Ideally, the IEP meeting would go smoothly. After all, we're all there for the same reason; to help Jaymes succeed. We're all supposedly equal members of the team, so everyone should leave satisfied. No one should leave feeling like they just got the proverbial snot kicked out of them.
But then, it's not a perfect world. We're all humans- moms and dads and teachers and speech therapists and whatever everyone else there was. We all get irritable, we all get in our little digs at each other despite our best attempts to curb any ill feeling. After all, nothing is personal at an IEP meeting, right?
Anyway the IEP meeting was an unexpected one I called pretty suddenly. Read this post for the background on that. Nobody seemed especially overjoyed that suddenly I wanted to have another meeting, on the last day of school (to be fair I didn't schedule it, they did), after everything was supposed to have been said and done. I can understand the resentment, I'd resent it too. It makes extra work, stress, fuss for all involved. But it's for Jaymes- so too darn bad for all of us, myself included. IEP meetings make me literally sick to my stomach, I hate them. It's not in my nature to be assertive, or dare I say it- confrontational.
To my credit, I was more assertive than I have ever been at a meeting. It was a horrible feeling, but I think my point was made pretty well. It didn't really matter in the end, though. At least it's more life experience under my belt. That's a positive, right?
Attending todays meeting were myself, Jason, Sierra (moral support!), the school's speech therapist, the school case manager (not sure what that means exactly, she seemed to be in charge of the meeting), a regular ed teacher I've never met and who I'm not sure has ever met Jaymes, Jaymes case manager Julie, and the teacher's assistant, Ms. A who has had Jaymes in her classes for almost 2 years.
The main point of the meeting was to discuss placement. As discussed in my previous blog post about the situation, I didn't want Jaymes put in a totally self contained classroom. A few posters left me comments with what they do. Some have classroom aides who accompany their kids to regular ed classes. Some are in self contained. Some leave self contained to go out for lunch and "specials." I decided that I felt Jaymes would be best served in the AU classroom, going out to lunch and/or specials with his regular ed peers. Unfortunately, nobody else agreed. As expected, my husband was silent most of the time.
Ms. A seemed to be the most vocal in her disagreement. Honestly, I'd describe her response to my ideas best as royally pissed off. I think she took a lot of what I had to say very personally, and that coupled with the fact that she really does know and care about Jaymes made it a very passionate thing for her. I feel bad for making her so upset, but I do hope she realized that it wasn't personal and it was simply a mom standing up for her child. Ms. A knows Jaymes well- but I'm his mom, and I know him better. That's just how it is. He's my kid. What he does at home and what he does at school are two different things, and we both know him in different ways. But regardless, I'm his mother.
The reasoning for saying no to my ideas about leaving class for certain things included:
- Jaymes would be targeted (wouldn't teachers stop bullying, in that case?)
- Jaymes would not be ready for the transition and would not get anything out of the classwork
- Even with an aide, he would only be functional with that aide, and it would be a crutch that would limit him (I disagree very much)
I understand why they feel this way, and I do see the logic in their reasoning. I don't agree, but I get it. The plan is to push for him to go into a specific teacher's AU class because this particular teacher has her class in the cafeteria to eat with the other kids, and also they all have recess together. That's something, assuming it's really how that works and assuming he goes into that class. If that isn't the case, we'll be having another meeting at the start of the school year just like this one. (Anyone got any valium for me?!)
Couple things happened that -really- upset me. One was that while we were discussing Jaymes being at lunch with a regular ed class in the cafeteria, they pulled out a "kindergarten readiness" checklist and started going down the list pointing out anything Jaymes could not do, or did not do well. I found it to be deeply offensive to actually go to the trouble of pointedly announcing every one of Jaymes' weaknesses or flaws and using those things as an excuse to avoid inclusion.
This meeting was FOR Jaymes. A group of teachers counting things off "Nope, he doesn't do that! No, he can't do that, No, he poops after he eats" was entirely unacceptable. As far as it being an innocent way to decide readiness for inclusion- bullshit. I'm sorry, but the only purpose of doing that was to very politely and subtly tell me to shut the heck up. It was a revolting display of disrespect toward my child, and I'm not impressed. I finally got fed up and commented on how bashing on Jaymes and demeaning him with a list of things he can't do and it was dropped (and every time they came to something he couldn't do, everyone looked pretty triumphant- I didn't see that as something good, that's a failing on the school's part. Why CAN'T he tell you he needs a diaper change? Why CAN'T he pull his pants back up, if you folks are doing so much better a job than we are?)
The other thing is that there was a lot of dishonesty. Things that didn't make sense to me.
I talk to the teachers pretty frequently- enough to ask how Jaymes is doing at potty time and eating time. I've always been made to feel like I'm being overly worried about him, because he's always gotten GLOWING reports. He sits on the potty, he does the routine, he went poop in the potty one day. And yet today, at the meeting while they went through their "Jaymes can't do it" list, it came out that he NEVER does the potty right. So, what's the truth? Either I'm being lied to now, or I was being lied to all year.
As above, always been told he does just fine eating at lunch time. He scarfs down all his food, uses his utensils, etc. The only thing I've been told is he has a problem with stealing food off other kid's plates. Suddenly this morning, when they got to the question on the "list" that asks about eating with a fork, my son doesn't. Supposedly he chews up the forks to pieces.
Jaymes uses plastic forks at home and at therapy. He's only ever chewed one when he's left with it after a meal. He sits at the table every meal and eats his food with his fork. Never been an issue. This issue has never been mentioned to me. If he really is doing this, where are the consequences? Why is he being allowed to do this? It's a behavioral and a safety issue. If he's really not doing it, why was it said at an IEP meeting?
Then there was the name stamp. A few months back, we added this goal to Jaymes IEP, to replace one about writing his name with a pencil. "Jaymes will mark his classwork using a name stamp." Never got anything from school with a name stamped on it. Never saw the name stamp until Pre-K graduation when it was sitting out on display. I had been given the impression that the goal was a classroom goal, but apparently it was only an OT goal. Had I realized this, i'd have had it changed. He hardly GETS OT, why on earth would that only be an OT goal?! It's pretty clear Jaymes was never given the opportunity to do this goal, and he should have been. It shouldn't have been only up to the OT, that was an easy, classroom oriented goal. It's now changed to an "official" classroom goal, and I will speak up if I get work home without that stamp. I don't appreciate being told he's using the stamp in class when obviously he's never been given the chance to even try.
I signed a second bus harness request today too. I signed one a couple months ago. It seems it was never put through, for whatever reason. Apparently the bus driver is to blame because he doesn't do anything. It's the bus driver's job to drive. Jaymes needs a bus aide, or to be forcibly attached to his seat. Simple thing. What I don't understand is, at the last IEP meeting, his teacher, Mrs. W was there (she wasn't today because she just gave birth) and said she was pushing for a bus aide. Mentioned this at today's meeting and Ms. A seemed vehemently opposed. It was Mrs. W who proposed this to me.... So why is it a huge issue?
So, no inclusion. No bus aide. Not happy.
The good stuff... If Jaymes ends up in this classroom they discussed, and it's run like they say it is, then there will be some level of inclusion. It's a start, a compromise and I'm ok with that. If he isn't spending every lunch time in the cafeteria though, and isn't spending recess with his typical peers like I'm assured he will, I'll raise holy hell. I figure it's fair to give it a chance, and I had no chance of winning this one either way, so only time will tell.
It's agreed, but not written in the IEP, that the school speech therapist will attend the training (for Jaymes Vantage Lite) I plan to attend (when it gets set up) so she knows how to use it. Then between the therapist and myself, we will teach his teacher to use it. They refused to allow any specific goals or references to the device in the IEP, however, saying that it would limit what they could do with him. apparently if the goal has the words Vantage Lite in it, no other measures can be used. I'm not sure how that works, so I agreed that as long as we can be sure it IS being used, I'll be ok. Speech therapist promised to use it in her sessions, and I know she will. I like her, and I have never found her to be anything but open and honest. I do plan to have a lot more contact with both speech and OT at school next year, as I really have very little knowledge of what they do in their sessions. I know none of his OT goals have been met, and as far as I've seen, don't even know that they've been attempted. He has very little OT at school, so who knows. The OT wasn't there, so I'll email her for details on things. My own fault for not keeping in better communication there.
So the Vantage Lite will be used at school as long as I and the speech therapist (and hopefully therapist S from our outside school therapy) keep on it. That's great. I wish there were goals pertaining to the use of the device though. I respect the speech therapist's opinion though, and did not want to get into it with her.
Jaymes will continue to have 2 speech sessions per week at school and one outside school. He will have OT approximately every 2 weeks, but I plan to see if the school OT would let him do more than that. It's not often enough to accomplish any goals. He will attend assemblies and school events with his regular and EC peers. He'll do specials with his EC class, and maybe eventually move on to joining regular ed classes.
I guess the biggest positive is that Ms. A and the speech therapist both have genuine care and concern for Jaymes. Ms. A is incredibly passionate about what she thinks is best for him, and I know that she really does care about him a lot. I may not agree with her, but I am very happy that he has spent the last 2 years with someone who truly does love him. That means a lot, and despite our disagreements, I'm very fond of her. I think she is great at what she does, and I love the way she handles my child.
In the end, I went into the meeting hoping to get a little inclusion for Jaymes and failed miserably. In what amounted to a verbal fist fight, my ass was kicked all over the pavement. Better luck next time. I tried, and I'm pleased to have held out as long as I did before saying "ok fine, I give up." Next time maybe I'll get what I know Jaymes needs. It's easy to say "fight them, they have to do what you want, they have to do the least restrictive environment" etc. But when you're the only one there who believes in what you're saying, it's too hard to keep holding out for them to change their minds. I tried, I failed, I'll try harder next time.