I want to share our very negative (and, frankly, infuriating) experience with Jennifer B. Our high-functioning autistic first grader is scheduled to start a five-week summer camp starting in July, and we knew that he would require a skilled aide (posing as a counselor) to function well in that setting. We had longstanding plans to be away the entire month of June. I spent dozens of hours in May interviewing...
I want to share our very negative (and, frankly, infuriating) experience with Jennifer B. Our high-functioning autistic first grader is scheduled to start a five-week summer camp starting in July, and we knew that he would require a skilled aide (posing as a counselor) to function well in that setting. We had longstanding plans to be away the entire month of June. I spent dozens of hours in May interviewing over a dozen candidates for the position, including Jennifer B. I ultimately decided to offer her the position based on her significant experience working with autistic kids both as a teacher and a school psychologist, advanced academic training, three solid written references (I followed up with each of them by phone), and professed commitment to helping kids and families with special needs.
My concern from the start was that she was in the midst of relocating from Utah to the Bay Area and her goal clearly was to find a permanent, full-time teaching job. She insisted, however, that a five-week temporary position over the summer was "perfect" for her because she didn't want to start a full-time job until the fall. I stressed that we would be away the entire month of June and since camp started the first week in July, we really needed to get everything locked in before we left town. I even asked her point blank what would happen if after she accepted the position, her "dream job" came along and they wanted her to start immediately. She insisted that this wasn't a concern, the temporary nature of the position was "perfect" for her, and she was totally prepared to make a firm commitment. Based on these reassurances, we offered her the position. The week before leaving town, we met her in person, gave her photos of our son, arranged the logistics with the camp director, etc., etc. I also made sure to inform all of the other applicants who had been waiting on our decision that the position had been filled.
On June 19th - ten days into our vacation - I got this e-mail from Jennifer: "I am sorry to write and say that things have changed with my schedule and I will not be able help out at [your son's] summer camp. I need to be working somewhere else for the same time. Again, I am sorry it is so late in the game. I wish there were something I could do to change this situation. Best of luck, Jennifer B." In other words, she seemingly did precisely what she had promised not to do, and accepted another position!
It is so disheartening when someone who claims to care about special-needs kids behaves in such an unethical and unprofessional manner, totally disregarding her express commitment and leaving us (and our son) "twisting in the wind" less than 2 weeks before camp begins! She knows we are on the East Coast through Friday, June 29th and can't possibly find a replacement aide before camp starts on Monday, July 2nd. I have no clue what we are going to do. However we sort it out, though, I am sure it will suck up many more hours of time that we really can't afford.
In any event, I am writing this review in the hopes of sparing other special-needs parents - for whom time and peace of mind are such precious commodities - the frustration and headache that our involvement with Jennifer B. has cost us this summer! I have tried to describe our experience as thoroughly as possible, but if you would like to discuss it further, feel free to contact me.