But They Mean Well

Hopefully, this is my last IEP-related post for a while.  🙂

As most parents of special needs children with IEPs know, the process can either be very easy or very tiring, with most tending towards the latter rather than the former.  It’s the reading over the reports before showing up at the meetings, figuring out what the reports are missing and where you have documentation to fill those gaps, where you have evidence to contradict the reports from the teachers, where you have doubts… and then showing up for the meeting to slug it out and sure that you’re writing a document that has the child’s best interest involved in it.

And you do end up with meetings like we had yesterday, and the one we had earlier this year, where there are large portions where it is contentious, where you’re going to be fighting with the staff, neither side giving ground and ending up with a document that’s more theirs than yours, if only because you can’t get them to sufficiently see your point… but that’s not worth taking to mediation because you’re willing to give it a shot, since they see your child act differently than you do.

On Facebook, one of my friends commented that it seems like the professionals don’t care about the Monster.  I don’t think that’s really true – certainly, the woman from Early Learning isn’t as invested in his progress, and there have been other occasions where I have felt like members of the staff (the interim IEP-chair while Ms. R was out is a prime example) are just going through the motions.  But as I’ve also said before, so many of the members of the team care about the Monster’s progress as if he were their own child, and they’ve done everything they can to be supportive of what we want.

As I said to Dr. S, when I ran into him in the lot when I was putting the Monster and R into the car (after school, on our way to take the Monster to I Can Do It Too at Rebounders) – I don’t hate anyone in the meetings.  I wouldn’t even say that I dislike the woman from Early Learning.  I dislike her opinion, and I think she’s wrong, but I think she means well.  She’s genuinely trying to do things that she feels give the Monster an environment that will enable him to succeed, and we simply disagree with what constitutes that environment.

A good example is the bussing for next year – we live far enough from Mount Washington that we qualify for bussing, but there’s three options:

  • No transportation – we take the Monster to and from school ourselves (it’s roughly a 5-7 minute drive),
  • IEP transportation – Baltimore City Public Schools arranges for point-to-point transportation, like he has now, or
  • Standard Yellow Bus – Baltimore City Public Schools arranges for a stop nearby, and he rides a bus without an aide.

I probably shocked the woman from Early Learning when I said I was okay with standard bussing without a single fight.

Let’s face a simple fact – he’s essentially riding standard bussing now.  Despite the fact that his current bus is required to put him in a five-point harness, given the rapidity with which they leave when they pick him up, and how quickly he gets off when he returns home, I don’t think they’re using it.  He spent all last summer going to and from a day camp without a safety seat on a school bus.  And while he probably needs some support – ensuring the bus driver knows he needs to sit near the front of the bus, so he’s “close” to an adult and not in the back where he could possibly be picked on – he’s probably okay riding the standard bus.  We can always revisit the decision early in the school year if we perceive a problem.  (His latest IEP includes notes to the school that they need to have us in for a review meeting six weeks into the school year.)

And I say that I shocked her because of how it went down.  She was armed with all of the arguments for why it’s a “good thing” for him to be on a regular bus – the experience of it, the chances for socialization, the fact that he probably will be using one throughout his schooling – and I was already prepared to say “fine” to the concept of it.  The fact that she had those arguments queued up, and that my opinion was already in the same direction, is helpful, but notice what she wasn’t arguing.  It wasn’t an argument that “he doesn’t qualify” or “it’s overly supportive”, but that it was probably better for his development.

The important thing to try to keep in mind, in the midst of all the stress, is a variation of Roddenberry’s Law (coined regarding Starfleet officers fighting each other on the earlier Star Trek shows): you can disagree with the team without them necessarily being evil.  It’s when you’re pushing an agenda that’s against the common good that you cross the latter line.

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