Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. –Colin Powell
Persistent would not have been a word to describe me. Since I became a mom 22 years ago (wow, that’s a long time ago) it has defined me.
Recently I learned that persistence can lead to success.
Last August Middle Miss started community college. During her senior year of high school, we met with the Disability Sevices Office to write her Memorandum of Accommodations (MOA). The MOA is the college version of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
A major difference between the two is an IEP is a legal document and therefore has to be followed by all school personnel. An MOA is not a legal document but merely a ‘suggestion’. Most schools claim professors work with students to grant the accommodations but if there is an issue it is the student’s responsibility to alert Disability Services for assistance.
We met with a Disability Counselor 6 months prior to the beginning of the Fall semester. I was very impressed by the process; it was quick and efficient. We provided the required documentation illustrating how the TBI affects learning new information and accommodations that will assist her. We also presented the current IEP the local school system had in place. The counselor wrote her MOA and included all the accommodations requested with one exception. She did not approve extended time on homework explaining that the school did not permit this particular accommodation. She did approve extra time on class projects, tests, quizzes, and in classroom work. I explained why this accommodation was needed but she still denied it.
We left the meeting pleased since the other accommodations were readily approved. I spoke to Middle Miss and told her we would see how it goes and if this became an issue we would pursue it at that time.
The semester got off to a good start except for her one credit mandatory class. The class was taught at a fast pace as it was only held eight weeks rather than sixteen. Middle Miss began falling behind a few weeks in and she reached out to the professor explaining that due to her disability she needed extra time to complete her work. The professor denied this request and suggested she speak with Disability Services. Middle Miss sent an email, followed up with a phone call, and met with the Disability Services Counselor. The Counselor denied her request for additional time and went on to tell her that she had more accommodations than any other students and asked if she was autistic.
Following this meeting, I became involved. The school refused to speak with me unless they first heard Middle Miss’ verbal permission. This development shocked me as we had Guardianship. The Court determined we could speak on Olivia’s behalf but the school administration refused to honor this.
Our disagreement with the school pursued and we met with the Acting Director of Disability Services, the Dean of Students, and the Program Director. They all refused to approve the accommodation AND would not explain the reason for the denial. I appealed this decision all the way up the administration chain to the President of the school. Again, another denial.
Soon after the President denial, I left a message for a local consumer advocacy group asking if they would do a story on this event. A few months passed and the group contacted me stating they would not take this issue because they only represented consumer complaints. I was a bit surprised by their refusal since I was under the impression that students were consumers. The message suggested I contact the Governor’s Office since there was someone in his office assigned to deal with these complaints.
Concurrently, we had an appointment with Middle Miss’ neurologist and when the doctor asked how school was Middle Miss told her what happened. The doctor was appalled and offered to write a letter in support of the accommodation. I decided to go this route first. The first letter submitted was denied, AGAIN. I sent an email (through Middle Miss’ account) asking why it was denied and what information was needed.
The Counselor responded and I forwarded it to the doctor’s assistant. Another letter was submitted that took the information needed directly from the neuropsychological report we had provided fifteen months ago. Guess what? It was finally approved. The Disability Office had the information all this time if they had only bothered to read the full report.
There were many times during this battle I considered throwing in the towel. I am so glad I didn’t give up and kept fighting for what
Middle Miss needed. She is unable to fully advocate for herself and needs our assistance.
This, as well as many other previous instances, has taught me to fight for what I believe in. I will not always win but I can sleep well knowing I tried.