Sophie’s annual IEP meeting was this morning.
For once, I was at school early, which wasn’t hard, since Ray had to get the girls to school. I even made it to Starbucks first, and chuckled to myself that really, all we needed to write in Sophie’s IEP plan was that school should prepare her to someday have the wherewithall to order Ms. X’s standard drink:
Venti iced Americano, lots of ice, extra cream and 2 Splendas.
I know I can never remember it.
For anyone not familiar with the initials, an IEP is an “Individualized Education Plan,” created for a child with some type of special needs (everything from an isolated speech impediment to more global issues, like, say, those associated with Down syndrome) and implemented by the public schools.
Federal law governs the implementation of IEPs. I haven’t studied the law as carefully as I know I should, but let’s just say I’m quite certain there are some gaps when it comes Sophie’s services.
I blame myself for not pushing harder, but one thing I’ve learned in this whole process is that pushing might get you what you think you want — like full implementation of the law, meaning additional services, an aide in the classroom, etc. — but won’t get you what you really want. Like a school community that welcomes and embraces your special needs child.
And that we have. At least, it seemed that way, during Sophie’s IEP meeting this morning. I usually get weepy or yell (or both) during these meetings, but today’s went pretty smoothly.
Mainly that’s because I wasn’t asking for anything — at least, not for anything they weren’t already offering. Also because we all spent the whole hour anxiously watching the clock (an hour isn’t enough time to conduct the annual IEP meeting that will set your child’s agenda for an entire year). And because the occupational therapist wasn’t there.
The occupational therapist had jury duty this morning. I didn’t learn that until the rest of us (Ms. X, two special education teachers including Ms. Y, the adapative PE teacher, two physical therapists including Dorcas, the speech therapist and even the principal — who at least did not leave early for a meeting about a golf tournament this time and only looked at her Blackberry a few times) were gathered around the table.
If I’d known that, I would have asked to reschedule the meeting.
At this point, anyway, Sophie’s occupational therapy (fine motor skills, like writing) needs are greater than her other needs, and we had a lot of decisions to make about adaptive materials and other issues. Long story short, the meeting was a bit of a wash, without the OT. (I wasn’t all that surprised; she hasn’t made it to a single meeting all year. I met her for the first time just a couple of weeks ago.)
So we covered some ground, but we’ll still need to have another meeting with the OT. Or try, anyway.
A lot is up in the air, and not just regarding OT. Yes, Sophie will go to First Grade next year. (Gulp.) And the principal, without making any promises, indicated that she’ll have Ms. Y. (Yay!)
But although you’re only really supposed to get one IEP meeting a year, I asked to meet sooner — starting with the first week of school, to review safety concerns. The students will move into a new school in August. I’m told the new building will be much more secure, but I asked that several of us take a walking tour with Sophie before deciding any course of action regarding safety.
Now, the course of action regarding safety this year — at the admittedly unsafe school — was basically NOTHING, so I’m not holding my breath. But the principal seemed more amenable this morning to finding accomodations for Sophie.
At the last meeting of the IEP team, in September, I asked that someone on staff walk Sophie to the playground from the cafeteria each day, so she wouldn’t take a wrong turn and wind up literally in the street. The principal winced dramatically and told me (not for the first time) that if Sophie can’t act like a typical kid, she can’t go to the school with the typical kids — and if I needed special accomodations I’d need to explore options elsewhere in the district.
This school, our neighborhood school, is the school that houses the magnet program for kids with autism. If Sophie was autistic, cool. But the mentally retarded kids are to go to another school in the district. (Not an “excelling” school, like this one, and not the school where Annabelle goes.) Since Sophie’s not technically MR, I think I’d have a good argument for keeping her at her home school.
But okay, fine, for kindergarten, at least, we pretty much acted like Sophie was typical. Still, that leaves a few loose strings, like lunch recess. (I did come up with a plan this year that’s worked; that I had to do on my own, though. The principal’s not bothered by it, which I think is why she was friendlier this time around. Clearly, Sophie — and I — weren’t as big a bother as she’d anticipated. So far, so good. Maybe we’ll get a little help next year.)
The IEP team agreed to meet the first week of school regarding safety and the fourth week to talk about academics, and in the end I asked the team leader to stop rushing — she was trying to read me an entire page of small type and get me to agree to dozens of points, as the clock ticked down the last remaining seconds before the bell rang and school began — and explained that I wasn’t signing anything today, particularly without the occupational therapist present.
She politely said she understood. (The team leader is the speech therapist, and she always seems flustered. I’m not sure if that accounts for her somewhat poor grammar, which I try to overlook but find troubling since, after all, she’s the freaking speech therapist!)
I walked out of the meeting feeling pretty good, but now that I’ve written this, I’m glum, thinking about how much is still unresolved and ultimately, how wimpy I am.
And, as I said to the IEP team, I’m thinking about how when we have her tested again this summer, Sophie’s IQ will need to have dropped 14 points in the past year to qualify her to keep her state services (which are all far superior and more comprehensive than the speech, occpational and physical therapy she receives at school).
“Wish us luck failing that IQ test this summer!” I told them, then gave Ms. X a faux dirty look. We all laughed. Ms. X had just gotten done reviewing all of Sophie’s academic successes: as of yesterday she could count to 65; knows all her shapes, numbers to 20 and all sounds; and recognized 24 of the 100 sight words the kids are supposed to recognize by the end of first grade.
True, we also reviewed the fact that she isn’t interested in catching a ball and talked about her math challenges, but I can live with that (after all, that’s ME) if Sophie really and truly can learn how to read. Few troubles in life can’t be solved by escaping in a good book.
That does cheer me up a little.