I've come to the decision that IEP should stand for something else. Like some kind of internet acronym expletive that bleeds over into real life and used for all sorts of ongoing, frustrating situations. I don't know what it could stand for exactly. But I just might start using it. So, you know, just in case I accidentally blurt it out someday when my frustration boils over, be prepared to act all shocked and appalled that I would use such language. (AH IEP!!)
Otherwise, for those of you who aren't up on that new kind of urban slang, IEP actually stands for Individualized Education Plan or Program or something. It's the official legal document that means your kid is in special ed. It's the annual goals that are set up with all the modifications and accommodations that the child needs to have a "Free and Appropriate Education" (FAPE) in the "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE). (See? By the time we're done here you'll be full of all kinds of acronyms. Let me throw out one more: this is all part of IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that details all the rights for kids in special ed. There now. Doesn't that feel good knowing that??)
Last week, on my birthday, was Samuel's annual IEP update meeting. I dread these meetings more than I dread just about anything. This one was even worse because every 3 yrs, the kids have to be re-evaluated for eligibility. Retested, reassessed, everything redone, rethought, remade. It was time for that. Ugh. And at the last parent teacher conference, Samuel's teacher told me that he was doing so well academically, she wasn't sure if he really fit in the small self-contained class he was in. So I was afraid that they would want to try to kick him out of his class.
Sooo, in an effort to be well-informed and be able to think things through for myself beforehand, I asked to be given a copy of all of his testing results before the meeting. I also asked to be given a rough draft copy of the goals they were considering. Pretty reasonable requests, I thought. But his teacher hhmmm-ed and haaaaww-ed and (long story short) I had to ask more than once and even had to pull out the "it's my legal right as his parent to see whatever I want, whenever I want" line in order to get it. Good grief. Does everything require a fight?!? Yes. Apparently, in special ed, it does.
So, I got the results a few weeks ago. Then the day before the meeting, they finally gave me the first progress report I've seen all year, and the IEP draft. Nice.
In a nutshell, he is significantly behind in his expressive speech and language. He has some smaller problems with cognitive processing speed and working memory. And he is almost a year behind in writing and math (yes, even despite his teacher's belief that he's doing "great academically" - excuse me, huh?!?). His teacher also felt like he was reading on grade level, but when the regular ed teacher came in to discuss placing him in the reg classroom for reading groups, it appears he is behind there as well. There are only maybe a handful of kids in the grade reading at his level. uh huh. So basically, I was overwhelmingly frustrated that his teacher seems to be comparing him to the other kids in the special needs class, which makes him appear to be doing very well, rather than comparing him to normally developing kids, which seems to me to make it glaringly obvious that he needs more help. Uggggghhhhh.
SO - at the meeting we discussed possibly changing his classification . . . but in the end left it as "developmental delay" - a classification that can only be used until he turns 8. And we came up with new goals - that basically work on getting him up to speed in the areas of reading, writing and math. And of course speech therapy goals. So most of this is just fine. Nothing has really changed in terms of his placement, or goals, or classification, so we can just keep on keeping on.
But, I still just feel like we're maybe missing the mark a little. None of this addresses why he shuts down in groups and basically can't function. Or the high anxiety he experiences. Or the fact that he speaks in a different kind of rushed, stressed fashion at school that we don't hear at home. There is more going on than what we are really addressing. That's what I think.
And he doesn't really "fit" in this class, this "learning disabled" class - and yet I don't think he can function in the regular classroom. His teacher feels like he doesn't technically have a "learning disability" (even though from the research I've done, a significant problem with speech and language can actually be considered a learning disability in and of itself. I was ready to pull that out and fight for it if they had tried to change his placement, but I didn't need to). And she wants to put him in the regular class for reading, science and other stuff like that. I told her we needed to go slowly and evaluate it carefully, on an experimental basis, first. So that's the plan. I am waiting to hear when they'll start trying it out. So far, a week later, nothing has happened that I'm aware of.
This all starts to sound a little familiar doesn't it?? Haven't I been here before? Haven't we gotten anywhere in this whole mess, figured something out, made some progress? Now, I know Samuel has made progress. He is making lots of progress and I am really very happy about that. It's just . . . this. This IEP process, the classifications, the finding the right fit, the right placement, the goals, working with teachers and administrators, calling the district special ed dept to clarify my rights, calling the Disability Law Center, reading books, searching the internet and on and on . . . will there ever come a time when we feel like things are really "right"??? I don't know.
Anyway. Ugh. Sorry my thoughts kind of ramble on and on about this - and this post has gone on terribly long. If you've even read it all, thanks for listening. I guess I just want a written record of the whole entire long frustrating process. Someday, someone, somewhere, is going to find this all very helpful and reassuring. Or something. I just know it. ;)
And I'm not alone, right? Someone else out there is pulling there hair out, and keeping their husband up late at night, trying not to raise their voice and wake up the children, as they decompress and talk through the frustration of it all . . . right?? Someone else out there must be wanting to join me in using "IEP" as an expletive sometimes, right?
(ready? shout it with me - . . . one . . . two . . . three . . .
There. That feels good, doesn't it.)
OK. Done now.