If We Were Having Coffee (racing through a busy week)

Weekend CoffeeIf we were having coffee, we’d be sitting outside at Starbucks today. It is too lovely a day to sit inside. There are too many germs floating around to invite you over to my house. And Hub has graciously offered to watch the kids so I can get some time to myself.

More

Advertisements

Snow Free January Coffee

Good morning! Welcome. Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee. I have good, solid coffee mugs, perfect for a strong cup of coffee. Today needs strong coffee. I apologize for all the clutter in the living room. Between school papers and IEP paperwork, there is paper everywhere that toys are not. And the toys are starting to have a hard time finding space.

If we were having coffee, I’m sure we would talk about the weather. For the past few days, forecasters have been giving dire warnings about the amount of snow predicted over the weekend. Between 4 and 6 inches. Paltry, I know, compared to Boston, but still a decent amount of snow. I was both excited, because we had not had significant snow this winter, and worried that school would be cancelled this morning. But there was no need to worry, apparently; now they are saying it will all be rain.

We would probably also talk some about policing issues in St. Louis. Have you heard about the crazy stuff happening here? On Wednesday there was a meeting, supposedly between adults, about establishing a citizen review board for the city’s police department. The papers call what happened a “melee” between protesters and police. No matter what happened, I’m sure that citizens will face charges while nothing will happen to the police officers who brought inflammatory messages to the meeting. And then on Thursday, I read that the city Prosecutor has demanded, by court order, any recordings of the meeting that news agencies have made. In a country that supposedly has free press, forcing news agencies to turn over their information to the government smells like an authoritarian regime. (And if that’s not enough, this is not the first time this week that the prosecutor has subpoenaed recordings from news agencies. Nor the first matter.) It smells very fishy, but I also wonder if this comes from a law student intern who is not being properly supervised.

I can see you’re getting bored, and eyeing my IEP paperwork. Please don’t look at that pile, it’s for a client. But this packet is for Picasso. We had a meeting to discuss his evaluation results–the school did an extensive evaluation to see if he qualifies for an IEP. The IEP will determine what special education services he will receive in the next year. He qulaifies–under the category Autism. When I told the pediatrician this at his annual appointment this week, she asked if I had told them that the developmental pediatrician (who evaluated him for autism when he was 2) told us to leave him alone. Despite his quirks, we had ruled out autism, so it was some surprise to hear this. But it fits. So suddenly I go from having a child with ADHD to a child with autism. I’m not given much time to think about this, either, because his IEP meeting is coming up Monday. (Hence my relief that snow will not cancel school on Monday.) My hunch tells me that he will receive more extensive services than he did last year.

Speaking of which, I have to cut our meeting short so I can prepare for the meeting on Monday. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the other Weekend Coffee Share posts.

This post was prompted by the “If We Were Having Coffee” meme started (or at least encouraged) by Part Time Monster. I enjoy having coffee with you! If you want to share coffee, link up!

Picasso Update

So I had posted several weeks ago that the school thinks Picasso has autism.  More than fear, I was upset that the school had hidden that from me.

It turns out, I should have questioned further.  I am so conditioned to expect the worst of the school, it didn’t occur to me that the counselor was making a mistake.  When she was talking to me (keep in mind this meeting was not supposed to be about my son, so I didn’t expect her to look at my son’s file beforehand), she had me confused with another mother.  That other mother had been advocating for an autism diagnosis from the school.

It is such a relief to know that the school wasn’t hiding information from me.  They have been so good about getting services for Picasso, I had been upset with this turn of events.  I am glad to know they are wrong.

Now we are in the middle of evaluations at school, and everyone is on board with keeping an IEP for him.  The ironic thing is, one of the categories they are looking at is autism.  Although I really don’t think a doctor would say he has autism, the criteria for a category at school is different.

We’ll see what happens with the evaluations.  I hope he does qualify to have an IEP after this year.

I keep meaning to watch it, but here is a video about the link between Autism and ADHD.  These videos are worth watching (if you have the time).

And the journey begins …

cc Ian Britton

Or maybe it’s just a new chapter in the journey.  Yeah, probably that.

I had a word dumped on me this week that leaves me shaken.  A word about my child that I didn’t expect to hear, certainly not in the conversation we were having.  A word that describes my child’s school’s understanding of him, which does not mesh with my understanding.

Autism.

How long?  How long have they thought he had autism?  Yes, I know he is different.  I know his behavior sets him apart. I had always thought–assumed–believed–it was ADHD.  Maybe severe ADHD.  But ADHD is a diagnosis I can handle. I can talk about ADHD.  I can understand ADHD.  I can handle ADHD so well that I’m the coordinator of our CHADD chapter.  No, ADHD doesn’t explain all of his struggles, but it is a start.

But autism?  That’s a whole different monster.

The guilt sets in.  Early detection and intervention is important.  It is key to living a good life, right?  To being able to function in a mainstream class, to not being so different that he can’t function in the world.  But this is not early detection.  He is five — FIVE, almost six.  And the doctors said when he was 2 that he doesn’t have autism.

But they also knew something was wrong.  And he’s been getting therapy for the past 4 1/2 years.

How long have they known?  How long have they been hiding this from me?  I feel betrayed.  I had thought we were on the same page, and it turns out we were not. At all.  They could hide behind words like “young child with a developmental delay.”  They could evaluate and not diagnose.  Because he is a young child and he has a developmental delay.

She used it so casually, as if it was something everybody accepted about him already.  It isn’t as a bad thing.  It just is.  She had no idea that the word–and its implications–were not put on him at home.

A diagnosis is not merely a set of symptoms.  A diagnosis is a word, a word that can change a viewpoint.

No wonder they were so impressed with how he behaves at school.  They have given him a word, and with it the expectations that follow from that word.  He is succeeding because he does not fall to those expectations.

 

What do I Need to Know to get an IEP? Part 3: Elements of an IEP

So, your child is going to get an IEP.  You are preparing for an IEP meeting: you need to know what will be discussed!  In Missouri, these are the components of an IEP:  (They are similar in most states, because the IEP is written according to state interpretation of federal guidelines.)

  • Present level of academic achievement and functional performance
    • The “present levels” tells everyone reading the IEP what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what areas need improvement.  It is a picture of your child right now.  Teachers reading the IEP should get a good picture of your child from this.  The child will be compared at next year’s IEP to this picture of him at this IEP, and goals should be based on this picture.
    • There is a place for parental input in here.  Think about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and be ready to present them at the IEP meeting.  It may help to put them in writing: you won’t forget anything when you read it at the meeting, and the teacher preparing the written IEP can put what you write verbatim into the IEP.
  • Federal and State Requirements
    • This is basically a checklist of why a child needs an IEP and what will be in the IEP.
  • IEP Goals
    • This is what the teachers will be working on in your child’s IEP.
    • They should be specific, measurable, reasonable, achievable, and timely (SMART) goals.
  • Services
    • This is where the IEP states how much time your child will spend in special education, and who will be teaching (for example, general special education teacher or speech therapist, reading specialist, etc.)
    • Listen closely during this part of the meeting and take detailed notes, even if you don’t have anything to input.
  • Transportation as a Related Service
    • In this section, the IEP team discusses whether your child needs special transportation (for example, special bus service) to be able to attend school.
  • Regular Education Participation
    • This section discusses how much the child will participate in the regular education program.
    • The child should be in the “least restrictive environment” — should be with his non-IEP peers as much as possible.
    • Even if a child is in a special education setting most of the time, they can still be in regular education for times such as recess, lunch, gym, music class.
  • Placement Considerations and Decision
    • This section is a summary of what was discussed before, to state how much a child will be in the regular education classroom.  It includes a continuum of placements.  The IEP team must consider less restrictive environments before deciding to put a child in a special education environment.
  • Transition
    • If a child is 16 or older, this section is required. It may be included for younger children as well. This section discusses post-graduation plans and how the school will help him get there.

An IEP is a complex document, and a meeting has to address all of these elements!  As a parent, you are a member of your child’s IEP team.  I hope this will help you participate in the meeting!

 

Bringing a Note-Taker to an IEP Meeting

Did you know that you can invite anyone you want to an IEP meeting?

This means that you can have with you:

  • an advocate
  • your child’s outside therapist
  • your child’s piano teacher/sports coach
  • your pastor
  • your own therapist

… well, you get the idea.  You can and should invite anyone who will provide valuable input about your child to the IEP meeting.  The only restriction is that if you take an attorney with you, the school can have its own attorney present too.  (This has more to do with legal ethics than the IEP law.  Your attorney, if you decide you need one, should make sure the school knows they are going to any meetings.)

It is a good idea for parents to bring someone neutral to an IEP meeting as well.  This serves two functions: It gives the parent some moral support (the sheer number of school personnel at the IEP meeting can be intimidating), and they can serve as a note-taker for the meeting.

Notes will serve to remind you what was said.  (Have you ever thought, “I will remember that later,” only to realize later that you have no idea what you were supposed to remember?)  When you review your copy of the IEP, you can compare it with your notes to make sure what was said at the meeting is actually in the IEP.

Good notes taken by a neutral party can also help later if there is a dispute about the IEP.  If, heaven forbid, you have to resolve a dispute through Due Process or a court case, the note-taker can be a witness to what was said at the meeting.  Their notes can be used as evidence.

This may seem unnecessary, especially if you currently have a good relationship with the school.  However, relationships can sour.  A dispute can arise by a single teacher not following the IEP (yes, this happens).  Schools have competing interests: yes, they serve your child, but they have to balance that with the needs of the other children in the school, with limited resources to do it.

Do you have experience bringing a note-taker to a meeting?

What do I Need to Know to Get an IEP? Part 2: Data Review

IEP School

Last week, I wrote about getting an evaluation for your child. Today I will write about what happens when the evaluation comes back.

More

What do I need to know to get an IEP? Part 1: Evaluations

IEP SchoolI’ve heard about an IEP and been told my child could benefit from one. But what is an IEP?  How do I get one for my child?

Your child is struggling in school, and as much as you try to help him, he keeps falling further behind.  Maybe the problem is grades.  Or maybe his grades are fine but his behavior is a problem.  Perhaps he is struggling socially.  At any rate, you sense that your child needs more help than he is getting at school. More

What is a 504 Plan?

I am writing a series on advocacy for parents.  These posts will appear on Thursdays.  With these posts, I hope to encourage all parents to advocate for their children, and to provide a little bit of guidance.

Even if you know what an IEP is, you may not have heard of a 504. Or you may have heard the term and are wondering how it can help your child.

Section 504 is part of the Americans with Disability Act that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. In the school context, this means that if there is a recognized disability, the school has to accommodate this disability to put the person on an even playing field with his or her classmates.

If the school recognizes that the child has a disability that affects their ability to learn, they have an obligation to accommodate the child’s disability.  This may be with simple modifications, such as seating the child in the front row in class  or away from a window(“preferred seating”), or a tap on the shoulder when the child appears distracted.  It could be something that appears to give a child an advantage, such as extended time on tests.  There are no limits to what accommodations the school can give a child, as long as they put a child on a level playing field with his or her peers.

For ideas about what accommodations you can request for your child, you can Google “504 accommodations”.  Here is a list of good accommodations for children with learning disabilities. Other organizations, such as CHADD for ADHD, often make available their own lists of accommodations.  When viewing lists of accommodations, it is important to remember that the child probably does not need every accommodation listed, and not every accommodation your child needs may be listed.  Accommodations are child-specific, depending on what that child needs.

How does your school accommodate your child’s disabilities?  Does this work for your child?

Other articles in this series:

What’s on my menu?

Follow Season of Motherhood on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: