Thursday, June 21, 2007

IEP -- the Icky, Exhuastive Painintheass

So, we had our first IEP meeting for Kate yesterday. For those of you who are not in the know, an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan and every child with a disability is entitled to one along with school services.

For those of you familiar with IEP's, then you know it's often a meeting where you feel belittled, stupid and steamrolled.

We walked in and the committee had an IEP pre-written for Kate, along with recommendations for placement after one test that they administered.

Oh, did we mention that these strangers never crouched down to her level to establish rapport? Or that they kept calling her "Katie" when her name is "Kate" -- K-A-T-E. I'm pretty sure we told this test administrator SEVERAL TIMES that her name is Kate.

When Kate was tested, this woman started the test without building rapport and then said, "Katie, can you point to your mama?" Kate glared at her and shook her head no. And that's how the whole test went.

Her results:
Kate's receptive vocabulary (what she understands) = a six month old baby
Bullshit. Anyone who knows Kate knows that she understands everything -- sometimes too well.
Kate's expressive vocabulary (what she can say) = more along a 15 month old
We agree.

The real issue to us is that she understands FAR MORE than what she can express, which indicates a SPEECH DISORDER and not a speech DELAY. Her therapists know it, her neurologist knows it, but these people who have met her ONCE are basing all their decisions on this ONE TEST.

What about what Kate's therapists have to say???

Well, the committee tells us, they don't know how she'll do in the preschool program. And she hasn't been tested for speech. (Um, yes she has. Look at her file.) And we don't test for speech until we feel that she's not succeeding in the preschool program.

UM, WHAT?!!!! My daughter has a speech disorder. It's not going to magically disappear.

And this set the tone for the whole meeting.

Good news: We got her into the classroom focusing on Speech and Language Impairment even though they wanted her in the preschool for students in global developmental delays (that have older kids too).

Bad news: We have to reconvene because this committee didn't make enough time to discuss our goals (we brought in a pre-written IEP too -- so "nanny, nanny boo-boo" to you!) and our daughter will not have a completed IEP by her 3rd birthday, which is a law. We were scooted out of there after an hour, especially when we started asking for written notice as to why they weren't going to provide specific services.

More later and my apologies for not being clearer. This is the kind of thing that's difficult to explain, but I wanted to get my thoughts on "paper" now.

Bottom line is this, folks: You are an expert in your child. Don't be blind to their weaknesses, but don't let other "experts" intimidate you with their vocabulary. Don't sign anything until you understand it and never sign ANYTHING until you've had time to review it away from the meeting.

Don't be bullied, don't let the feelings of intimidation overwhelm you, don't feel rushed into decisions that last for a year.

Speak up. This is the time to be a pain in the ass. This is the time to throw around legal terms (but understand them first.)

Get a family advocate -- they exist in every county. Get prepared. And get ready to be pleasantly surprised or horribly disgusted. Be prepared to go either way.

Many of the people in Kate's meeting were excellent. Unfortunately, a few key players were not.

And you know, it would have been easy to just sign the paper and let it go. But it wouldn't have been easier for Kate. And it wouldn't have met her needs.

Our kids don't need us to be perfect. They just need us to keep stepping up, to keep trying, and to get a little smarter each battle.

More later.


Patricia/NYC said...

Oh, you are such an AWESOME Mom, Melissa!!! Sounds like that meeting was just plain exasperating! But...Kate has the GREATEST advocate in you & it sounds like you're on the right track! Keep pluggin' away!

I know what you are going through...I've seen it so many times at my school & there have been times when I wanted to stand up & scream at the numbskulls who threw their weight around & in reality knew nothing.

Funny, as soon as I read the statement about Kate's receptive language, before I saw your comment, I said, out loud, "WHAT! That is so not true!"...

My thoughts & prayers are always with you guys!

On a lighter note...what's the plan for birthday #3???


kris said...

Wow Melissa... I've never even met Kate, much less been her mother, and I was getting furious just reading this!!! What an awesome mom and advocate you are for your girl. I hope she gets all that she needs. I'll be thinking of you guys and I will be curious about the follow up to this post.

Hang in there!

The Lewises said...

Sons of b*tches, Bumpeses!!

(Yelled by Ralphie's dad in A Christmas Story, as the bumbling hound dogs from the Bumpes household unthinkingly raid the Parker's home.)

That's the feeling I get from reading your post. Good for you and Scott for holding your ground!


Mike, Hayley & Piper said... are a girl after my own heart. I make noise, I demand that those in my child life are doing what they promised. I am her champion as you are Kate's.

You are teaching others about standing up for what is right not what is easiest!

I salute you!