I just attended our son Ethan’s IEP meeting a few days ago and truth be told, I’m still riding a wave of happiness from the results.
The first school district we lived in was the most pathetic experience. Ethan was turning 3 and aging out of early intervention services. The district arranged for the evaluations and his first IEP meeting. The evals were a total joke. In each instance, the adult spent the entire time interviewing me and paid no attention to Ethan. If there was any interaction, it was minimal. Then I had a home visit from the school psychologist who called to say she’d like to meet Ethan and see him in his home environment before the IEP meeting. That was just code for “I’d like to come to your house and prepare you for the meeting in which we want you to lower your expectations for us as well as your child.” She actually said that in education terms, we don’t talk about what’s best for the child, because it’s not a perfect world and best case scenarios just aren’t realistic. Then came the IEP meeting, which we held at our house. Only 2 people showed and they only managed to bring 3 pages of the IEP document. I was livid! What universe are they living in?!
We moved to a new city later that summer. I met with Ethan’s new district and was immediately impressed with their professionalism and organization. They seemed to know how to evaluate and they had 13 people sitting at the table when it came time to write the IEP. I later realized that this was probably a set-up to intimidate me out of asking for the services we wanted for Ethan. They refused to send him to the deaf school for preschool (he’s deaf) and I appealed the decision. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait for that decision because we found a home in another district 15 minutes away and moved again.
Now we’re living in a district that I think of as being in a league of its own. They are known for their excellence in special education and have a program for children with autism that has been a game changer for our little guy. Yes, he’s autistic, too. He’s in a social communication classroom with teachers who’ve had extensive training in working with this population. He has a sign language interpreter with him at all times and is doing tremendously well!
In preparation for the meeting this week, I got out my book titled How Well Does Your IEP Measure Up? It’s written specifically for autism and as I flipped through the areas I had highlighted, I began to realize that his team has already been writing goals as the book suggests. In fact, I couldn’t find anything in this book that they aren’t already doing, and doing really well.
I started to read about ESY, or extended school year, and realized that I needed to be advocating for this for Ethan. I read up on the law and court cases from our state, just to make sure I was well versed in it before bringing it up at the meeting. To my surprise, his team had already discussed ESY and planned to offer it. This is something that most districts will try to deny and many parents end up going to due process over if it’s something they want badly enough. I wasn’t preparing on that level, but I also wasn’t expecting them to OFFER it! Our community continuously votes down the school levies and the district is in serious fiscal straights, yet they are offering us ESY. I think that’s remarkable.
To say that we’re feeling indebted and grateful is quite the understatement. I don’t take this for granted for a minute and I wish for nothing more than those of you reading to experience the same level of commitment and care from your schools as we have. Our kids sure do deserve it.