Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Battle Report: E's IEP Meeting, Assumptions, Enlightenment, and *gasp* New Hope for a Writer's Life

The showdown went better than expected on Monday.

One word sums up how the high school views/deals with kids with disabilities: enlightened.

A large part of me wants to trust the talk. Another part--a more vocal part--hesitates. Why? We've been burned too often by assuming key team members for any given school year were reading our children's IEPs and planning ahead on how best to implement what was outlined there. We also mistakenly assumed that team members felt empowered by administration to ask for the resources they needed in order to provide for our girls (as outlined in the IEP).

Silly us, we assumed the IEP was worth something more than the paper it's written on.

What we've learned over the years: Don't assume the IEP is enough to make things happen.

Yes, parenting a child with special needs is exhausting. Yes, the IEP is a contract. No, even though it's a contract between you, the school, and the State Board of Education, you can't assume it will be followed.

No matter how exhausted you might feel, no matter how often you wish you had a true advocate on the inside, the only true advocate for your child is you.

This means finding creative ways to check up on and check in with your child's IEP team...ways other than parking your butt in your child's classroom to ensure the right things are happening. I've friends who meet monthly with the team to ensure what's outlined is actually being done. Others require logs be completed so behavior can be tracked and modifications made as needed to foster greater independence. We visit, trade emails, and use a communication notebook so we can keep in regular contact with the teacher.

Finding reliable ways to keep in touch with your child's teacher and other team members is especially important if your child (like mine) is unable to articulate whether or not something's being implemented. For example, because of E's extremely small size (imagine a child the size of a two year old playing team sports with eighth graders), gym class requires creative modifications to allow for safe participation. Unfortunately, this follow through doesn't always happen.

In sixth grade, one of E's units was volleyball. I assumed the teacher would ask E to serve the net with a beach ball or the equivalent. The teacher, apparently unable to see past the double class she was teaching to think creatively about how E might be included in play, determined E should sit out instead. I found out about this decision after the fact. Um, no.

Enter the high school at Monday's meeting. Turns out, they offer an adaptive PE class. We lobbied without success for the middle school to put one of these in place. The school thought it was doing an adequate job without one. The opinion of a former PE teacher of E's: modifying the game so E can play would mean impinging on the rights of the other children. Excuse me? P physically held me down in my seat to keep me from launching myself at the teacher.

The ADA laws were made for ignorant people like that. Seems to me the values she's instilling in her young charges have more to do with winning than about teamwork and opportunity and honoring differently abled peers.

Learning that the high school has a PE class dedicated to adapting activities as needed only added to my opinion of the team in charge there. I like the talk. I want to believe it. After years of bird dogging E's and S's various IEP teams, I'm left with hope. Hope that finally, we've found a team we can trust.

I can taste the possibilities. Trust in the team, means less meetings, less micro-managing. An opportunity to redirect my time and energy, and pursue my true passion: Writing.

Summer school for E will prove whether or not the talk is only talk. *crosses fingers and toes* Here's hoping the high school team makes good on its promises.

Edited: 12:42 p.m.

1 comment:

Lisa R. said...

This is my first spring that I do not have to: research, make lists, hire a consultant, pester, badger, hound, plead, cajole, beg, and otherwise deal with the IEP process. After 8 years, my son had a 504 now and it's actually worked out great.
One thing I will always remember about IEPs is that the process is exhausting, and the real work goes on all year and that the advocacy buck stops here. Good luck.