Saturday, October 4, 2008

IEP Meeting

Yesterday, my son's teachers called for an emergency IEP meeting. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program and is a method for determining how to address the education of special-needs children. My son (hereafter referred to as 'B') has Asperger's.

His original IEP called for him to be placed in a regular class for most of the day and a CBIP class for autistic kids for a couple of hours. This is not working. B is high-functioning and is ahead of the curve on reading and writing but he has some behavior issues that are disrupting his regular (or 'gen-ed' as they say in the special-needs biz) kindergarten class and making it hard for his teacher to get anything done.

This is hard for a parent to hear. No one wants his or her kid to be the one who is causing problems. His teacher doesn't think he's doing it maliciously, of course, but he is still making things difficult. Hence the meeting. And the start of today's roller coaster.

The first IEP meeting we had when he was about to make the transition from Pre-K to kindergarten was wonderful. We were surrounded by friendly people who addressed the challenges facing everyone involved with warmth, good humor, and honesty. I left that meeting feeling great about the future. Birds landed on my shoulder as I left the school under a rainbow-filled sky.

Yesterday's meeting was not that good.

This is not to say that anyone was mean to us but there were two participants who really need to work on their bedside manners. Present were both of B's teachers (Gen-ed and CBIP), the school's principal, the school counselor, the school's special-ed coordinator, my wife, my mother, and me. First, let me state that it was obvious that everyone there was concerned about B's welfare as well as that of the other children in the school. However, the counselor and the coordinator had off-putting personalities that did nothing to relieve the anxiety that my wife and I were feeling.

We went into the meeting nervous because we truly had no idea what to expect. Well, that's not true. My wife gets daily updates from B's teachers so we knew that there had been some problems. We did not, however, know what the recommendations would be and the counselor's comments put us on edge.

But you know what? Despite, or maybe because of, her bluntness the counselor was the only person to bring up a few things that needed to be addressed.

For example, she brought up the subject of medication for B which we had not seriously considered. We still have serious concerns about it but since she mentioned it we will now bring it up with his pediatrician and at least explore the option. She also asked "What kind of respite do you get?" showing that she understands that parents' needs should be addressed, as well.

Then the big one. The counselor advised us not to let the fact that he is advanced for his age in many respects blind us to his deficiencies. I'm not going to go into the details in this post but she was absolutely right and I absolutely did not want to hear it. I felt myself throwing up mental walls so her words wouldn't reach me. I got over it and finally listened to what she was saying but it still stung. However, if I am unable to listen to an honest evaluation of my son's abilities I am not going to be of any help to him and I love him too much to hold him back like that.

The meeting was productive in that B's schedule was adjusted so that he will be able to better integrate himself into the Gen-ed class and some suggestions for addressing his behavior issues were tossed out to the teachers. This whole thing is going to be a gradual process and, intellectually, I understand that but what I really want is the magical solution that will instantly make things better for everyone involved.

Is that too much to ask?


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6 comments:

Perky Skeptic said...

Yeah, I kind of hated the school counselor. I kind of wanted to kick her. :kick, kick!:

I kind of hate her less now that you've talked me down, though. :) Her manner had me wanting to take umbrage at everything she said. She's probably just socially awkward. In a really condescending way. (Calm down, Perky!!!)

Emily said...

Hi...wandered over here to visit you two (three).

Counselors often annoy the crap out of me. We have a great one now, but the one we had last year brought out the desire in me to smack someone--namely, her.

Does your school "do" aides? If your son is taking up too much of the gen-ed teacher's time, an aide can manage that. That's what aides are for. "Least restrictive environment" means that your school oughta be talking about that kind of accommodation in the gen-ed classroom, in my opinion. The district is obliged to make such accommodations to ensure LRE for your son, especially if he's academically on target or beyond.

I'm glad you're being open-minded about what an annoying person said to you. I try to do the same thing. Ain't easy, but I immaturely view it as a sign of my ever-needing-to-grow maturity.

Joy said...

I felt the same way about that counselor. It felt as if she were assessing us on a checklist in her head. She definitely had an attitude.

Yes, Emily, part of his plan is to have an educational assistant with him when he's in the regular classroom. Inclusion for those hours and then back in the CBIP class for the rest of the day.

(I'm the grandmother and a retired teacher.)

Perky Skeptic said...

Oh man!!! I FINALLY was able to put my finger on what got my goat about that counselor!!!

I felt like she was putting us on trial.

EVERYONE else we have dealt with in the school system has come across as a valued and mutually-respectful ally in B's education, wanting to help us figure out what's best for him and implement it! She came across as thinking she knew what was best for our son more than we did and remaining aloof to scope us out rather than putting herself on "our level" to actually TALK WITH us instead of down to us. Plus, as Joy said (maybe in an email?) it really did feel like she had an agenda apart from the goals we were all supposed to be working toward in that meeting.

Emily, I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who has wanted to smack a school counselor! It really does help me to feel like our family less alone and isolated in this child-rearing adventure! I'm so glad there are people like you out there in the blogoverse! (Blogsmos?) :)

Vaklam said...

Emily: Thanks for stopping by and for the great comments. Once I realized that the way she said things sucked but the things she was saying were not so bad, that helped. However, I still want to smack her.

Joy said...

I definitely missed that group we met with at the first school and never felt on trial there at all. They were great! It was a true meeting where we had a common goal and discussed what could be done. If we call a meeting, we need to ask for that autism specialist to attend.