In California, we have something that is called "Transitional Kindergarten." This is an all day program created specifically for children who have late-year birthdays, such as my daughter who was born in November. Since they moved the minimum age of entry into Kindergarten back to being 5 before the beginning of the school year, they created TK for children who missed the cutoff, but could still benefit from an all day program to get them ready for Kinder.
So, seeing as how my daughter has attended Special Day Class since the age of 3, I was not aware that she was a candidate for TK. When we held her IEP last March with all of the various staff that make up the IEP team, no one even mentioned TK.
A couple of months ago, another parent asked me why my daughter was not in TK, at first I didn't really have a reply. Uh, because she didn't qualify? No, she said, they will assess each SDC pupil on a case by case basis if requested by the parent.
Her current class is three hours a day, and the TK is six. Now, I am being honest when I say that her being in a class for six hours a day would change our family's life in a big, big way. But, she absolutely does better in a structured environment than at home. She thrives on structure, and loves being around other people. So, win for everyone, right?
I immediately contacted the principal of the school and asked why TK was not an option for my daughter. Why did no one even address it at the IEP meeting? Regardless of whether they recommended her for TK at that time, it would have always been an option for me to pull her out of SDC and enroll her in TK.
I got a lot of hemming and hawing and "Oh, back then she wasn't right for TK," and maybe back in March of last year, she wasn't. But she made HUGE improvements in all areas over the summer, and I wish that would have been taken into consideration in August when she went back. But, not a word from anyone at the school.
So when I brought this up in mid December, I thought, they know that she has made huge strides, I am sure they will work with me on trying to place her even part time in a TK program. Maybe she could do half and half, I was just looking for someone to work with me.
I was told that I was free to enroll her in a private preschool, and that they even thought it was a great idea that she enroll in a private program for 3 hours a day, but they would not facilitate anything with TK.
Now, if anyone is familiar with the concepts of FAPE (free access to public education) and LRE (least restrictive learning environment) what they were telling me seemed to fly in the face of both of those rights. I could PAY for a preschool, but they were horrified that I wanted to attend a public TK. Least restrictive environment states that a Special Education Student should always attend school with regular students as long as the SE student is capable of being in class.
So I tried to find a TK program that was close to us, as not all schools in the district offer it. And wouldn't you know it, all schools in our immediate area did not have any space. And they wanted to know WHY I was looking to put her into TK, which I honestly thought was none of their business. In fact, I got an email from the principal asking me why I was calling the district and asking about open TK programs. It felt very Big-Brother-ish.
So I call an IEP meeting, which is well within my rights to do, and I can tell they are all annoyed. Annoyed that I am trying to do what is best for my daughter. Horrible parent that I am.
They give me this dog and pony show about how I shouldn't "plunk" (their words) my daughter into a TK program mid-year. That the TK program had a 30-1 ratio and how I should be grateful that my daughter has a 1-5 ratio. That I should wait the two months for them to complete her Triennial evaluation (a big deal for them and their stats) and then they would determine what path she should take. Basically saying that I don't know jack crap about is best for her, they do.
I tried to ask how they knew she would fail at a six hour day without even trying? And if her future was so uncertain, why not try it out now and then figure out how best to accommodate her needs when she gets to Kinder?
The best I got was that they would allow her to sit in on a TK class which shares the same campus as the SDC for forty minutes, three days a week. I told them I thought that anyone could fake it for forty minutes, but they weren't at all interested in what I had to say. Beaten down, I agreed to wait for her Triennial.
Fast forward a month and a half and I requested her IEP documents ahead of our formal meeting, which consist of testing done by her teacher, her Occupational Therapist, her Speech Therapist, and the School Psychologist. This is something I am legally allowed to do, although it is a fact I had to be told from someone else outside the district.
And wouldn't you know it, they all think she is fine! Nope, no problems here! After all that insinuation that it would be a mistake to pull her out of SDC so that she could receive accommodations in Kinder, she will get NOTHING. Her speech was rated as age-appropriate (which our health provider disagrees with) and her Occupational Therapist recommended that she no longer receive services either. Oh sure, they call it "graduating" to make it more palatable, but I totally disagree.
I was asked to fill out some ratings scales at home for the Occupational Therapist and the Psychologist, and according to them, I am a fucking kook (paraphrasing here) who thinks my daughter has huge issues. They see zero wrong and I come off like a parent who is completely out of touch with how my daughter actually is.
Seriously, I hate people sometimes. Even well meaning ones, who are constrained by the huge machine that is the educational system, especially in the state of California. I understand that there are finite resources to go around and that my daughter is definitely on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. And I am grateful for that and for all the people who have helped her to achieve to get there. However, it doesn't mean that she is normal and fine and life will just move on when she hits Kinder.
My meeting with the IEP team is on Thursday. Pray for me. Or maybe them, because I am pissed.