Blindsided by an IEP

February 10, 2016

I knew it was coming.

Every three years, children with an IEP in the Oakland Unified School District have a major review of eligibility. Besides, Sam will be entering kindergarten (holy shit!) in the fall, and I figured the IEP they did for Sam when he was three would need to be updated.

I started laying the groundwork in September. I talked with his school district provided speech therapist and occupational therapist weekly about where they thought Sam would be placed. They both confidently told me that Sam should be placed in the inclusion program. I heard this from them over and over. Week after week.

As the open enrollment period neared, I started touring schools. I must have visited at least nine schools. I wanted to make sure I really understood what each of the nearby inclusion schools looked like. I even looked at a few schools that didn't have an inclusion program - as Sam was doing so well.

We started the hours and hours of testing come January. Three testing sessions with the OT. Three testing sessions with the speech therapist - well, the English speech therapist. Three testing sessions with the learning specialist. Two sessions with the school psychologist. And, just because I am a bit of a glutton, one long session with the Spanish speech therapist. All in all - we are talking well over 7 hours of testing... of a five year old. This doesn't even include all the classroom observation time.

Through all of this, I was sure that Sam would be placed in the inclusion classroom.

I filled out his options forms as if this was a foregone conclusion.

I walked into his IEP meeting this morning unconcerned and confident of the result.

And then - BAM! Sam was not offered the inclusion program. Instead, he was offered a "special day class" for "mild to moderate" kids. He was not going to be mainstreamed. He was not going to be placed in a neighborhood school.

I am still a bit in shock from all of this - and trying to figure out what my next move is. I am not sure I agree with the assessment, but want to make sure whatever decision I make is the right one for Sam. I would hate to fight for him to be in the inclusion program if he really isn't ready - just as much as I would hate to accept his placement in the special classroom if he is at a higher level.

I knew advocating for Sam was going to be difficult at times. I just didn't think this was going to be part of it!

Tagged: Autism · IEP
I can relate. Got a 5-year old. On the spectrum. Trying to make the transition to kindergarten. Thought we were on track for a ‘mainstream program.”
So I’ve reached out to an educational lawyer for a consultation.
It feels like an extreme step, but, for me, it’s just part of the journey, and another relationship I need to build so that we can bring a legal perspective to our growing team.
Maybe you should consider adding one to your team, if you haven’t already. If only because, as a parent, while I’m always willing to fight for my child, I’n not always sure WHAT to fight for, and HOW to do
As a parent of a child the same age on the spectrum I’m always second guessing myself:
*Is it really that bad? She seems fine to me right now
*Will she ever be mainstreamed? She seems not so fine right now
*What is “fine”? What does that mean, for her?
Etc. etc. etc. etc.
So, like you I’ve built a team: developmental neurologist, speech , ABA coaches, pre-school teachers (I’ve got my kid going to a program for kids with developmental issues five days a week, and a mainstream pre-school in the afternoons three days a week to get some exposure to “mainstream” kids).
Yet, like you I was blindsided by the IEP, and the suggested placement in “special day.”
So I’m going back and getting a reality check from everyone on my team,. Some of them already don’t think what the school district is offering me is a good fit. We’ve got a great developmental pediatrician, and after I check in, again, with her, I’ll determine what my daughter needs right now.
Because, while every kid on the spectrum is different, every kid is a moving target. My daughter has changed so much in just a year… in just the past six months.
So once I get clear on where she is, I’ll know what I need to get. And if I don’t get it, there are all kinds of legal rights and protections that we have to help bridge that gap, and people who can help me make the most of them.
In that context, a lawyer is just another member of the team.

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