Donna Eveland 0

For The Sake of Thomas

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First I would love to tell you about Thomas. Thomas is 10 years old and has never met a stranger. If we go anywhere someone is calling out "Hey Thomas!" and I am simply known as Thomas' mom . Anyone who knows him will tell you he is a giving and loving child who worries about pleasing people and just wanting to "fit" in. Now to the hard stuff! At the age of 4 Thomas was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and sensory integration disorder. At the age of 8 the diagnoises of Autism was added. He takes several medications daily to not only regulate his disorder but to regulate liver issues and wieght issues the medications have caused. Anybody that has lived with or loved someone with bi-polar knows what a journey it can be and to add sensory and autism on top of that, and WHEW! Even I cannot imagine being in his shoes and he is mine and I love him and live it with him. Imagine not being able to handle a loud restaurant you love to eat at, or being a child at chucky cheese and you cant handle the noise and lights and have to leave, or not being able to be touched at times because it is too overwhelming. He is a 10 year old living in a world that doesn’t understand a disability it cannot see or control. A life where several offer opinions but few offer help. I know there are other parents and children out there that feel like they are in the same place as us and especially to you I say it is time for things to change for these children. Thomas has attended Trenton Elementary School for 6 years and it has been a difficult journey. Thomas has never been in love with school even though he is an intelligent boy he has struggled from the beginning. The school has also struggled with Thomas in trying to teach him effectively and controlling his behaviors. It has been pounded out for years trying to figure out how to meet Thomas' needs and be able to meet the requirements of the school. Thomas has been in an environment that has overwhelmed him, frustrated him and made him want to escape the situation. No matter what interventions I have allowed with Thomas to have at the school (ESE class, behaviorist of the school, psychologist), Thomas has continued to frustrate to the point acting out in ways that are not safe for Thomas, the students or staff. Thomas is a big boy at 5'3 and 165lb and the school has admitted that they can no longer handle his behaviors. I won’t indulge in the ways they have tried to “control” Thomas’ disability but it is ways that only escalated the situations and have not helped to make Thomas feel safe or gotten the desired results of the of the school by behavior stopping. Thomas does have some very difficult behaviors and acts out but this is due to both his disability and combined with learned behaviors that has been allowed to take place for years. Bi-polar and autism both manifest in behaviors and this is a "symptom" if you will of the disability just as a cough is a "symptom" of a cold. I have received a prior written notice from Trenton Elementary School and Gilchrist County School District stating "The District has considered maintaining Thomas current placement, but his behavior is extremely disruptive and dangerous to other students and staff and, therefore, is not appropriate to maintain" I understand from this that they are no longer able/want to deal with Thomas' disability in the Trenton Elementary School setting. After 6 years of back and forth and with Thomas academics, behavior and mental health not improving I have to agree that Trenton Elementary School is no longer the correct setting for Thomas to be. I have been able to find and have been trying to secure placement in an environment with trained teachers and staff that deal daily with disabilities such as Thomas'. All that lacks is the funding to send him here. This has been proposed to the school that all we are asking from them to fund is him going to this private placement and only that they pay for 2 days a week, milage costs as it is over an hour each way and I am using my own vehicle, and milage cost to therapies the school was providing that I will now have to provide privately. There will be behavioral help at this placement throughout the placement as opposed to the schools ability have a behaviorist only 2x month at additional cost. Thomas had a one-on-one aide as well that will no longer be needed. I do not see how this is not the best situation for Thomas and the school. The funds that will not be used for all the specialized care for Thomas at Trenton Elementary School can be used to put him in a more structured placement that is geared toward his ability. We have had a secure an attorney to try to fight to make this happen for Thomas and I hate that it has come to this point. As late as yesterday we could still not come to an agreement for this to be arranged to happen for Thomas . The fees that are being spent to fight paying for this placement for my son could have already paid for the placement alone. Sorry this is so long of a read but this is just a small version. I am not writing this out of anger or to point fingers because if I were there would be a lot more details. I am simply writing this to bring this issue to light and simply try to get funding approved to help my child succeed academically, socially and mentally after the school themselves pushed for this change.

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