Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Survived Another IEP

Imagine sitting at a huge conference table, by yourself, facing a school principal, vice principal, two special ed teachers, a mainstream class teacher, a psychologist, speech therapist, nurse and orthopedic impairment special teacher. Each one takes a turn explaining the results of the evaluation they did on your child. The results, the child is average or just below average in a couple categories so she's doesn't qualify for special education, but so low in all the other categories that there isn't enough of a point spread between her low cognitive score and the low speech score so she doesn't qualify for speech either, even though she's got a measurable and profound receptive and expressive speech disorder. The verdict: placement in a mainstream 5th grade classroom 90% of the time and 10% per day pull-out help in math. No extra time for tests even though she timed out on every test requiring reading aloud and her verbal ability is far below her age, due to being an English language learner as well as her processing disorder.

She will be expected to do long division and multiplication even though she's only been in the US for 3.5 years and had never been to school or even held a crayon until then. But they'll pull her out of class 30 minutes a day to help with math. I the past 3.5 years, she's learned to speak English, read, write and do simple math, yet, because of her age, they want to place her into 5th grade. Oh, she only wears size 7 clothes because she's so tiny even though she's 10.5 years old.

My tongue unleashed itself and I said to the school nurse, "This is a joke!" Only to be reprimanded by the female principal and lectured on how much time they all spent working on evaluating my child and writing the reports. Well, excuse me, but don't my tax dollars pay them to do that?

What I really was aiming my comment at anyway was the fact that the State of California has set a very narrow way of evaluating and classifying a child who qualifies for special education. It's really a joke!

At least the professionals as this school didn't try to put her in with the autistic and mentally retarded kids as did the middle school with my other child. And some very kind people at the high school took me aside and told me that they can't meet my eldest's needs and to keep homeschooling her and that they'd ever put a non-autistic or non-mentally retarded child in a class especially designed for those kids and their needs.

I would have been happy to put her into a third grade mainstream class, with pull-out help, and she would have thrived. But fifth grade? NO WAY! Why set her up for failure? Isn't her self-esteem fragile enough due to the differences she lives with because of her special need? What fifth graders are still playing with baby dolls and Barbies? There is only one Caucasian child in each class, if that, one or two Hmong and the rest are mostly Hispanic, almost all are from very low-income families, which means very little parental education and strong cultural identification. What will she have in common to talk about and do? I'm sure she'd find something with the third graders, but with fifth graders?

Please weigh in! There are only two reasons I went through this: I didn't think I was doing a good enough job (now I realize I am, but that the past year working on the house and in our new town made me lose perspective), and, the pressure for the girls to have more socialization. Compared to our old neighborhood and being new in town, we don't get out much, but I see that changing. We attend church every Sunday and the girls have weekly church activities. Last year, they attended a private school several days a week for several hours for socialization and this summer did a week of sport camp. We take every opportunity we can to meet new people, but people have busy lives, so it's not as often as we'd like, especially when the family's are public schoolers. I have gotten in touch with our local homeschooling community, but I will soon be working and limits my daytime availability, which is why it's nice when my kids can sleep in and we can go out in the evenings or just have family time. Outdoor holiday ice skating is about to begin and, if Jie Jie starts public school, she'll need to be in bed every night by 7pm so she can get up at 5:45am. When is she supposed to have some family time? When is she supposed to have play time? A teacher and school nurse said she'll have plenty of recess, but what about time playing with her own toys and her sisters?

Homeschooling friends out there, please tell me your feelings about socialization. I can take my girls anywhere and they have a great time, answer anyone when spoken too, get silly like regular kids, and have fun with other kids and adults. Right now, though, none have a special friend because it's hard to break into a new area. I believe American kids are WAY OVER socialized and some great books are being written about it, such and Reclaiming Your Kids. My girls do have language and experience barriers as do all the kids who spent most of their childhoods in orphanages, but they are better behaved than the average American kid and much more polite, so people like them.

What sort of activities do your children participate in? Especially those who were adopted as much older kids and/or have special needs.

My girls had plenty of "socialization" in their orphanages. It's family time for now, but with adulthood looming for two of them in 2 and 4 years, there has to be some introduction into mainstream society too where they can learn the things of interest (to a reasonable extent) to people in their peer group and understand and follow current events. I know that most outsiders looking in think homeschoolers don't get enough socialization, but these days it's almost impossible for anyone not to be socialized enough.


Anonymous said...

First, you need to get a medical diagnosis. They school must differ to that and it will override their evaluation. Second, co-ops. Do you have any in your area? Get involved in those if you insist on homeschooling. Finally, I read an enormous amount of fear in your post. You may be surprised at how well she does. Give her a chance. She'll have plenty of time to play. I'm assuming she gets out of school at 2:30 or so? Pray about it, talk to other parents from your church, or try to get a boundary exception to a different school.

doreen said...

What happened to the small private school? Were you not happy with their experiences there?

Anonymous said...

You are doing an admirable job with your girls.

If you are wanting to help with socialization of the girls and especially the older two moving towards adulthood you need to have them look their ages. Dress them like a 14 yr old would dress including the hair styles. The would look less different and kids would be more accepting and want to hang out. Just a thought.

Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

Does your church have a youth group? Many youth groups have fun activities mid week for teens. Or what about an AWANA program or Girl Scouts? A way for them to start learning how to fit in with a group and learn new things from someone else, yet you can still meet their academic needs where they are.

K said...

Yes, they already attend a weekly young women's group through church and they love it! Sometimes they young men and women meet together for activities, too. I was also thinking of Girl Scouts. Thanks, Shecki!

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for years, but have yet to comment. I suspect you know this, but you don't have to sign the IEP if you don't agree with the findings and recommendations. Also, it IS extremely difficult to handle those meetings all by oneself. If at all possible, it's good to bring a friend or an advocate. You have my sympathies on that.

Suzanne said...

What's with the comments about the poor and Hispanic children who will be your daughter's classmates?

Or the fact that there's only a handful of Caucasian kids at the school?

I get that you are worried about finding the "right" placements for your girls but publicaly declaring you think it is HORRIBLE that your precious girlies will be HORRORS exposed to diversity at school is, um, racist, classist and horrible?

Anonymous said...

I also have 3 teens adopted from China.

I concur with an earlier poster. Your daughters' socialization and fitting in would be easier, in my opinion, (and I know this is none of my business), if their appearance was more "mainstream" - both less extreme hair and more adult-like clothes. Not the trashy clothes one can find in many stores, but what about just jeans and tee shirts?

Of course these are your daughters and it's your call, but those are my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you try putting her in the 5th grade class she will see how the other 5th graders act and she will follow. I'm shocked that you use the term "retarded". Also, my daughter is in the 6th grade and just turned 12 and wears a size 7/8.

Suzanne said...

I must've skimmed over the comments regarding a kid's clothing size as determining factor for school placement.

I'm nearly 38 and fit nicely into kids clothes -- as I'm Chinese-American & all of 4'11" and weigh maybe 90 lbs. As do my (healthy, biological) teen daughters, who've spent their entire lives barely on the American growth chart. My husband (their dad) is maybe 5'2".

Being "vertically challenged" runs in the family.

(Hubby dragged both girlies to the endocrinologist every few years when they were in grade school, convinced they had some sort of growth disorder... nope. Healthy as horses. Really short parents = really short kids).

Anonymous said...

I cannot answer your homeschooling question, but would like to say something about IEP advice.
When my own children were in school, I needed to fight hard for an appropriate public school placement. The facile school response to my apprehension about any of the plans was,"your child may be one who is best educated in a private environment." In other words - we would like you to incur the expense of the special educational program your child needs rather than burdening the school district with the cost. I simply and calmly continued to point out that there are federal guidelines for what school districts must do to accommodate children with special needs.
Don't give up!

Anonymous said...

I sense some racism/classism in your comments about the Hispanic children, and that saddens me as I had respected you and have enjoyed your blog for years as an adoptive Mom.

Your girls are not "better" than those other children-FYI.

I also agree that dressing the older girls more age-appropriately would help their self-esteem and in forming friendships. I'm not saying trashy clothes, just something more stylish.

I know that NOBODY knows your girls better than you do, and I don't pretend to, but from previous posts and this one I get the sense that you are limiting them more than you realize. Your preconceived notions of what they can and cannot do will rub off in how you interact with them, and they will start to believe it.

Anonymous said...

You got bamboozled. Your school knows the demographic, just as you do and they know that parents that come in are lower income, single parent homes, you know JUST LIKE YOU. Wealthier parents would have had an educational attorney with them, and brought in their own experts. But that costs a lot of money and the school knows the parents they serve don't have it and don't know how to navigate the system. Stop thumbing your nose at these "poor" students and parents. You weren't able to do any better for for Jie Jie than they have for their kids.

K said...

Well, you certainly made some assumptions! First, I'm not in the low income bracket. Second, Jie Jie has some serious special needs, some of which are just now coming to light. Now that they have been identified, I most certainly can tailor her homeschool curriculum to help her. Third, some of her academic levels are actually quite high - thanks to the education I've provided her with. I have done well by Jie Jie, VERY WELL, actually, according to everyone in that IEP meeting. So well, that they want to place her into 5th grade, thinking I'll be able to help her pick up their slack! Lastly, I think that the elementary is quite a good school, it's just not the right placement for Jie Jie since it cannot meet her needs according to the State's definition of what special needs are and who qualifies for special education. I can fight it, and probably win, which would take time and energy away from my kids, but I can also offer her homeschooling, which for right now is a much better option. Apple, however, will be going to this school beginning in December, for speech and other early intervention support services, but I will be there with her, and the program there is exactly what she needs.

Almond Tea said...

K, my son has been on an IEP since he started public school. What you experienced is pretty typical. For middle school, I sat with all 6 of his teachers (he changes every period), the school counselor, the vice-principal, and the speech pathologist and myself. We reviewed test results which like Jie Jie were borderline. I was able to speak to all his teachers and let them know what kind of support he would need and agreed on services. I've only had to get nasty one year with the school (the first year). How did I avoid it in subsequent years? I did what other commenters posted, I brought in an educational attorney and got a medical diagnosis. After presenting the school with documentation, they can't deny services. The educational attorney knew exactly what they had to provide by law. And by the way, if they public school can't provide it- THEY MUST PAY FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLING. That's federal law, not State. Now the school has my number and I have theirs. They know I'll haul them into court faster than they can say, "IEP". Our IEP meetings are very pleasant now, because I get what my son needs and we just forgo all the BS. It will cost you up front though- the school needs to know you mean business. An attorney will run about $200 per hour and if they show up to the meeting, they charge for travel time and the meeting. You'll only have to do it once. Just know it really doesn't matter where you live, I'm in an affluent school district, so it's not just rougher schools with this problem. Schools are understaffed and educating the kids who are outliers is just not what they want to do unless forced. That being said, he's doing really well in school (all A's and B's), I just needed to advocate services for him. Good luck!