Our Journey through the IEP process

The IEP process can be a long one. Between meetings, assessments, agreements or disagreements, etc. There is one goal that everyone on the IEP team should have in mind, and that is to give the child the best educational experience they deserve and need. But, is that really what everyone on the team has in mind?

In October we had my son’s transition meeting. Which was to set up appointment dates for hearing tests, assessments, IEP meeting to discuss the assessment, and go over how pre-k disability is different from early steps. (What he was transitioning away from)

The transition meeting went horrible, in my opinion. The lady who is in charge of everything saw me, a young single mother, walk in and you could see her entire demeanor change. She then proceeded to tell me how it was going to be and that my son probably wouldn’t qualify for much. Mind you, she has never ever met my child. I promptly asked her “Isn’t it true that if I disagree with your assessments, I don’t have to sign, and I can request a separate evaluation by someone of my choice?” She glared at me and tossed me a packet that consisted of all my rights. She then began to throw dates at me that she had already signed us up for. I looked through my calendar and told her which dates did not work for us. Her response was “What do you mean they don’t work?” After explaining that I am a full time student and my son has many therapies a week, she agreed to change some of the dates.

 

Fast forward to yesterday, the assessment day. I did not sleep the night before hand because after the transition meeting, I had a gut feeling that things would not go right. We woke up, my son had a great breakfast, we got ready, and were on our way to the office. As we are approaching the office my cell phone starts to ring. It is the head lady, she says “Oh my, I just realized we forgot to call Friday to remind you of the appointment this morning. Did you by any chance remember your son had an assessment this morning?” I told her that yes I did remember and that we were almost at her office. She started to laugh and said “Wow, you are better than I thought.”

That really started to get my blood boiling. Just what did she mean by that? Obviously she had preconceived notions of me, and I’m guessing they had to do with my age. We arrive at the office and she has paperwork for me to sign. She tells me just to check the box saying I will be at the IEP meeting and sign it. I asked her since I was bringing people if I needed to sign anything for that and also told her I wanted their report before the meeting so that I and the people I was bringing could review it before the meeting. More glares from her before I got an “I suppose so.” I signed the paperwork and 3 people came in.

A man who was a social worker, a woman school psychologist, and a woman speech pathologist. From the get go the speech pathologist was looking me up and down and giving me the most unfriendly look.

They began their assessment of my son by asking me a million and one questions. The 2 women both speaking at the same time. I had to stop them and tell them I had aspergers. They were overwhelming me. That did not stop them. I answered a lot of their questions with “sometimes”. Every time I did they made faces at me and then would look at one another. I tried to explain that my son is different day by day, minute by minute. After they finished their questions they finally started to pay attention to my son, while I talked to the social worker. While they were playing with my son they kept looking at me and whispering to each other, which made me feel extremely uncomfortable. At times they would whisper loud enough for me to hear they were talking about me. Talking about how “inconsistent” my answers were to them compared to my written answers.

I don’t know what they expected. They overwhelmed me with question after question. When I said sometimes, I meant sometimes. You never know what mood my son will be in at any given moment. If he will be happy, sad, angry, aggressive, overactive, lethargic, etc.

The speech pathologist and the psychologist kept telling me how smart (totally a good thing, yes he is super smart) and how normal he is. He is not “normal”. They kept saying this and every time they did, I could feel myself getting sick. I could feel the tension.

The social worker did a test on my son, which he scored right then and there. A normal child would score between an 85 and 115. My son scored a 65. The test also showed that developmentally he is only at 1 year and 9 months. When in actuality he is 2 years 10 months. The psychologist and speech pathologist shrugged off those results as if they meant nothing.

The social worker could tell that I was not comfortable and I was not liking the 2 women at all. He finally looked at me and said “The IEP process is a team effort. Everything on it is recommended by the team and YOU are a part of that team. In fact YOU are the biggest part of that team because you know your child better than anyone else.”

His words really helped to ease my mind somewhat, but I still left feeling sick. I still have the feeling in the bottom of my gut that when we go to his IEP meeting next Friday, it is going to be a fight. Why does it have to be this way? Also, after the meeting I realized that they didn’t have an occupational therapist there. And I want to know why. My son currently receives occupational and it is where he needs the most help.

 

I have heard tons of IEP stories from other parents. Some good and some bad. But even the good ones, at some point, there was a fight. Maybe it wasn’t in the beginning, but it happened. Fighting to get teachers to actually follow the IEP, fighting to get bus drivers to follow IEPs, and fighting to get the proper changes put on after an IEP has been in place for a few years.

Why is it always a fight? Isn’t one of the laws called FAPE? (Fair Appropriate Public Education)  So why do we have to fight to get it?

Feel free to share your IEP experience with me, whether it was good or bad.

Also, if you have yet to go through the IEP process, or are currently going through it, here are some very helpful links to the laws and your rights:

IDEA http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/index.htm

Discrimination http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.index.htm

FAPE http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/fape.index.htm

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