Friday, June 02, 2006

The IEP Process Has Begun

So now the process has begun. We are finally transitioning Owen into the LAUSD. Here’s how things have gone so far. We had our initial evaluation with the school district, and that seemed to go well. There were several people there including an OT, PT, school psychologist, school nurse, and a speech therapist. At first, they all sat around a table and kind of stared at us. I’m not so sure these people understand kids, since that is exactly the easiest way to make a child like mine feel uncomfortable. I finally asked if I could let him play with the balls in the room (thank God they had balls there!). He warmed up pretty well, and they each evaluated him for their own specific needs. I felt like he performed pretty well. The one person who was very enthusiastic about him was the PT. She thought he was doing great. The OT and the speech therapist both saw that he had some issues, I think. The speech therapist told me that she noticed he had a slight delay in auditory cognition, but we both agreed he was more delayed in speech communication. So after two hours, we felt that things went well, and Owen did pretty well. I was pretty confident that we could find a good medium for placement for him. Until a week later, when they called to evaluate him at the transition class he goes to with typical kids. I told them that was fine if they wanted to come evaluate him, but really, I was nervous about it. Owen can do fine around us, we know how to motivate him, but when it comes to doing it on his own, it’s different. I know that in Sarah’s transition class he will observe the kids a lot, and not seem to participate much, but then he comes home and learns things. So, I was a little nervous. And, to top it all off, he had just come off the 24-hour flu. So, I went to pick up Owen from class and they were still there, observing him. When they came out, I asked them what they thought. It was the PT, OT and school psychologist who were there. The OT said to me, in a very condescending way, “Well, it’s a sweet program, but you can tell they are very accommodating to him.” Okay, that arrow hurt. Of course they are accommodating, because sometimes he needs direction. He’s also the youngest in the class, too. So then I asked the PT what she thought, and she seemed to think Owen was doing well, physically. Of course, they came late, so they didn’t see him interacting with the other kids and playing ball. Instead, they saw him sitting for story time and a puppet show. When they do the reading and puppet shows, Owen typically pays attention, but doesn’t necessarily get involved and join in shouting out words. So, the psychologist says to me that “he is clearly not where the other kids are in terms of imitating and initiating play. He doesn’t mimic at all.” Well, duh, bitch, we wouldn’t be standing here having this conversation if my child was doing what a typical 3-year old is doing! So, I told them that Owen is more of an observer and will come home and initiate play with puppets or something they played with in school. I felt so angry, and out of control, as if they had a right to judge my child based on 20 minutes of watching him. But I knew that this would happen. I knew that this is what the other parents who have gone through this were trying to warn me about.

They left, and I could only feel disappointment in myself for not having stood up to them and told them to spend more time with my child and then maybe I’ll listen to what they have to say about my child. But, instead, I just swallowed my feelings. After they left, Erik stopped by to see how things went, and lo and behold, Owen decided he wanted to ride a tricycle. He said, “Daddy, ride,” and did the sign to go with it, and Erik and I looked at each other in amazement. Of course, there was a little boy named Charlie who was riding a bike just like it and I know that’s why he wanted to ride. But I was still amazed. For two years, he had been coming to this class and had no interest in riding a tricycle, and suddenly, he didn’t want to get off of it. Too bad the LAUSD people had already left. So that was our first encounters with the LAUSD.

The following week, we went to look at schools. We looked at three schools, the first being a pre-school mixed, which means a smaller class, only ten kids, but all of them with IEPs. The program we saw had ten kids (all boys, surprisingly), and it seemed as if most of them had autism. The kids were all over the place, too. They were unruly, and the speech teacher didn’t seem to be getting through to them. The kicker was when Erik asked the teacher if she had any Down Syndrome kids in her program and she said, “Oh no, they are so low-functioning I never get them in my class.” Okay, can you twist the knife a little more? This is what made me realize that despite all our advances, and all the research that points out that our kids can learn, the assumptions that our kids are unteachable and stupid will always be there. I find that more and more as I navigate this thing called life.

The third school we saw, which was a collaborative program (includes 15 typical kids and 5 IEP kids), was what gave us hope. It was the kind of classroom we could see Owen thriving in. The two women teachers had been teaching together for 20 years or so, and were great. You could tell the kids loved them. One of the teachers is almost deaf, so in a way, we felt that she understood kids with special needs. She also said that because of her handicap, she demands that kids look her in the eye when they talk to her, otherwise, she doesn’t know what they are saying, which I think is an amazing skill to teach a child. The two teachers told us their philosophy is that they treat all kids the same. They expect all their kids to be ready for kindergarten and they don’t cut them any slack (in other words, they don’t baby them). I really liked this philosophy because I think Owen will thrive under teachers like this. Plus, they asked us if we could pick out the IEP kids, and I’m telling you, I couldn’t. I could not tell you which kids were the special needs kids, and they pride themselves on that. I hope Owen can go to this class. So next up is our meeting with the LAUSD for our IEP (so many acronyms!). We will fight for this third classroom setting we saw, and I will be so pissed if they try to tell us that Owen isn’t good enough for that program…because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Is our child “good enough” for society? Enough for today. Have a good weekend everybody.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. I wrote a sort of round-up post on IEP stories, and included a link to this post.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

Sounds like out experience as well. Although the teacher in the purely special ed class didn't make a comment like that! [I would report that comment to the person in charge of special ed]

Callum is going to be starting in a collaborative class in September and I think he'll do great. I just wish we hadn't had to fight for where we think his best placement is.

The whole IEP evaluation process was absolutley exhausting and seemed like a waste of time because they'd decided which class they wanted to offer before they'd even met him. They asked us to fill out a parent evaluation - we filled it out honestly and then they wanted us to change some of our answers because they hadn't observed the behaviour!

Good luck with the IEP. Don't sign anything until you've read it completley. Take a tape recorder with you and tape the meeting. If they don't want to offer the collaborative class then make them give a real explanation. Ask for all reports of evaluations and goals before the meeting.

9:42 AM  

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