IEP Year Four

Today was the second meeting for next year’s IEP.

As any special-needs parent can tell you, any IEP meeting tends to be stressful – the goal of an IEP is to ensure that your child has the necessary supports to learn, and the supports and therapies that go into the document govern where your child is going to go to school in the coming year.

And the one thing that was apparent, coming into this year’s IEP review, is that Mount Washington is not the right placement for the Monster.

It’s kind of depressing to actually admit that – MWS is one of the best elementary schools in Baltimore, and there are parents who specifically move to the city to go to this school.  It’s a wonderful, academically-rich environment with a very active parent base and all kinds of extra-curricular activities, and… well, mainstreaming has been an awful, awful experience for the Monster.  The only thing that had really been settled, before attending today’s second-half-of-the-revision meeting was that the Monster will not be returning to MWS next year.

Today’s meeting was scheduled for 9 AM, and after waiting a half-hour for everyone required to show up – including two people who weren’t listed on the original meeting notice – we began and got straight into discussions of the evaluations that were ordered in March, before returning to the IEP.

So in the interim since the last IEP meeting (see To Be Implemented on Mars), we received the ‘draft’ IEP… marked as ‘Approved’.  That didn’t fly particularly well with us, to be honest, and it’s something we brought up almost immediately.  There was some confusion, and it really more just gave the sensation that the IEP chair or her assistant at our school doesn’t know how to properly use the software.  We continued, though, since to us – with outside advice guiding us – the services and accommodations were what was most important.

Everyone on the school-based team was more than happy to agree with us that the Monster needs a lot of communications supports in every aspect of his daily schedule.  By the time we were through that, and into discussing his actual services, the SLP had already suggested a drastic increase in his speech and language service – from two thirty-minute sessions per week to five hours per week, including one-on-one therapy.  Agreement also came that his general educator should probably be removed from the equation, to be replaced with a special educator for primary education…

But that led us back to the discussion of placement for next year, which is the primary bone of contention… and is where I’m very glad that we have our advocate.

Basically, we were offered… the program we went to see a few weeks ago.

(I should note that I’ve not written about the program that we went to go visit, so you’ve not missed anything, no.  I’m keeping that close to my vest for the moment, while we’re still hashing out his placement for the 2015-2016 school year.  Suffice it to say, we don’t feel it’s an appropriate setting.)

So our consultant turned to start asking the school-based team as to what their opinion was, about what kind of an environment the Monster really needs.  How much interaction should he have with his non-disabled peers?  After coming to the conclusion that the Monster derives no benefit from being with his non-disabled peers – a comment made by one of the school-based team, who works with him frequently and has observed him on multiple occasions – and concurrence from other members of the school-based team, we were thrown out of the room for a few minutes for the educational folks from the central office to circle up with the school-based staff and discuss the matter.

And the meeting went downhill from there, when we came back in.

The city’s representatives are adamant that we should have the Monster go to this program for four/five months (first, it was “let’s review it in January and see”, and then “let’s review it in December and move him to another program if he’s making progress”).  The school-based team has no opinion one way or the other, but they’re of the opinion that he should be moved once, and to the right program.  And we… don’t know what we want, save that the program in question is no-good for him, and staying in a mainstreamed environment is equally bad.  As it is, he has to repeat this year already, and he’s falling further and further behind, the more the schools put off doing something about his communications deficits.

But the fact is, we’ve not gotten anything approaching a placement.  We ended up getting into a stalemate – the folks from North Avenue want to give us a program decision, leaving location for later after we’ve approved, whereas we want a full placement (program and location) in the IEP so that we can go see the program before we approve.

Just… unresolved.  No IEP for me to be sitting here looking at while I type to you all, no placement decision, and all we have positive is a massive uptick in services for next year, coupled with the ESY decision.

And to top it off… well, I feel a little bit like crap.

Our consultant made the comment about the fact that no parent would knowingly send their child to a placement that they know is not the appropriate placement, which is God’s own truth.  Except that I feel a little bit like we did that last year, with the trust that the Monster could move from the more restrictive environment of “Together We Grow” into a mainstream classroom with the appropriate up-tick in services… when we already had our doubts about whether it was really suitable.  Basically, I feel like we set him up to fail, and we’ve squandered a year of his education.

And now I’ve no way to fix this. 🙁

All I can do is hope that working through the process gets us to a place where he gets all the appropriate supports he needs, in the appropriate placement…

One thought on “IEP Year Four

  1. Hi. It would appear to me that you should visit the Lois T. Murray School and/or the Baer School as your son needs a public separate day school and should bypass the PAL classroom setting in a regular elementary school. Lois T. Murray is a public separate day school that is in partnership with the KKI. The Baer school has a class for students with autism. My sources tell me that BCPS is willing to consider keeping your son on the diploma track and placing him in a PAL setting. I would not recommend this as the PAL settings do not have students who are on the diploma track and this is a reason why you may want to consult with your advocate if you decide to go to a hearing.
    Similarly, if you go to a hearing, you have a strong case, but, in my opinion, you would likely lose your case if you are seeking a non-public placement as hearing officers adhere to the least restrictive environment when making their decisions regarding how to resolve cases that are put before them. If you elect to keep your son in the Baltimore City Schools, you should try to get Ethan into a public separate day school and bypass the PAL setting as again, PAL settings do not educate students on the diploma track. Nevertheless, if you elect to try a PAL: setting, BCPS will not tell you which school your son would be attending, although, they would work with you to get him into a school that you prefer, as BCPS would do this as opposed to going to a hearing with you as hearings are very time consuming and expensive for the school system. However, you may want to check out the PAL setting at Westport (which I know is very far away from Mt. Washington), but, the teacher who works in the PAL class at this school is simply excellent. Thus, in summary, I would seek to get your son into a public separate day school at this time, and monitor his progress. If he shows little or no progress in this setting, then, you have a much stronger case to seek a non-public setting as a public separate day school is the most restrictive setting that the city of Baltimore can offer your son. And, in my opinion, without trying this setting first, you would likely not win should you go to a hearing at this time. Thank you and good luck.

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