Category Archives: IEP
You know that whole sink or swim thing? Well, we couldn’t stand by any longer and watch them let our 2E daughter drown. Lily was attending a middle school we’ll just call CYA Academy. The turning point was an IEP meeting in which the teachers and staff took turns explaining to a crowded room why Lily’s poor grades were her own fault. If she would study harder and turn in her work, she wouldn’t have D’s & F’s. Lily shrank in her chair, her head bowed, humiliated. I felt sick to my stomach.
After the meeting, our advocate admitted this school was a lost cause. They had no intention of really helping her… it was time to find another swimming pool, so we packed up our pool toys and left.
After much searching, we found another pool, one that really seems to understand twice-exceptional students, and so far, Lily is floating along just fine. In fact, more than fine, she’s swimming a flippin’ 400IM with the weight of her learning challenges still strapped to her.
Funny how that happens when you find a pool that welcomes all learners and lifeguards who want to save lives and have the skills & strategies to pull it off. Lily knows that at her new school the teachers are there to support her when she gets tired or feels weak, but they’re also there to encourage her to swim as far and as fast as she can.
After just 4 weeks at her new school, the transition IEP meeting was like visiting Opposite Land. Lily smiled, participated, giggled and added her suggestions and thoughts. She could see that her teachers and the staff liked her, enjoyed her personality and ‘got’ her. Every concern was met with agreeable and thoughtful discussion. It was a partnership, everyone working together to try to help her succeed. It was so weird, but wonderful!
Nearly 3 weeks and the IEP situation has not been resolved. I have been trying to hold my tongue here (a little bit) during negotiations. The tension and stress just really suck. BUT—I will not give up until they agree, in writing, to provide the support and scaffolding Lily needs to develop as a student and a human being. Because I am NOT going to college with her to check her Student Planner every night.
Received another revised version of the IEP tonight and STILL the language makes it sound like her Executive Function deficits, which are caused by her disability–ADHD, are really only a concern to her parents. In fact, to the rest of the team, it doesn’t seem to be a problem that Lily had 9 missing or late Math assignments & 7 missing or late Language Arts assignments last trimester. (and those are the ones I didn’t catch) C’mon? What’s the problem? Her grades are fine. What am I complaining about? I’m sure her future teachers won’t have a problem with that either, right?
The IEP also seems to suggest that learning those Executive Function skills is completely my daughter’s responsibility. That perhaps some all-seeing, all-knowing, list-making, anal-retentive Student Planner fairy is going to sprinkle sparkly organizational dust from the sky and it will float down upon her sweet 11-year old forehead, soak into her frontal lobe and she will magically, without help, turn in all her assignments, on time.
Maybe the Organizational Fairy could also make these wishes come true:
*After being reminded both verbally and on the board, Lily will understand what to write in her planner every day.
Oh, asking for adult assistance. That’s a big one and pretty much, right now, it doesn’t happen. But her IEP goals and objectives say it should happen, somehow. Oh, right… maybe the Fairy again?
Sadly, there is no Organization Fairy who can help break these seemingly simple tasks down into small enough steps for Lily to begin to learn to do it for herself.
I guess if Lily will just buckle down, put her shoulder to wheel, pull herself up by her bootstraps and shape up or ship out, she’ll do just fine next year, won’t she? ‘Cause I’m sure that’s all it takes. It’s just a character flaw that can be fixed with just a few natural consequences, right? Yep. That’ll teach her.
The IEP drama isn’t over. There is still some back and forth with the school via email that makes me think that we’re not completely on the same page.
Also, I showed Dr. K a copy of the draft IEP and he had some thoughts. He did notice that, while the school had come up with some appropriate goals for Lily, they had not documented how they planned to help her accomplish those goals.
I asked about that in the meeting. They told me that they exchange that information with next year’s team, verbally, in the fall. Dr. K says the specifics need to be written in the document. So, when they send me the next version of the IEP, he’s going to take a closer look at it before I sign it.
I just realized I’m writing this calmly as if I’m not completely frustrated (paranoid, defensive, emotional, furious) with this whole process. I ranted to Dr. K about the fact that I don’t feel like people understand the nuances of Executive Function issues, especially with a twice exceptional kid, and I don’t have the psychological language to explain it fully. He told me that I don’t need to frustrate myself by trying to educate them, just continue to try to get what Lily needs.
He did, though, give me some ideas on how to refute some of the arguments that people make against helping train a child with EF deficits to organize themselves.
*There are a lot of disorganized students in middle school. Your child’s problem is not unusual, so why does she need extra help?
Answer: Because most other middle school students will learn those Executive Function skills naturally as they mature, but a child with EF deficits needs explicit training to learn those skills. If they are not given the help in middle school, they will be unequipped for the organizational demands of high school.
*Your child’s late assignments are not affecting her grades in a big way, so why is her disorganization such a big deal?
Answer: Grades are not the whole measure of a child’s progress and growth as a student.
*We put the assignments on the board, online and give verbal reminders. It is your child’s responsibility to keep track of them and turn them in. There’s nothing more that we can do. Why don’t you (stop hovering and) let your child suffer the natural consequences of disorganization at school?
Answer: Our goal is to eventually have the student take complete responsibility for keeping schoolwork organized, but when a child has EF deficits, it’s a gradual process. Natural consequences will not teach this kind of student specific strategies to stay organized, that’s why support needs scaffolding to gradually reduce the structure until the student is able to form their own habits.
One conclusion I’ve come to through this process, I solemnly swear I will never attend another IEP mtg by myself. There’s too much at stake and I’m not equipped to pull it off.
You know what it’s like when you shop for a car and how you dread getting down to the nitty gritty with the salesperson? The haggling… the part where you have to get forceful and threaten to walk away to get the dealership to finally concede and do you a big, fat favor and throw in the wheels to go along with the car?
To me, that’s what negotiations feel like in an IEP meeting. Doesn’t matter how much I prepare. Doesn’t matter how many books, articles or blogs I read or how much Lily’s therapist, Dr. K, helps talk me through it ahead of time. It always sucks. Even the time I had an advocate in the room to help me. Still sucked.
In the end, though, at Lily’s annual IEP review meeting today, after two and a half hours, we came to an agreement with positive feelings all around. But I had such a difficult time getting them to understand why it is so important to scaffold the support of Lily’s Executive Function skills that I wish I had arranged for Dr. K to call into the meeting. Next time.