The IEP Nightmare

When you have a child with a disability, one of the first things you try to do is get help.

Help can come in many forms, from therapists to doctors to the school system.

When my daughter was first deemed "disabled enough" (my term) to qualify for our school district's Special Education Program, I was thrilled.  I was coming off long days and nights caring for her, taking her to therapists, and basically struggling by myself as my husband had to, you know, make a living.

Therefore when they told me she could be in the Pre-kindergarten program they have for children ages 3-5, I was over the moon.  My god, two hours to myself!  Every day!  She would be given some speech therapy and she qualified at the time for occupational therapy as well.  Didn't matter that the occupational therapy was twenty minutes from the school and I had to sit in the school parking lot while she was there, it was like 45 minutes of heaven to me at the time.

When children are accepted into the Special Education program in California, you the parent enter into what is called an IEP, or Individual Education Program.  This is essentially a contract from the school district that details what the goals of the student are going to be in the upcoming year, and what measurements will be used to determine whether the goal will be reached. 

For example, a goal could be that my daughter needed to verbally ask for assistance when she needed help with a problem.  If she was able to perform this task let's say 85% or more of the time as evaluated by her teacher, then they would consider that goal reached.  This is normally done on a yearly basis, though.  If your kid is a quick study and you have no idea that they got the message three months into the implementation of the IEP, you would have no way of knowing until the yearly IEP meeting.

Something I learned the hard way, by the way.

When my daughter was still markedly showing her disability because she was only two or three and unable to control herself, and the language skills were still in the 10th percentile for her age group, the idea of the IEP was lovely. 

IEP meetings were things where I was so grateful for the help she was getting and the improvements she was making, I went along with anything they said.  Oh, well, she doesn't need occupational therapy any longer?  They are the experts after all!  This despite my inner mama brain whispering, "Are you sure this is right?"

Don't get me wrong, I AM grateful for all the assistance that has been given to my daughter.  I think  attending the Special Education program was a big part of her success.  Her primary teacher is wonderful, my daughter loves her and has had her for the entire time she has been enrolled.

But now that things are entering more of a gray area with my daughter where she is still considered someone with a disability, but it does not show itself as prominently.  You would probably be hard-pressed at this point to recognize her as someone with a disability at all.  However, that doesn't mean there aren't still big issues that need to be dealt with.

As we have progressed in this system, I have never felt more powerless.  The IEP, once considered a godsend, is now a burdensome, almost argumentative process where I feel I am actually having to fight for very basic things to accommodate my daughter.  I never realized that the IEP is actually the school district's complete control over your child and their experience in the education system.  If the "experts" don't recommend it for your child, and you think differently, it automatically becomes this horrible adversarial thing that stresses you out and keeps you awake at night.

Only when you sit there and just accept everything they say is the process pleasant.  Goodness forbid you have a brain of your own, or that you might just know a little bit more about your child than they do.  Then you are considered an enemy.  The program coordinator at my daughter's school hates me so much that in our last IEP meeting, I was addressed solely as "Mom." Not my first or last name, despite the fact that we exchange emails on an almost weekly basis.  Nope, nothing like putting the mere "Mom" in her place.

For next year, my daughter has been given the barest minimum of support.  She will get a RSP (Resource Service Provider) for all of an hour each week.  This is supposed to be a small group setting where she will receive assistance for any academic problems she is having.

But, she has scored above average on all her academic testing, so I am having a difficult time understanding what exactly will be happening in these sessions.

I am seriously considering pulling her out of Special Education altogether. Why give them so much power over my daughter for a freaking hour a week?  I've heard good things about RSP's, and I want to give the situation the benefit of the doubt, but I've reached a place where I don't trust anyone in the school system much anymore.  This is coming from a liberal Democrat, by the way.

I've got about a week to make a decision.

It's a tough one.


Anvilcloud said…
It does seem that she has made great progress. Perhaps the system doesn't work well with the 'borderline' kids. I sometimes felt that with my daughter.
Wow, I felt it like a slap in the face when you said they addressed you as 'mom'. How disrespectful. I completely understand how you feel and wondering what your decision was.

I know that you would have made the right one. You are a fierce mama bear.
Wow, I felt it like a slap in the face when you said they addressed you as 'mom'. How disrespectful. I completely understand how you feel and wondering what your decision was.

I know that you would have made the right one. You are a fierce mama bear.
Gina said…
I wound up requesting and receiving an independent assessment for her Sensory Processing Disorder, which was a big part of the fight with the district.

The results came back as my daughter testing all in the "normal" range, although in at least four categories she was one percentage point from being "not normal" and I just about wanted to cry because I know that in those areas she is NOT normal, no matter what this assessor, paid by the school district, said.

I went along with the RSP thing for this coming year, with the knowledge I can take her out of it at any time. :(

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