It’s IEP Season, Part 7

Stack of papers2For two months I waited for Ms Nav to schedule another IEP meeting. Despite numerous notes and emails, she never did. Finally in late April I put my foot down and insisted on a meeting. Ms Nav replied that Pleasanton had made its offer. Any other details I could work out with Pam, the new Program Specialist.

Was she kidding? The IEP Team hadn’t even discussed placement!

I told her I didn’t think it was legal for Pam and I to finalize an IEP alone, and then I turned the issue over to Pam. Unlike Pleasanton, my district was freaking out over the unsigned IEP.

It took Pam several weeks, but finally we had an IEP meeting set for the last week of school. The district had been out of compliance for 18 months, yet the teacher had succeeded in running out the clock. Ms Nav would not have to implement the goals she had resisted. I was annoyed but powerless to change this fact.

During my two-month wait, I had agonized over placement. I wasn’t thrilled about Katie returning to our home district, but I was even less thrilled with a life skills class. I wasn’t ready to give upon academics. It felt like giving up on Katie, and I wasn’t going to do that. Yet of the two options in our district, which was best for Katie?

I made lists of pros and cons, discussed the situation again and again with Barb, Katie’s in-home therapists, my boyfriend, Mom and Dad. Yes, the second class was a better for my long-term goal of getting Katie into the moderate class at Mitchell, but the teacher was a big unknown, one that could change more than once. Plus most of the students were graduating to high school. The class might look very different next year, and my district wasn’t sharing information. Mr M’s class composition probably wouldn’t change much and he loved technology. Katie did too. His class was smaller, and had more girls. But some of those girls had major behavioral issues and most were less verbal than Katie. Of course I didn’t know how verbal the kids would be in the other class, so that might be a wash.

It was impossible to decide. I found myself relying on instinct more and more. I liked the feel at Mr M’s school. It was warm and welcoming. Less homogenous than the other. Plus Mr M had already demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box to meet Katie’s needs. If Katie’s aide couldn’t take Katie off campus to the adjacent park to swing, he wanted to create a sensory gym in a vacant classroom. The principal and behaviorist were supportive and exploring the idea.

broken-pencil-schools-jpg_021534The school district was pushing for Mr M’s class but couldn’t (or wouldn’t) explain why. Pam mentioned that the second school wasn’t fenced. “If that’s a concern for you.”

“No,” I said. “Is it a concern for someone else?”

She couldn’t say.

In the end, it was Mr M’s flexibility and problem solving that pushed my decision towards his class. As Mom put it, “If they can’t handle the behavior and keep her butt in the chair, she won’t learn anything at all.”

I hated to admit it, but she was right. Katie needed a swing in order to learn and Mr M seemed willing to work with me on that. I doubted a substitute, no matter how excellent a teacher, was going to go to bat for my child.

So I would toss the dice on Mr M and pray it worked out well for Katie.

We had our IEP meeting in June. The day before I met with Pam to review the goals. She tossed several of the life skills goals and suggested changes to others. We spent three hours cleaning up the messy document: correcting typos, deleting old information, and revising benchmarks.

At the IEP meeting, she ran the show. We went page-by-page through the lengthy document. I was happy to turn this task over to her. Ms Nav didn’t look happy about the additional work, but I didn’t care. I hadn’t waited until the last minute to schedule the meeting.

Despite all the paper shuffling, it was a relatively uneventful meeting. Now that Katie was moving on and leaving Pleasanton, the team seemed helpful, even friendly. Everyone made eye contact.

But at the end of the school day, we still didn’t have a consolidated document. So I didn’t sign.

To be continued…

Until next time,

NOTE: If you want to read the prior posts in this thread, you can find them here: It’s IEP Season, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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