explaining julia

02019AFA-850F-4A69-9573-AF437A3175DEThis is, in part, an email that I sent to Julia’s Computer Art teacher.  She wrote yesterday asking for some guidance on how to work with Julia who has been unskillfully flirting with a few boys in her class, reacting to the boys’ awkward reactions with anger and swearing, and also swearing generally when she is unsatisfied with her work.  The work is learning Adobe Illustrator and learning it according to a teacher’s instructions.

My immediate answer to her query about Julia’s behavior was that I was seeing these behaviors more frequently.  

“Julia is showing interest in boys without the social skills or filters to appropriately flirt.  She is also indulging in swearing and anger.  Some of that behavior is her testing limits in new surroundings and with new teachers, and some is because there are a number of very disruptive kids in her math class and she is copying behavior.  However, Julia can control both the inappropriate flirting and the swearing and anger.  She needs a very firm hand and needs to know, in no uncertain terms, that the behavior will not be allowed in the classroom.  You might say something about how everyone needs to feel safe to learn and create art.  Julia needs to know that if she does not behave, you will ask her to leave the classroom until she can behave.  She likes the class.  She is showing me what she is learning almost every day.  She will not want to leave.” Continue reading

follow up & rugelach


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CCCD0247-5F0D-4278-B8F6-9758819B1B5AAfter two reminder emails to my list of PTB (“Powers That Be”), Julia was picked up this morning in time to get to school on time. Her case manager texted me that her bus was on time and  she was not marked late during first period. I’m holding out for a week before I ‘get off my high horse,’ as my grandma used to say.

However, just because nothing is ever sweet and easy—This morning we went to the door three minutes before her ride has been scheduled to find the bus waiting.  I don’t quite know when it got there and I hadn’t received any word that she would be picked up sooner than her scheduled time.  I really don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth (Barb, lots of horse idiots today!), but it felt that it was just a wee bit passive aggressive to reschedule the pick up without any word to me.  Because the bus has been coming late, we have been going to the door just on time.  If we had this morning, the bus would have probably left.  I’ll swallow this complaint right here, because I know what response I would get.  I’m not even going to add to my thank you that a schedule getting Julia to school on time should have been worked out before school started.   Continue reading

to the PTB



This morning I send this email to everyone who I could think of–teachers, school administrators, district administrators and the bus company (I will modify this email slightly and send it every day to my list of PTB until the issue is resolved.  At last, for Julia that is.):

Good morning,

My daughter, Julia Schanker, is a sophomore at West High School and has been late to school everyday since school began.  

Julia is on the autism spectrum and has an IEP.  This year her IEP specifically states the she be on time to school.  Badger Bus is responsible for getting Julia to school in the morning.  Badger Bus has been late every morning since school has started.  To date, Julia has accrued six (6) tardy reports for first period during the first eight (8) days of school.  (There was no tardy report on the first day of school and I drove her to school one day.)

Last year, Julia was late for school every day until November 13, because Badger Bus was figuring out how to get her to school on time.  In order to get her to school on time last year, I wrote to many of you asking for help.  I am not willing to wait until November this year.

On the first day of school this year, I asked the driver why she was late. Her answer was, “there was traffic on Park Street.” For anyone using Park Street on weekday mornings, traffic is not an unusual occurrence.  This Monday, when I called Badger Bus, Bob the dispatcher, told me, “[t]his is only the fourth day of school.” Today is Friday, the eighth day of school and the bus was late again today. 

Julia’s untimely arrival at school is disturbing on a number of levels.

1. On the personal level, students on the autism spectrum, like Julia, need extra time to prepare for and reach their classrooms.  They need time to settle down in a classroom and they need regularity in their days to have successful days.  Worrying about getting to school, rushing to leave lunch and coat at a locker and racing to a classroom is a recipe for an unproductive day and eventually inappropriate behavior.

2. Legally, transportation is in Julia’s IEP and thus West High School is not in compliance with Julia’s IEP which is protected by the IDEA.  The IEP team also agreed that being on time to school is important for Julia’s education, thus, the district is contractually obligated to get her to school on time.  Finally, Julia is being denied FAPE.

3. School wide, Principal Karen Boran sent a strong letter to the West community last week about  excessive student tardiness.  She has initiated appropriate consequences for excessive and repeated tardiness to classes.  Badger Bus is not in compliance with West High School Policy.

4. Finally, on Tuesday, when I dropped Julia off at West at 8:20 (ten minutes after first period began) there were three Badger Bus vehicles dropping off special ed students.  I saw another vehicle driving up as I pulled away.  At the time, I wondered if tardiness was not a Julia issue but an issue shared by many, many students at West High School who receive Special Education Services and are transported to school by Badger Bus.  Indeed, this idea was confirmed by Bob the dispatcher when I spoke with him later this week.  He told me that he had a pile of complaints from parents and a large number of those complaints were regarding West High School.  

I look forward to hearing back from many of you over the next few days and to addressing this challenge for Julia and for all students receiving special education services quickly and effectively.  

” . . . only the fourth day of school.”



“This is only the fourth day of school,” said the Badger Bus Dispatcher when I called I this morning long after Julia was supposed to be picked up for school.  Bob, the Dispatcher, who seems like a nice enough guy, called the driver who told Bob that he had been outside our house and waited for minutes before taking off at 7:51; however, we were outside sitting on our steps at 7:48 and no one stopped from the time until just after 8:00.  Give or take a few minutes and the possibility that clocks differ, the upshot was that I drove Julia to school and she got there at 8:20.  First period begin at 8:10. Continue reading

1st day 10th grade


Every year, on Julia’s first day of school, I have one glorious, luxurious fantasy.  I take a long hot, deep bubble and salts bath with a glass of prosecco and a few choice pieces of very dark chocolate waiting for me.  Afterwards, I indulge in a massage and facial.  I expect nothing more of myself that day other than to enjoy and revel in the indulgence.  (FYI: I never indulged in such fantasy raising a typical child and working full time. I usually regretted homework free time together, but that was the extend of first day of school musings.) In reality, I am prone to waste the day, dithering in the house, hanging out much too long on the internet, trying to find reasons not to get off the couch and at the same time, pushing myself to mop up after the summer, take care of money matters, correspondence and everything I’ve put aside in favor of whatever was happening with Julia.  That is much closer to what I am doing today. Continue reading

game night


1C2A3A10-1D13-4899-85D3-18518F1F33EFLast weekend of the summer.  School begins Wednesday morning.  Julia’s schedule appears to be set—the elusive second art class has been added and it is ceramics.  She will have ceramics in the morning and her last class of the day will be computer illustration.  In between, she will have Earth Science, English, Choir, pre-Algebra and a guided study hall.  

This getting of classes was an abbreviated battle this year and my advocacy pattern was pretty transparent.  I send very polite and patient emails.  A healthy understanding of budgets and shortfalls. I am answered with a ‘no.’ I pose an alternative with the same response. No, she was closed out of that class, no, meetings are too hard to schedule before school opens, no, change is not possible. I snap . . . ok, I don’t snap; I step back.  I consult with my cabal of special ed moms. Wait a few days.  And write another email.  “Julia needs a second art class. How do we get it?”  I don’t quite see the change in tone but the response comes quickly.  Classes are moved around a bit.  Her Earth Science section is changed (there is no special ed resource person is either section) and she is placed in the ceramics class.  Why that wasn’t offered when I first asked, I do not ask. I take a deep, cleansing breath and send a thank you note. Continue reading

pointing towards a new season




It has taken the entire summer to get Julia journaling on paper.  Previously and for a number of years, she journaled during the school year on her iPad.  My aim for this summer was to get her to write and draw on a page and although there was a lot to write about and draw during our Australian travels, she was not always very happy about doing any of it.  Finally, finally, finally, this week writing and drawing have been done with minimal reminders.  Sometimes it is even choice work. Continue reading




Julia survived cheer camp.  So did I.

From what I heard from the coach and what I gathered from Julia, she did not participate much on Saturday.  She was content to sit on the side and watch.  I have seen her do that before and if such behavior helps her integrate into a new situation, it is a good way to find herself.  It must have been pretty overwhelming with cheer teams from all over doing all those cheery-type things very loudly.  An unfortunate side note, Julia had her phone with her and she spent a lot of the day texting with girls back in Madison.  On one hand, it was good practice, but on the other, I’ve seen this behavior consume all her attention and make her unavailable to do much else. The next day, Sunday, Julia did participate and she said she had a good time.  I don’t think she performed with her team at the end of the camp but she enjoyed what she did. Continue reading

weekend cheer camp



648C01DA-B7E2-4B12-846D-9E51FDA589E2This morning, 6 a.m., I dropped her off at school and she climbed onto a yellow bus filled with enthusiastic, yet somewhat drowsy cheerleaders each with identical shorts and tee shirts. Cheer camp weekend! The team will arrive at a high school a few towns over before 8, register and begin their very scheduled day at 9. Warm ups, chant class, dance class, stunt class, jump class, private coaching, cheer class and evaluation until 9:30 p.m., to be repeated tomorrow until they board the bus again at 9:00 p.m.  In between, they will sleep on the gym floor.

Probably while she was still on the bus, Julia texted me to say “hi” and after I responded and said, “love you,” she wrote “love you too mom.”

But that was hours ago . . . . Continue reading



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2DFCC1F8-2043-4F4C-BC90-7972F03E9CD0Home three days and although I repeat that I am emerging from the fog, I underestimate the strength of the body to hold on to the time zone it woke up in.  Our sleep is topsy turvy and  I am knackered (British for exhausted with an onomatopoeic flare describing me rather perfectly right now.).  

The practice must be patience.

Wednesday, our travel day, was smooth but when I first woke up on Thursday, I could not make sense of the entirety of what was Wednesday. Indeed, we boarded a plane at noon in Sydney, flew for 18 hours to arrive in Madison at 5 in the afternoon.  We slept some, watched too many movies and ate too often.  About six hours before we were to land, we were served a major “snack.” I thought it was breakfast when the crew member woke me up. I woke Julia up and then realized our remaining time.  Had I some presence of mind I would have refused the snack and slept.  Continue reading