Monday, March 25, 2013

Back to School, part 3- The Price of Help

I know a lot of you followed my ups and downs with my daughter and our journey before and since we had her learning challenge diagnosed. She has worked hard and so have the various people that work with her. Her 3rd grade teacher whom she adores helped her with Math weekly over the summer and she has gone to her twice weekly since school started. She actually does most of the math homework with her. She’s had a reading specialist she has seen weekly since July. Her main teacher has been wonderful and actually has a lot of experience working with children with learning differences. She also sees the resource teacher at school twice a week.

The only special trip we have to make is for the reading specialist. They meet at our public library after school on Tuesdays, the one night she doesn’t have homework. My son and I usually read and play during that time. He’s enjoying learning the letter sounds now.

My daughter actually made the honor roll 2nd quarter. Though her accommodations have been minimal she pulled off a 3.11 GPA. With 5th grade looming, among other things, I started looking into summer camps for children with learning differences. The 5th grade teacher doesn’t have the experiences the 4th grade teacher does and with the additional demands, I want dd armed with more strategies.

For heaven’s sake, these things are outrageous. $2500 for 3 weeks of a half-day camp. $5,000 for 6 weeks-still a half day camp. Now when I went through my school search after the diagnosis I found some schools that provide specialized instruction and found them to be out of my reach financially and that is putting it mildly. There were three I looked at here and the cheapest was $18K per year.

I concluded I couldn’t do public school for a few reasons, the main one being she’d end up spending significant time in therapy just getting the tools to deal with the change. So she stayed at her same school, a small private school she’s always been in, and I had several meetings with the administration to make a plan for her and have had some since adjusting it. Certainly not close to $18K, but not free either. With paying her additional help, I shell out over $800/mo for her education. Then pay another $600/mo for daycare. That daycare bill is cheap in comparison to most, but I get a “multi-child” discount because the daycare and school are under the same system. But after doing that through the school year, there is no way in….

It is little wonder so many people parenting children with learning differences homeschool if they can. I read a blog of one lady who has four Dyslexic boys. It’s interesting because I imagine the summer program is like the one at my daughter’s school and mainly aimed at the parents already using the school. These people are paying (unless they are receiving help) a hefty amount already. But then maybe after spending the entire year in the school, they go to a regular summer camp.

It was just very discouraging, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I researched the programs they use in the summer camps and during the school year and the cost of training and getting educators certified in these programs is anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per person. Then there is the cost of materials, periodic testing, the time put in to make each child's individual plan, etc. They have to push that cost off on the consumer. Still, $5,000?!?!?!?

Eventually I emailed the principle at Chesterbrook Academy. They were the only ones who have a program embedded in a regular school. I toured the school last year and spoke to the teacher dd would have had. Honestly, if I could have afforded the tuition, I would have put my daughter in that school and my son in the preschool down the street from it. I was impressed enough to rearrange everything despite how far out of our way, the campus is located. It is half-day like the others, but a 3-week session at least last summer was about $750, which is paid up front in full at the time of registration. Then the child can spend the rest of each day in the school’s regular summer camp at a discounted price, which last year was $112/week. Oh, and I would have to provide lunch each day. They said the 2013 price would be set in March and I went to their open house and amazingly enough, no increase.  The challenge now is Ariana.  She's digging in her heels to attend her regular camp at her school.  My alternative?  I've asked her math tutor about time this summer and I'll ask her teacher too, who is already preparing her notes on Ariana for the 5th grade teacher.  Now, combing the internet for an appropriate summer curriculum for both children.

This has certainly been an emotional and financial challenge and one of my main challenges is to keep this from defining her, from defining us. I don't want everything to revolve around this, but the way these programs charge you would think that is exactly what is supposed to happen to people. I really want to give dd’s 3rd grade teacher a raise. All she asked was $10/hr and she’s an experienced tutor and former employee of a prominent Learning Center. It will have to wait. I manage to find reasonable things and even free things if I look hard enough, but most everything is really expensive. I won’t even go into the price of some of the software I have found since my mom and stepfather got her a desktop for Christmas. I’m down to one payment on our minivan which I will make this month and I’m hoping to drive it at least 2 more years. So hopefully things will get a little easier.

On top of all that with Ariana, the people the daycare invited to see the children wanted my son for speech therapy. I was less than shocked. When dd was going to speech therapy, I saw plenty of families getting multiple children seen. But, I refused. He wasn’t even three yet. He’s three now and has improved by leaps and bounds, although he still doesn’t say nearly as much at school as he does at home. But his Rs sound like Rs now and his Ls sound like Ls now. Both sounded like Ws before. His THs sound like THs now and they sounded like Fs before. Pointing to a number 3 and asking him what number it was got you: “Fwee” before and it gets you, “three” now. Saying “hello” to him before got you “hu-whoa” before but gets you “hello” now.

We plug on.

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