Well it is almost that time of year again. It’s Time for the annual IEP meeting, which is an acronym for Individualized Education Program. I like to refer to it as the It’s Extremely Painful meeting. Well, not always. Sometimes it is almost pleasant, almost! Mostly, it is very stressful and anxiety inducing for me. This year remains to be seen. I always hope for pleasant and easy going, but, somehow it usually ends up in some sort of adversarial situation. For example, before Parker was even of school age, we had our school district inCaliforniatrying every way to Sunday to label him intellectually disabled. Nobody knew what syndrome he had and nobody really understood what he could or what he could not do, but, the administration were all too happy to just slap a label on him. I must say this type of thing got my back up many times and put me into an adversarial mood early on. Another thing the same district did was insist on a school situation that was completely wrong for Parker. This was not just an overprotective mom thing. Everyone that knew Parker could see that the district was nuts and just trying to find a place, any place, to put him and fulfill their requirement. These were some of our first IEP fights and I’m afraid the IEP fights escalated from this point. In fact, before we were finally through with this district and ready to move away fromCalifornia, we had an attorney that accompanied us to every IEP. There is nothing more that says I challenge you to a fight than arriving to every meeting with counsel for each side of the table. Oh, the good old days of legal arguments, meetings, phone calls, letters, and oh the money that flew out of our hands! Yeah, I don’t miss any of that.
Since moving, most IEP meetings have been kinder and gentler; but, I still get that same old feeling in the pit of my stomach that someone will let down the boom on us. At first, the meetings were strangely pleasant, but, it didn’t take long before we were hit with a one two punch. The district wants Parker to go to an all special needs school. We want Parker in an EC, Exceptional Children’s, class in a regular education school. We don’t want him segregated from the typical children and our hopes are that someday he might be in a regular education classroom for at least part of the day. Maybe that is too much to hope for, but, we have explained ourselves and our feelings. We also understand that after elementary we will have to make a big decision about where he will go. The EC classes only go through 6th grade. Since Parker changes so much year to year, we feel we need to take things a year at a time. We do look to the future and hope for the best, but, we understand that the best may not work out for us. We are presently thinking about what we may do when he gets to middle school and have some ideas. We are not ready to write off all our hopes and go straight to the special education school. I know that it probably costs the school district more to have kids in the EC classes in the regular education schools, but, this is our child and we are looking out for what is best for him, not the district.
Last year, when we refused to send Parker to the special education school, we were told that he would be sent to another regular education school. This was not going to work for us either. We had some concerns about the teacher of the class and we were also concerned about how small Parker is and the fact that all the students were his age and older. We worried about his safety in such a situation. Parker’s neurologist was convinced that he should stay home and have his teaching in home rather than go to school and be exposed to so many germs. Germs cause seizures and our goal is to cut down the number of seizures. I agreed with the concept, but, felt that Parker gets a lot out of being around the other kids at school and the interaction he gets in school. When I convinced the neurologist that he should stay in school, she added that he needs to be in a school that is close to home and that the school move would not be acceptable. She told me that I need to be able to get to him quickly should an emergency arise and for him to be 20 minutes away wasn’t okay. She wrote a letter to the school official to explain this idea and of course this brought about more conflict.
Last year, the school official decided, after going over the letter, to let Parker finish out elementary school where he is. This year, we are hopeful that she will abide by this decision and allow Parker to finish elementary school in his current situation. Yes, he is the oldest child in the room, but, he is little and the most physically challenged. It is a good place for him and he is close to home. If all goes well, this IEP will be a pleasant one, if not, who knows what will be in store for us.