Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The IEP

I am far too lazy to attempt to connect to my computer back in the states and retrieve what I wrote there, so I'll try to redo it all here. I'm sure I'll mess it up somewhat, but I'm the only one who will know the difference, so, whatever.

I arrived at the meeting a few minutes early and sat and waited while everyone else ran around. Eventually, we sat down. Listed as present were: Teacher, Special Ed Coordinator (SEC), Speech Therapist (ST), Principal, and WG. Principal was not actually present, and I have no idea why they listed her as present. I don't know if I really care, though. I probably should care, but I just don't.

Anyway. We started. Teacher said that based on my suggestions earlier in the year, she had changed her entire approach to discipline and teaching, and she never has any behavioral issues with D. ST and SEC agreed. We spoke about the progress D. has made in certain areas, and everything seemed accurate to me.

We began setting the goals for next year, and SEC kept mentioning that D. would be held to the Kindergarten standards next year. "Yeah, about that," I said. "How can we hold him back a year next year? Based on what I see, if we could just get an extra year in kindergarten, D. would really benefit."

"Impossible. Federal law. He'll age out of the PPCD program."

Got that, everyone? Federal law. Can't argue with that, right? Well, beat me with a stick and call me stubborn, because I'm not taking that for an answer. I continued to press, asking who I'd need to speak to to have an exception granted. According to the SEC, not even Teej's good friend Obama could help me here. Next year, kindergarten, the year after, First Grade.

OK, well, what if D's not ready for first grade? Then what do we do? "Oh," says SEC, "based on D's abilities, we'd probably put him in Life Skills."

Dead silence in the room.

Then, "Excuse me? I'm absolutely unwilling to let you WRITE OFF MY SON IN THE FIRST GRADE."

"Oh!" says SEC. "We're not doing that! It's the written IEPs that determine his education, not his placement. Even in the Life Skills class, we can demand specific educational goals."

Now, Internet, how dumb do I look? No, really? There is NO WAY IN HELL my kid is going into LIFE SKILLS in the FIRST GRADE. And even if the only comeback I can muster is, "Well F-you, clown!" it's not happening. It's just not.

So, now I have a year to figure out how to have my kid held back a year in kindergarten. And I fully expect all of y'all to help.

The rest of the meeting was kind of a blur after that, because I spent much of it alternately seething and trying not to cry. At one point, SEC left the room, and Teacher and ST both hurried to say that they agreed with me, Life Skills is Not An Option.

When I came home and told Mr. WG, he was also in agreement. "No way. You'll homeschool him if they try that." Yes. Yes, I will. And I will KICK SOMEONE'S ASS.

Seriously, why does everyone have to learn the hard way? DON'T MESS WITH MY KID.

13 comments:

Shosh said...

Forgive me for my ignorance...what is life skills?

DESJ and Company said...

why the heck won't they hold him back????? That is the stupidist thing I've ever heard. Kids are held back and kept in regular instruction all the time.
But my honest opinion? You have another year before it even becomes an issue. You never know what will happen in a year. Don't fret yet.
Give him time. See how he does.
When's D's birthday again? Is it anywhere near the deadline?

Kelli said...

This was over 15 years ago, but I ABSOLUTELY had friends who were held back in kindergarten for an extra year because their parents thought they would benefit socially and academically from an extra year in kindergarten. I also know that at the start of this school year, my aunt and uncle did not put my young cousin in a specific private school because the school was known for parents who didn't enroll their kids in kindergarten until they were 6 or 7. Both of these things happened in Texas (Dallas area).

I mean, I know that they're the professionals, but that really does not sound right at all. I hope you are able to get D the education he needs when the time comes.

Still just me said...

You may have some standing based on the fact that the principal was not there, when the IEP stated he was. I don't know- grasping at straws?

Ashley's Mom said...

Of course you can hold him back. I have no clue what federal law they are talking about. Ask them to show it to you in the Federal Register.

Now, they may have a school district POLICY - but screw that.

DO NOT sign the IEP until you get this worked out. If you don't sign, they have two options - take you to due process in which case the current IEP stays in effect and your child stays in Kindergarten, or do what you request (in which case, your child stays in kindergarten).

If all else fails, contact your state's protection and advocacy organization. Every state has one and if workloads permit, they will assist you with legal representation.

Lisa b said...

Every time I go past the special ed classroom in my older daughter's school this future flashes in front of my eyes.
I like Ashley's mom's ida about not signing the IEP.

Mama4 said...

Contact your state department of education and ask to talk to the dept that deals with Special Education/Due Process and Compliance. Ask to speak with someone in that department and they should be able to assist you.

Never, never sign the IEP if you do not agree. Life skills is too early for a 1st grader.

You could always homeschool him- he would still be eligible for his related services/speech.

I do not think that there is a law stating that you cannot repeat kindergarten, but I think there are regulations about being 7 during a kindergarten year.

They typically do not like to hold kids back in kindergarten as it denies them more "life skill" training when they are 18-21.

I will do some asking around about this "federal law"- and see what I come up with.

Good Luck-

Mama4 said...

ok- I did some research today and here is what our Special Education Director said

"The federal law does not prohibit retention. We usually make very strong suggestions to the parent not to do this since research shows it doesn't work well for most students."

and when she says "most students" I assume she is referring to Special Education students.

So I hope you have a clear answer- but now you probably need some info to back it up.

Contact your parent advocacy group and ask for someone who is well-versed in due process. When I call our parent advocacy group- I usually know more than they do, because I work in Special Education and serve on our Due Process Board for our district.

I would also suggest contacting Dr. Schaefer and see what the research shows for retention of Sotos children.

Please keep posting- my son goes to K in two years so I hope to follow/learn from your experience.

kristenspina said...

Hi, I came over from Betty and Boo. I don't know your history, but just wanted to quickly say this: in our district, they don't like to hold kids back a year. We were discouraged from it (my son is now in 2nd grade). The issue here is that he will "age out of pre-school services" and that is exactly what we were told. "If you want him to get the services/support, you have to move up."

So, we did. But to this day, I consider it my only regret. If my son had waited another year before starting school—and that's the key, *starting* school—I think there would have been untold advantages.

Retention, repeating kindergarten or even 1st grade, is very often not supported by the research. But I agree with the commenter who urged you to consult with an advocate. One size does not fit all. We need to push our schools to think outside the box, push the creative envelope in putting together IEPs and supports for our kids. And sometimes, a little more time is not a bad thing.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Where do I begin? The law is vague but you can work that to your advantage, FAPE in LRE--the rest can be tweaked one way or the other. The key is making it personalized/cutomized to your child. What does your child need? Would he benefit from repeating the grade? If you can support those two questions with data, i.e. D has emerging skills in area X and with additional time and support, his success at the next grade level will be improved. In April 2008 the faces of the 8 people in the room at my daughter's ARD about fell off when I stated that given her more recent successes in the mainstream classroom, my daughter showed that WITH SUPPORTS, she could benefit from repeating her K year. This was right after they "informed me" that they planned to do a repeat of the same program she was in for K, 120 minutes of the day mainstreamed, the rest PPCD/ALE. What a joke! Of course she didn't do well in K, she missed more than half of it!#$()&%)(*#%_) So my advice is to always sign the IEP but check the box DISAGREE. NEVER walk out of an ARD without signing and checking DISAGREE. The ARD TEAM has 10 days to reconvene and try and reach and agreement. In that time, you need to gather evidence supporting his placement. Anyway, after our 10 day recess, the day before we came back to ARD, they came to me asking if they could do a trial and place her in a K class for the last month of the school year--I agreed with hesitation but demanded that she have an aide with her. She proved them all wrong and based on her ability to function in the K setting and her progress over the past 3-4 months, we were able to retain her. After being told, "they don't retain Kindergarteners" they then limited the statement by "unless they will benefit". Well who the hell can test that on my child? NO ONE. Fact is, there is no labratory with 5 kids just like mine. What we do each year, we will never know one way or the other if it was better or worse. We must do what we believe is what they NEED and support that with evidence from the recent past (progress reports, what he is doing right). Victory has its costs though. This year, she repeated K...there were 18 kids in the class, 5 of which had special needs. There was a teacher, an aide and my daughter only received 40 minutes of direct instruction on the days there was not a fire drill, assembly, field trip, etc. I guess my message is, you must *fight* your battles always with a smile on your face, always questioning the reasoning, looking for answers. I sometimes like to call this playing the stupid parent. I don't by any means consider myself stupid, but sometimes, playing that role gets me more information to use in my child's favor. We will always make mistakes, we are parents!! Keep learning from them and use them in the next ARD. This year, I plan to refer back to K and K2 years asking why my child didn't recieve the same level of support in the second year as she did in the first. My first goal was to get her out of ALE, now I will focus on increasing the support based on weaknesses as reported in her progress and report cards. Beware of them trying to use the cookie cutter on your child, they do it to all of the kids who are mainstreamed but remember the IEP--INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLAN! Good Luck, it is a long, cumbersome road. And when you think you have them working with you, always be on the lookout for red flags. They have the advantage of years of experience, but they have never had a parent like me or a child like mine making this a "unique experiment" and not one on which they can impose their generalized theories, programs or techniques.

Cindy Hilton said...

I just read this post after you wrote in to the Sotos group. It sounds like we're at the same stage. I have my IEP in 2 days and I have a boy who is starting kindergarten and they want to put him directly into the life skills class. I visited and was HORRIFIED!!! I was just going to say forget it, I can do a better job and homeschool him. The only problem is that my son WANTS to go to school & he LOVES being around kids, so we're off to hire an advocate. It's kindergarten for crying out loud. Why can't he be in a kindergarten class with an aide? We'll fight and fight and then if all else fails, we'll homeschool. My solution to repeating kindergarten next year is to hire an aide myself and send him to another year of Kindergarten at the private school where my older son goes. We'll see how that goes over, but that's my master plan ;) I'll be eagerly awaiting your update!
gypsysoulcindy@yahoo.com

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