging for the provision of nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, including meals, recess periods, and the services and activities set forth in 104.37(a)(2), a recipient shall ensure that handicapped persons participate with nonhandicapped persons in such activities and services to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the handicapped person in question.

    (c) Comparable facilities. If a recipient, in compliance with paragraph (a) of this section, operates a facility that is identifiable as being for handicapped persons, the recipient shall ensure that the facility and the services and activities provided therein are comparable to the other facilities, services, and activities of the recipient.

  17. Dear Colleague Letter

    January 25, 2013

    Dear Colleague:

    Extracurricular athletics—which include club, intramural, or interscholastic (e.g., freshman, junior varsity, varsity) athletics at all education levels—are an important component of an overall education program. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that underscored that access to, and participation in, extracurricular athletic opportunities provide important health and social benefits to all students, particularly those with disabilities.1 These benefits can include socialization, improved teamwork and leadership skills, and fitness. Unfortunately, the GAO found that students with disabilities are not being afforded an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics in public elementary and secondary schools.2

    To ensure that students with disabilities consistently have opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics equal to those of other students, the GAO recommended that the United States Department of Education (Department) clarify and communicate schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) regarding the provision of extracurricular athletics. The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing Section 504, which is a Federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities (including traditional public schools and charter schools) that receive Federal financial assistance.3

    In response to the GAO’s recommendation, this guidance provides an overview of the obligations of public elementary and secondary schools under Section 504 and the Department’s Section 504 regulations, cautions against making decisions based on presumptions and stereotypes, details the specific Section 504 regulations that require students with disabilities to have an equal opportunity for participation in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities, and discusses the provision of separate or different athletic opportunities. The specific details of the illustrative examples offered in this guidance are focused on the elementary and secondary school context. Nonetheless, students with disabilities at the postsecondary level must also be provided an equal opportunity to participate in athletics, including intercollegiate, club, and intramural athletics.4

    see more at

    Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide assistance in your efforts to address this issue or if you have other civil rights concerns. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that students with disabilities receive an equal opportunity to participate in a school district’s education program.

    Seth M. Galanter
    Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

  18. indistinguishability…sigh

  19. Texas sounds just as bad as Arizona. New York was much, much better. I actually got things I hadn’t even thought to ask for in New York, then fought with the school district here when I got back. I eventually won, but come on, wouldn’t it just be easier to do things right in the first place? They lied, they refused to follow accommodations, then the stupid, stupid principal kept contradicting herself in emails. Actually, I just filed a report with the OCR(I’m moving in 15 days, so it’s not like it’ll help me, but I wanted them to scrutinize the school district and teach them that 504 plans and IEPs are things that actually have to be followed–this after the last blatant refusal to follow an accommodation).

  20. America you are not alone….it is the same struggle over here in the UK. There is a fundamental lack of understanding on autism spectrum disorders. I don’t want my son to ‘conform to the norm’ i want his differences embraced and accepted. Life would be very boring if we were all the same.
    Fuck you, Texas

  21. OMG I think I am gonna cry. We are in the Hill Country fixing to go into mediation with the school because they cannot figure out how to accommodate my daughter’s disabilities. Then they forged the IEP to justify the removal of services for her. And they law says you can go to private school? Not one private school in our area takes kids with special needs. So the law is a lie. Special needs kids are locked into failing public schools. I thought being in a small school district in a small town in the Hill Country would be a good thing. It is not. They are just as bad. The law does not protect the kids. The law protects the school.

  22. Melissa Williamson

    My mom’s friend is having trouble with PISD right now. Her autistic daughter started not wanting to go to school…. her mom asked her why and she said because her “teacher pushes her to move”

    The principal wont do anything about it. PiSD said there were steps she needed to take before she was able to talk to the anyone else.

    Advice? Suggestions?

    This is the second school in PISD that she’s having to deal with mistreating her daughter.


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