A minimum of once a year, we stop, drop, and roll ourselves on out to the other side of town to sit with a bunch of public school system (PSS) people whom we do not know, and who do not know our son, to talk about what is in his best interests academically.
Well, that’s what we should be talking about.
Instead, we have to scratch, claw, dig, and finally whack people on the head with a bloody shovel in an effort to get any meaningful answers out of them. If I were to say to any other special needs parent, “I’ve just come from my kid’s IEP meeting,” 99.9% of their faces would scrunch up in a sorrowful way as they said, “Oh! I’m so sorry; how bad was it?”
You see, the IEP is the Individualized Education Plan, which is the core tool of IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensures that all children are entitled to a FAPE, a Free and Appropriate Public Education.
Dizzy yet? We haven’t scratched the surface.
By law, all children are entitled to a FAPE under IDEA, and the IEP is supposed to assure that they get it. And if you believe that, I have a very large bridge that you might be interested in; have your people call me.
If your child is eligible to receive any ‘services’ through the public school system, he or she will have testing/assessment of their academic, speech, physical, etc., skills, and an IEP will be written in order to detail what those needs are, the adjustments that need to be made in the school/classroom to accommodate those needs, and the ultimate goals for progress, if any. [Actually, you can request evaluation by your local school district for an IEP even if your child has absolutely nothing to do with the PSS, but many people who can afford to send their children elsewhere choose either to have the child evaluated by professionals outside the PSS or, much to the dismay of many of the rest of us, live quite happily in their very monetarily rich denial, thank you very much.] Back to the rest of us…
If your child is receiving services from the PSS, then the IEP must be reviewed, discussed, and updated a minimum of once a year, and if you decline any of the services offered based on the needs/goals determined by the PSS, then you must also have a meeting to decline those services.
As an aside, you might imagine that there is a hell of a lot of paper involved in this process — and you’d be correct. For example, my son, who has attended public school for 3 months out of his 4 years of education, has a PSS file that is, I shit you not, almost 5 inches thick.
Today’s meeting was to decline PSS speech therapy services for our son. The reason we are declining these services is not because we believe the boy does not need speech therapy. No. The reason we are declining is because the PSS speech therapist who has worked with him has not accomplished a DAMN thing in 2 years of service. Log notes were not kept for more than 1/4 of that time. She was absent at least another 1/4 of that time. We tried giving the woman the benefit of the doubt and multiple chances for redemption, and we have a now almost 9-year-old child who, after years of ‘speech therapy,’ still can’t even say an L without really stopping to think about it. We’re declining therapy because this therapist has ‘tested’ our son and found that he needs only a little bit of work on articulation and maybe some pragmatics (social language), which, by the way, I HAD TO TELL HER ABOUT. I can take my kid through the checkout at WalMart and the cashier could tell you that the kid needs help with social language.
Those were all of the reasons we were declining speech services through the PSS. Until yesterday.
Since the kid obviously needs more help than what the above ‘speech therapist’ has decided, we had him tested independently. Last night, we got the final results — the results that said:
- Our son’s social language skills are that of a young 6-year-old.
- His general language skills were mildly to significantly below average in almost every area.
- His advanced language skills were mildly to moderately below average in every area except listening and most significantly in Speaking Ability.
- He is often inappropriate in his response to questions.
- He is deficient in his organization, use, and understanding of higher levels of language.
- Our son has 17 speech sound errors, ranking him at the speech level of child aged 3 years 11 months.
This morning, as we sat in this meeting, on a conference call with this ‘speech therapist’ whom we have never met because not once has she bothered to actually be present for one of these meetings with us, it was all I could do to keep myself from coming out of my chair and screaming into the speakerphone that this woman had no right to attempt to act like she had the least bit of knowledge to impart to me about my child. And then… Then she actually said that studies have shown that children who haven’t mastered their speech issues by the age of 7 will most likely have them for life, as though our declining her ‘services’ was a reckless act as parents. At that moment, I could only think of how fortunate I was that she was not actually in my presence when she said that. Because I’m pretty sure I would have assaulted her.
Once we rid ourselves of the speech issue — and the disembodied voice on the speakerphone, thank you very much, we discussed several other things regarding the future, which someday I’ll come back to in another blog. The other things are important to how I’m feeling today, but the microcosm above is all that is currently needed for a fair illustration. Today, we’re going to jump to the end…
Every meeting at the PSS ends in the same way, whether your child actually receives services there or not. The head of the meeting goes over the final paperwork (because you can’t have a meeting without growing the file) and sums up what has happened in today’s meeting. In that summarization, the following, in some shape or form, will always be found: … has been offered a (FAPE) …
Yes, that final paragraph will state that your child has been offered a Free and Appropriate Public Education, and the very last thing you do before you leave that meeting, copies of paperwork in hand, is to pick up your pen and sign at the X to state that you agree with all that is stated above.
And every time, I sign it.
And every time, I want to break down, throw up, scream, sob, stand up and fight, run away and hide.
It makes me feel much the way I did when I let a man rape me when I was 17 years old, feeling like I had no choice because I knew I couldn’t win since I didn’t have the strength for the incredibly long battle of it all.
I’ve just come from my kid’s IEP meeting.