To Be Implemented on Mars

IEPSomewhere along the way, I heard someone tell me that an IEP (an “individualized education plan” for anyone new to special-needs speak) should be written so that it could be “implemented by Martians” – that someone who had not ever met the child in question could pick up the document, read through it and, assuming they can read English, implement the goals and required supports.

The Monster has had an IEP for three school years now, and the current IEP expired about a week or so ago.  So it’s time, as you can imagine, for us to review and update the IEP for the 2015-2016 school year.

Yeah…

So, as I’ve mentioned before, the Monster’s not making much progress against his IEP goals of late.  He’s failing his academic coursework, and he doesn’t seem to be getting a good grip on the subjects that are covered by his homework.  We’ve actually had documented regression in his reading ability… so school’s turned essentially, even with a TAS (“temporary adult support”), into glorified babysitting.

The problem really isn’t his current school, the Mount Washington School. MWS is a fantastic environment – it’s one of the best elementary-middle schools in the city, with a caring, dedicated staff who are trying their hardest to ensure the kids succeed.  The problem honestly is the amount of resources that can be brought to bear on the Monster’s educational process, since he’s really needing a lot more service than he’s getting.  He was at least progressing last year, in a more intensive environment, and in the mainstream environment… he’s drowning.  An hour of special-ed a day, three speech sessions, some OT… that’s not enough to help him even tread water, much less catch up with his typical developing peers.  He’s mostly doing parallel work along side them as he’s falling further behind.

A few weeks ago, the wife suggested that we get more firepower involved with our IEP process, and we changed to a new advocate, recommended by a law firm that a friend suggested we contact.  The new advocate immediately went through everything with a fine-toothed comb, identified a number of problems in the current IEP, and we sketched out a plan to try to right the ship, coupled with the acceptance that the Monster is going to be repeating first grade.

So we dove into the process today.  What was supposed to be a two hour meeting about the entire IEP turned into the back-and-forth about the various reports, about what the impressions were of the staff from the school of the outside assessments that we brought in (SLP, OT, neuropsych, developmental pediatrician), and how they meshed with the observations inside the school from the general education teacher, the special-ed teacher, their OT and SLP and psychologist…  and the conversation did keep delving back to the feeling that MWS is not the right placement for the Monster.  But every time we got to that point, we got pulled back off of it by the gentleman representing the system to concentrate on things like the supports.

Which was fine, frankly.  The supports needed to be updated, to incorporate changes that’ve happened over the school year, and to remove mentions of things requiring typically-developing peers, an item that would prevent him from being moved to a more restrictive environment or to private placement.  Consultations were updated between the staff to ensure that all of them are talking to one another about the Monster’s progress.  His sensory diet support was updated to include adding activities to give him additional, different stimulus to help to get his brain in action (as opposed to those things just to help him cope with inputs in his existing environment).

At least we did get confirmation that ESY (extended-school-year) is being recommended again this year.   (Correction: The wife’s mentioned that ESY was not confirmed for this year.  We started discussing it, and while it seems like it’s a no-brainer, it was tabled for the next meeting.)

The downside is that they want to order more assessments.  They did not accept all of our reports, at least where they don’t have reports to match, and so there are going to be more of the tests repeated before we can proceed with the goals and with discussions about appropriate placement, necessitating another IEP meeting in a few weeks to go over those assessments and proceed with the process.  (At least we’re trying to expedite things, before we run into the summer.)

But the impression I listed above is the impression that I’d had through so much of the discussion – that we were writing an IEP that was meant to be implemented on Mars. The way we were discussing any change in verbiage was so overwrought that it was ridiculous.  For example: arguing about the change in the support about his seating – is it sufficient to simply say ‘near area of direct instruction’, or do we need to say ‘next to the teacher/aide’, or is that too restrictive, and what would someone who doesn’t know what we’re talking about think it means, et cetera…  Every last change was subjected to this kind of in-depth investigation, and it just took forever…

The previous IEP was 49 pages.  We’ll see how long the new one is after another few hours of discussion…

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