Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy

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My Special Education Journey from Emotions to Advocacy
by Becky Milton

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Our special education journey started 10 years ago at a small rural county in southeastern Georgia. My son had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at age 5.

In the 2nd grade he was put in a Behavior Modification class for 30 minutes per day and eventually graduated to 60 minutes and 90 minutes. As a result more time was taken away from his regular classes and more time was spent in school suspension and out of school suspension.

I was contacted by his teachers on a daily basis and principals/vice principals at least once a week. Their theory was “His behavior at school is your responsibility”.
Over the next several years, these professionals continued to blame us for my son’s behavior.

We followed their rules and supported their decisions in the process of attempting to determine the reason (s) for his behavior.

I attended every IEP meeting (with the exception of one in which I was not invited) and I was completely available to the district. I listened to their continuous complaints and I punished my son consecutively because of their wishes.

Because my son learned at a very early age how to exaggerate the truth, I believed the teachers/principals/vice principals. I took to him to doctors and paid for testing outside of the district. I noticed the doctors and psychologists raising their eyebrows over incidents that occurred at school. But I continued to believe in the system. After all, I had known most of these professionals for most of my life.

My Son was Slipping Away

Finally, I realized that my son was slipping away from me and my family. He had no friends, no invitations and no life. He hated Attention Deficit Disorder and told me he prayed at night that it would go away. He had a love for the outdoors including fishing and hunting. He was an athlete as well and competed to be the best baseball player with the recreation department.

One day, I picked him up early for a doctor’s appointment. It was at lunch time and his teacher invited me to have lunch with him. As he approached a table with his classmates I followed.

All of a sudden I heard this loud, yelling voice from across the lunchroom. A lady yelled his name out and said “You know you can't sit at that table with the other children, you can't sit there because you can’t leave others alone”.

My son was humiliated as was I. The lady did not realize I was his mother. I turned to her and told her about her bad attitude and rudeness.

Sitting at the Silent Table

She instructed us to sit at the silent table. I could not eat and he could not talk. A student sitting across the table from us asked me if I was my son’s mother and I told him "yes."

He said something to me that will ring in my ears for the rest of my life. He said “Well, I don’t know what he did but it musta been something bad because he has been sitting at this table all year long”.

That day opened my eyes, my ears and my heart for my son. I looked back at the incidents that had occurred during the years. I started realizing the wrongness and injustices that happened at school.

Learning & Asking Questions

I started reading everything I could find on my son’s disability. I called every person in the State of Georgia that had any knowledge of Special Education and Disabilities.

I started sneaking in to my bosses office to get on his computer and the internet. I found Pam and Pete Wright’s website and I printed everything on their site. I read Shannon Carter's story. I cried at the humiliation, shame and embarrassment Shannon experienced. I realized that my son had gone through the very same experiences.

I started to ask questions at every IEP meeting. I tape recorded every meeting. I took friends to the meetings with me. I started to create a paper trail. I organized his file in three 3-ring binders. I kept notes on every conversation I had with school district personnel. I requested copies of every educational record the school had on my son.

By the time he entered the 8th grade, he had been on total shutdown since the 6th grade. I dreaded every IEP meeting. I think the school personnel dreaded them too.

Eighth grade was the greatest nightmare. The teachers hated me. I felt the same about them.

Punishment in the Isolation Room

Three weeks before the end of the year, my son was sent to the “isolation” room for inappropriate behavior. He was there from 10:00 AM. until the end of the day.

When I learned about this new form of punishment, I contacted the principal and asked about the incident and the reasoning behind the decision to punish by putting him in the isolation room. Two weeks later I received papers in the mail from Youth Services indicating that my son had been charged with “criminal trespassing” by the principal.

Graduation day came. I purchased a new outfit for my son. I was determined he would attend because it was his right. My 13 year old son cried and begged me not to make him go to graduation. He said, “Mom, I never want to go back to that school again and I never want to see any of those teachers again in my life.”

After hearing this, I listened to him. We did not attend graduation.

Getting Help - The Comprehensive Evaluation

Through Parents Educating Parents, we were able to get a comprehensive evaluation through the Georgia Center for Disabilities in Atlanta. According to this evaluation, my son has a Speech and Language Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, and a hearing loss in one ear.

His IQ scores have dropped steadily since he entered school. His verbal IQ is now 73 and Performance IQ is 103. He reads on a 3rd grade level, written expression is on a First grade level and comprehension is on a Kindergarten level.

Linda and Kevin have driven nearly 5 hours back and forth from Atlanta to attend two IEP meetings with me and my husband. They have moved mountains.

My son is now 16 years old. He is repeating the 9th grade for the third time. In my opinion, my son was abandoned when he began special education. Sadly, my son is not alone - many schools do not tolerate children who learn differently.

Learning Leads to Empowerment

Through the wonderful people at Wrightslaw, Parents Educating Parents, and COPAA (Council of Parents, Advocates and Attorneys) including Brice Palmer and Sonja Kerr, I learned how to advocate for my son. All that I have learned came from these compassionate, intelligent people. They guided me through the most difficult of times.

Mr. Palmer is my “mentor” and Otis “the wonderdog” has given me great inspiration.

Getting to know and believe in my son has been the most rewarding experience of all.

My son went through humilitiation, shame and embarrassment. Like Shannon Carter, he survived. I am very proud of him and believe he is going to make it.

Advocating for your child is difficult. The “professionals” who work in schools believe you are over-protective. They tell you that it is your fault when your child does not learn - that you are standing in your child’s way.

Today, I say “No ma’am, no sir, IT IS YA’LL THAT ‘S STANDING IN MY CHILD’S WAY”!

Meet Becky Milton

Becky Milton lives in Georgia where she helps other parents advocate for their children.

Do You Have a Success Story?

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