Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Important Meetings

IMPORTANT MEETING 1: Dissertation Proposal Defense.
I passed.

You know, it was actually an enjoyable experience. I felt like I had a highly-informed cheering squad instead of a group of adversaries. They treated me like a colleague. DC started off the meeting by saying, "We all want this study to work for you, and we're here now to help you improve it before you start." Can't ask for more support than that.

The end result was a pretty major change to the semi-structured interview protocol. This didn't surprise me at all: Honestly, I really didn't like the first one I had written. The feedback during the defense discussion was invaluable, and DC agreed. After we were finished and I watched them sign all the paperwork, DC invited me back to her office and we spent the next 45 minutes crashing through the edits of the protocol. SHE actually did the typing while I did the talking. Gosh she's cool. After that we decided to add a brief demographic survey that I'll have the participants complete prior to coming to my office for their interviews. I pulled together an Amendment for the Committee on the Protection of Human Subjects and submitted these new things to that office later in the afternoon. All wrapped up in a nice bow. Not really, it was wrapped up in an inter-campus envelope, but I'm just being figurative.

As I was driving home, I had a sudden urge to start packing up my house, in preparation for our move. Wait a minute, I need to do these minor things like SCHEDULE THE INTERVIEWS NOW!!! Oh yeah. :-)

IMPORTANT MEETING 2: Moose's Individual Education Plan for 2007-2008.
This is the meeting where the SCT teachers, therapists, preschool coordinator all come together with us to set goals and objectives for his schooling next year. He will start kindergarten. We're technically a year late, but that's really not a big deal. It was good of these folks to spend the time with us, especially since we're writing this for the new school district in the new city. We didn't finish today, so we'll finish things up next week.

OK, I'm off to officially invite participants to join my dissertation study (at long last) and then it's bedtime. G'night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Newsworthy Tidbits

Two newsworthy tidbits to share here:

  1. My dissertation proposal defense is set for Wednesday, April 25 at 10:00 AM. Please think happy thoughts.
  2. I will start a full-time job July 1.

I don't write about the details of work here, as this blog focuses mostly on my dissertation process and a little bit on Moose. However, the new job is worth mentioning because we're going to move away from Small College Town this summer as a result.

We’re excited for the move, though it’s bittersweet. We have many, many wonderful friends here, and many of the resources for raising a child with special needs are wonderful. We enjoy the small-town charm, too. Those features will be hard to leave. However, we’re moving to a much larger city, and that will open up different opportunities for Moose’s schooling and for Wife’s career as a classical vocalist.

Basically, it’s a job in institutional assessment situated in a division of student life. This is just the sort of thing I was hoping to find upon graduation. I’m feeling lucky to have found it several months before finishing the dissertation!

The new shop will support my dissertation completion efforts by allowing me some time away in the summer and fall. My goal is still to finish up in December, that is, assuming the dissertation proposal defense process goes OK next week.

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Our house went on the market just over a week ago, and by the end of last week we already received an offer! Now we need to haul ass and find a house in our new location. We went school hunting this morning, and that went very well, so now house-hunting can follow. Fun and pretty darn scary all at once. But we’re really, really happy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Basic Question

Last July I officially started my current job, which was essentially a promotion from a 50% FTE graduate assistantship to a 75% FTE graduate assistantship with supervisory responsibilities. The money was "good," and as a result I had no need to take out another student loan. The money was not "great," but for 30 hours per week, I had no complaints.

However, I am still on the student health insurance plan. The alternative, had I been hired as a true 75% staff member, was no insurance coverage at all. So, I was thankful to have been hired on as a grad-student at the salary I'm receiving, and I thought the student insurance plan was OK. Not great, but OK.

Moose wasn't on this plan last year. He was on a state-funded plan for which we qualified because our income was so low. This was a wonderful insurance plan, especially for a child with special needs, as it covered just about everything with no premiums or copay. Don't get me wrong: I'd rather not qualify for the plan due to high income, but I do miss this plan. We took him off the plan January 1.

Today we learned that the speech and occupational therapy (OT) he receives every week has not been covered since the start of the new year. Earlier in the year when we were deciding to switch him to this "student" plan, however, Wife called the insurance company to verify coverage, and they said "autism is covered." However, what was not clear was that they only cover "medical" expenses for autism, and not speech and OT. Speech and OT are only covered expenses if they are restorative. So, if I had been in an accident and needed to relearn how to use a fork, that OT would be covered.

Moose has never been able to speak. OT has taught him how to do things that other kids just learn, like using a fork, for example. My basic question: how is it that therapies provided by a hospital, and prescribed by a doctor, are not medical expenses realted to autism?

We are appealing, and we hope this turns out OK. But, what if it does not? Do we cancel therapies till we hear? The appeals process takes 30 days.

These insurance plans are designed for students, who typically are healthy and normally-functioning individuals. I mean, they got into college, after all. The plan covers prescriptions, doctor's visits, etc. That's all well and good, but when you realize your child has a mental disorder during a five-year stint as a graduate student, it'd be nice to at least be told what questions to ask in this regard. We would have found another plan or found another way to get the therapies had we known...

I may not have taken this job had I realized these essential things for Moose's care were not covered. On the other hand, this job has probably helped lead toward some bigger and better things (more later on those). I'm torn. Am not sure the money was worth it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Proposing and Recruiting

Hi. I didn't post a follow-up over the weekend.

I did indeed finish up the proposal, and I turned it into the committee. It ain't perfect, but it's done...for now. As I delivered a hard copy to the home of one committee member, I reminded him that I'm a musician by trade. I said, "Just keep in mind: the first time an orchestra plays together, it usually doesn't sound all that good. This proposal may be similar." He graciously said, "Oh c'mon, it'll be fine, Rob," so perhaps that's a good sign that they're not seeking perfection, just completion. We shall see.

Meanwhile, I started my "snowball sampling procedure." This means I've asked about 14 faculty and staff members that I know here at LMU about helping me recruit people eligible to participate in my interviews. I've asked them things like, "Do you know of students who fit these criteria?" and "Feel free to pass this along to others." The hope is that the snowball, or the sample of participants, gets larger and larger the farther it rolls, or in this case the more it's shared. I'm seeking about 8-15 people total, and already I have contact information for 10! Amazing how fast this occurs after getting over the proposal-writing hurdle.

K bye.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Study # 07- 11947

Some quick updates, all of which are good.

First, I received Approval from the human subjects committee at LMU earlier this week, so I am now able officially to start recruiting participants for my study. Approval is good. From now on, I shall refer to the diss as # 07- 11947, the number assigned to my study by the Human Subjects Committee at LMU. Note the required space between the hyphen and the number 1. I am not kidding.

Next, DC came back from a series of conferences, and she gave me a bunch of feedback on the proposal. Feedback is good.

Third, DC thinks the propsoal is just about ready to go to my dissertation Committee. She informed the Committee as such, and now suddenly they all want the completed proposal by...TODAY. Committee interest is good. DC has asked them a big favor by accelerating my time line so I can collect data very soon. She rocks! I'm very lucky to have her.

Thanks to her feedback, and that of a couple of other Trusted Colleagues (TCs), I'm swiftly synthesizing a bunch of edits together into one coherent (God I hope so) document. Later this afternoon, I'll deliver copies to the Committee and then it's outa my hands till the defense date, which will happen hopefully within the next 10 days or so. We shall see.

A little bit stressed, but none of this is "bad" stress. It's all good.