Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One More First in the Books: O and her IEP

It is the IEP dance. First-timers might be surprised by the performance, thinking it either too slow, too fast, or generally lacking in finesse, but those of us in the know see it for what it is. It is the strip-tease without the T&A, the sometimes painfull disrobing of your childs abilities and how they do or don't fit in with the mainstreamed students. The student you mentally (or in my case, physically as well), brought into the meeting is transformed from the person you know into a series of percentages and deadlines.

But most leave feeling the same way: disappointed.

But not me. No way, uh-uh. Because after years of IEP meetings with Isaac, I have learned a simple survival trick.

Are you ready to hear it? Shhh, move closer. I will tell you if you promise not to pass judgement. Oh, hell. I will tell you anyway...

Lowered Expectiations. YES! I said it! Not about my child though - I lower my expectations about the MEETING. Because you know what? It is not really regarding my childs' academic future. Her academic future is a fluid thing, and I can gurantee we are not going to fully understand that in Kindergarten. We are creating the loose framework of her next year, to see what works and what doesn't. And if it doesn't work, we will change it. And I know we can change it in a heartbeat if I want to.

But I have learned two very important things from past IEP's.

First: Manage the Behavior and the Academics Will Follow. This should be obvious, but in many an IEP meeting, it is not fully addressed. I have learned this from my son who was labled as being at "high risk" for academic failure (I have read and re-read that particular IEP from Roseway and all I can see is the hidden word 'retarded' all over it, rat-bastards). Finally, at Pioneer, he learned to get his behavior in check and then suddenly there he was, not only catching up to his grade level but passing it in two subjects, in the space of 6 months. So I made sure that on her IEP the focus on Kindie was her behavior, because how can we expect her to learn in circle time if she is too anxious to even sit down with her classmates?

Second: This is Not A Sprint - It is a Marathon. And the route is not well marked, so it is ok to go off the beaten path. I really don't care about standardized ANYTHING at this point - and if my son or daughter solves a problem in a unique way, they are not going to be penalized for it. I am raising human beings, not robots, and Autistic ones at that. Their hardware is different, and I will do my best to make sure that they are proud of that, not ashamed. The finish line is there, and we will cross it (and for us, that finish line is to get the most out of the life they are given).

(My husband just pointed out that I sound a little 'rant-y'. Sorry).

Walking in with those two ideas in my head helped me to have what I would describe as a successful IEP meeting. She is going into a CB classroom (next door to Isaac's), and will slowly be mainstreamed through the year. The focus will be her behavior, and we are slowing down so we catch things as needed, instead of letting them all and scatter on the ground (oh, poor Isaac. Kindie as rough for him). Yes, should might be fine in a mainstream class. But there is a big difference between swimming and just dog-paddling.


  1. We just had our first IEP last Friday. It did not seem that different from all the IFSP's we've gone through, and they used the most recent IFSP as a starting point. We definitely had low expectations of the service offerings, so we did not produce the gasp of astonishment (which I think the PPS IEP team was expecting) when they proposed the standard 3 hours of OT per year plus 120 minutes of speech per month?/semester? We did get the team to agree to an aide for the first 4-6 weeks subject to further review after the initial 4 weeks. For us the big question is feeding and caloric intake to sustain functionality and vital signs. So, no big surprises from the IEP but it helped to have our MESD team and speech therapist with us for support. --Tatiana

  2. Yes, you got the standard. Isaac had an aide for the first 8 weeks (was supposed to be for 6 weeks). He seemed "fine" (such a crap word) when the aide as removed, but around xmas time, it went to pot. Things change about mid-way through Kindergarten. Things get harder, more academic. All of the things we learned in first grade years ago start being taught around the holidays, and that is when things went wrong or us. He was able to keep up with an aide before then, but when things changed, it got much too much for him, and his behavior changed (anxiety, even a few panic attacks).

    Do you mind if I ask what school you are going to?

  3. Our neighborhood school and default option is Chapman, which is considered to be a good school in general but maybe not for special ed. Our preferred school is Ainsworth, we are #1 on the waitlist after the PPS lottery. So, we really want to go to Ainsworth but the earliest we'll know if there is space for us is mid-August. Which is not ideal for our ASD kid, since we can't really start preparing him for what school he'll be going to. We like Ainsworth because he has friends there, including an ASD friend who's been paving the way for us in many ways. Ainsworth also has an enclosed playground vs. Chapman that is located in a public park--ideal place for a kid who wanders off to wander off if he decides to go to the library or visit a friend or take a streetcar ride, etc. So, we are hoping for Ainsworth but don't know yet. Hopefully, we'll get there and I hope we'll know before September, so we have time to prepare.

  4. Oh yes, the fear of a wandering child. We have one of those (Olivia). Just when you think you might be past that fear, BOOM. It happens again. Have they given you a clear plan on how they are going to manage that issue?

    One of our arguements against our home school of Sabin and mainstreaming in general is that the school is not equipped to handle a child with her level of autism. The resource center is untrained in managing anxiety and sensory issues.

    Isaac has a friend at Alameda who attended Chapman until this year. She is Aspergers, smart as a whip, but they left Chapman after struggling there for the last two years. Her mom might be great resource regarding Chapman. Would you like her contact information?

  5. Yes, I would love the former Chapman mom's contact information. Please, e-mail it to me at my e-mail address. I'll e-mail you the request also. Thank you, Tatiana