My husband and I had decided that we needed to make some necessary changes if this was going to work for Kaitlyn and if she was going to succeed in the gen ed setting.
What would the best approach be?
I have never had to call an IEP Meeting before.
I was always content with what the team decided and wrote.
Rarely did I have to make a request for anything else to be added, let alone changed and rewitten completely!
This was foreign ground for me.
How was I going to go through all of those pages of assessments, goals, benchmarks and approaches and rewrite them so that they would be more appropriate and applicable for my daughter?
Line by line.
I started from page one and went line by painful line.
I typically do not have the luxury of doing this when the IEP drafts are sent to me prior to a meeting because the school doesn't "share" this encyclopedia of wordy text with the parent until mere days before the event.
This time, I took my time.
Usually when both kids were in bed, I would spend about 3 hours a night reading.
And shaking my head at how certain team members talked in circles and went on to contradict their own assessments.
Once I finished reading the IEP for the umteenth time, I began taking my own notes.
I made columns titled "Strengths" and "Weaknesses" for both my own opinion and what I was reading the school had determined for those columns.
Sometimes, those columns matched.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of contradictions.
Finally, it was time to sit down and write my own daughter's IEP draft.
I had no intention of saying "This is the law. My law. This is how it is going to be...take it or leave it!".
But after much studying, consulting with an attorney, a special ed teacher from another state, a couple of Moms with special needs children who have IEPs both in and out of my school district, I came to the conclusion that my approach for writing this IEP was appropriate.
This is what I did:
I began with Goal #1.
We didn't think it was appropriate.
In fact, we thought it was sending the message "your-daughter-is-too-stupid-she-couldn't-do-anymore-than-this-so-we-set-the-standard-low".
That is how I honestly felt when I read this goal and it's benchmarks.
But knowing my daughter and what she can do, I made my own suggestion about how the goal could be written.
I copied/pasted their goal exactly as it was written.
Then I typed out our revised suggested goal.
With this goal and with each and every goal after that, I used supporting documentation from the most recent IEP that was written in their words.
I was able to use their written assessments in black and white, both positive and negative, to support my case.
I requested on each and every goal that benchmark percentages needed to be adjusted.
They love to use 50% accuracy, 60% accuracy and 70% accuracy on everything.
Did they really think my child is stupid?
Their percentages claim to do so, in my opinion.
I come from the years of schooling where 90-100% got you an "A", 80-89% bought you a "B", 70-79% earned you a "C", 60-69% and you were given a "D". Anything 59% and below and you were waving the big ole "F" flag!
By using 50%, 60% and 70% throughout her IEP, they were telling me (in black and white) that Kaitlyn would most likely receive an "F" for a grade but they are hoping that she could achieve at least a "C".
This is Kaitlyn's IEP.
With some hard work, she should be able to rock that IEP and receive an "A".
If not, then the approach needs to be adjusted or the goals/benchmarks are a bit lofty and you need to go back to the drawing board.
So I requested for each and every goal that all benchmark percentages be changed from 50-70% accuracy to 70-90% accuracy.
(On a side note, during my horrible phone call with the Supervisor when I brought up my idea of changing the percentages, she actually told me that "No one does anything 100% of the time!". That was before she told me "NO!" that they would not be changing the percentages.)
NO ONE does anything 100% of the time?
Did she mean a student or a staff member?
Hey, I'm a nurse and if I didn't do everything 100% of the time, I would be killing patients left and right.
So, yes, I beg to differ with you, Ms. Supervisor: I DO MY JOB 100% ACCURATE ALL OF THE TIME!
Sadly, in one conversation with another Mom whose child had an IEP, I found it so humorous (insert sarcasm here!) when they mentioned "Yep, we had that exact same goal on our IEP!"
IEP=Individualized Education Plan.
No two children are the same.
But two different children have the exact same goal.
How individual is that?
I used this approach with each and every goal that I thought was inappropriate and not specific to my daughter.
I added copies of emails which I had received stating one thing but doing something else.
I requested new goals be formulated to support a current weakness that I was concerned about all year.
I attached lists from the gen ed curriculum that I felt were appropriate for my daughter's curriculum..
I referenced conversations that I personally had with team members, promises that were made to me, and accommodations that would be made as well.
Fortunately, all of these conversations were held in front of witnesses; therefore, they could not be denied as ever occurring.
Now all I needed to do was to sit and wait for a response to my HUGE email that held my version of an appropriate IEP, complete with all supporting documentation.
And I would be waiting for EIGHT days before the first response came back to me.
I wanted a response.
I wanted an open dialogue.
I wanted them to contact me.
Talk to me.
Instead, I got the silent treatment.
Yea, good one!
Let's make having a child with special needs a little suckier!
Let's make this parent feel a little more hopeless and helpless than she already does.
Let's give her the message "We will talk to you when we are ready."
Unless, of course, they were just going to rewrite their IEP with all of my suggestions?
I found that hard to believe.
Ain't gonna happen that easily...not by a long-shot.
I waited for 8 days before one of them contacted me.
But not before I received a response to an email which I sent to a member of administration, sharing the story of the last five months of school and our reason for calling an IEP Meeting.
That response came within 9 minutes of me sending a separate email.
I was going to be meeting with this person next week.
That story comes next.............