Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Annual IEP Meeting and other school stuff

Well, well.
This morning I met at the school for Samuel's annual IEP review. Can I just tell you how stressful those things are for me? No, I don't think I can. I'll try though. Probably for at least a week before, my stomach knots every time I think of it. This is the meeting where the "team" (me, his teacher, speech therapist, principal, and general ed teacher) decide what he will be working on for the next year. It is also the time to make requests for more or different services, when placement is decided, etc etc. And the more I've actually learned about HOW an IEP meeting is supposed to go - the more nervous I get about it. Because things are not always actually done the way they are supposed to. And I have all these "legal rights" as a parent of a child with disabilities that I am supposed to make sure they are respecting. And I am supposed to fight for whatever things they aren't doing that legally they are supposed to do. And I am supposed to be "my child's best advocate" and make sure he is getting all the help he needs to succeed, etc etc. And it just becomes overwhelming to me.

I am not one who likes to put up a fight. I have learned a lot in the last 5 years that we have been receiving special services, but I still feel like such a novice. I feel like I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know if I'm doing things right. I don't know if the goals we set are the goals we should have. I don't know if they are providing all the help Samuel needs and deserves. I don't know if I should fight more. I just don't know.

I am becoming more comfortable with his teachers, though. I've known the speech therapist since I had Abigail assessed, oh about 7 years ago or so. And then Isaac met with her and was assessed. And then Samuel met with her for awhile before he was placed in the special needs preschool (and had a different therapist there). But at least she is a very familiar face to me. She has known of Samuel since he was 3 and so she can see the progress he has or hasn't made.

Anyway - the meeting went well, I think. Although I didn't get more speech for him, as I had hoped for. He's been working on some of the same speech goals for about 2 yrs now!! It feels like forever. But they say he's "making progress" - so as long as he's making progress, that is sufficient for them not to justify more speech therapy. But, it just feels like the progress is soooooo sloooooow. It's hard.

But I am happy that he is opening up a little more and showing some of his goofy personality. He is participating at school and plays freely at recess. All good things. All things he wasn't necessarily doing last year.

Still so many unknowns. His diagnosis of "developmental delay" is still so vague. Because he is behind in some of his reading and math - but he's too young for them to say why (whether it's a learning disability or not). Still can't tell me where they think he will be a year from now. What school, what kind of class, what kind of services. What will he need? Will he be caught up? Will he always need help? I just want to know. I want to know something. I need to know something more.

So I get home from these meetings and I need to decompress a little. I feel so relieved for it to be over. But then I question again - did I do enough? Did I talk about everything I wanted to? Are these teachers really on my team? Do they all really want to do what's best for Samuel? Or are they just trying to do the least amount that they can get away with. I hope it's the former. I hope.

In other school news, I have started the fight to get Isaac back in speech therapy (that they kicked him out of last year, even though he had not met his IEP goals). Or at least I am fighting to get them to show me more specific assessment data than just observation that they don't think he needs it. So that is in process.

And I am going to have to start the fight to get some accomodations for Abigail in her classes. Need to go back to the Dr. and get a letter stating her diagnosis (innattentive-ADD). I have been torn about whether to really have her "labeled" - with all that that implies.
But I really do feel that if we can get her help to do better, than that would be preferable to just have her floundering along and trying her best to manage on her own. I don't know. It's such a complicated thing.
Some people are so opposed to having a child labeled.
Some people are such strong advocates for getting the help the child needs.

I guess that's a topic for another day. 3 kids with current or potential IEP's is just a wee bit overwhelming to me. I'm a bit of a wimp sometimes though, I think.
And Elisabeth - well, I'm just about to the point of getting her evaluated, too. Because she is just so incredibly difficult sometimes, it amazes me. I have never seen a child throw such tantrums for such a long time. Really.
But then I think, well, maybe if I think all 4 of my kids have some sort of issue, maybe it really is just me with the issues. I know I already have issues. Did I just pass them all to them? Or am I just seeing things that aren't there?? Am I just going crazy?!?! Am I only have problems with them because I can't handle them and it's all my fault?

Oh well.
Thanks for listening.


Anonymous said...

Well...let me just remind you that it's not you.

Your beautiful, extremely bright 10 year old is to some degree ADD or something similar. I think it is very clear. The teacher clearly has seen it. It's affecting her school work and some of her test results. Of course, she'll be just fine, but its a real problem for her and whether we officially label her at school or not, it is important that she understand this challenge so that she can work on it.

Your brilliant 8 year old has some speech issues. Yes, he has improved dramatically - we could barely understand him in kindergarten but it would be nice if he could finish. It wouldn't take much.

Your 5 year has an extreme speech delay. He clearly deals with sensory issues related to sound and touch. He struggles in some social situations. He is very anxious at times. Though admittedly, and thank goodness, he is improving as he ages. I think much of his other delays are related to these challenges because my perception is that he is quite bright but honestly we just don't know yet.

Our youngest is very tough - also, very precocious and can be sweet as can be. Too early to tell. It is strange that she gets so upset that she passes out (we literally have to catch her sometimes)but she may be just fine in a couple months.'re not crazy, though some of this could drive you crazy. Often when there are minor or major genetic disabilities or challenges, it isn't terribly unusually that several children within the same family would exhibit these issues. They have similar genes afterall.

What is wonderful about our kids is that they have so much potential. These kind of challenges will build character and tune them into the needs of others. Empathy is a wonderful thing to develop and is difficult to acquire without a challenge or two of your own. If our kids learn not to apply black and white judgment on others - what a gift that will be.

We'll be just fine but thank goodness for all you are doing! I don't know what I'd do without you.


Jennifer said...

That is so sweet, Zac. You guys are a great team for your kids and each other. Have faith, you are doing great, Kristen.

Joel said...

Not knowing all your kid's situations very well, but knowing a bit about schools and spec ed, I would offer some advice. Your daughter with ADD might not need an IEP, but rather 504 accommodations. This provides accommodations without an IEP in place. Other specifics regarding spec ed can be addressed but better in email or via phone. Zac should have both for me should you guys want to talk.

Kristen said...

yes, I've heard about 504 plans through the CHADD classes I went to but I'm still a little confused on what you need to do to get one in place. I'll have Zac get in touch with you!!


Anonymous said...

wow. abigail was really diagnosed? i just don't get it, cause bren seemed SOOOOOOO much worse than her and i couldn't even get someone to DO a diagnosis on him.

he has improved substantially over the years, but i still seriously doubt (no, firmly believe) that he would not be able to keep up in a traditional public school setting.

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