The IEP Meeting

January 22, 2007 @ 3:16 pm | Filed under: Special Education, Special Needs Children, Speech Delay, Wonderboy

First things first: I am happy to report that Friday’s adventure in ick wasn’t the first wave of something worse; Wonderboy stayed healthy over the weekend. Must have been carsickness (again).

But I promised to tell you how the IEP meeting went. It was a very good meeting and I got exactly the outcome I was looking for: Wonderboy will receive speech therapy and audiological services (ear molds, hearing tests) from our local school district.

There were six people at the meeting, plus me (and the boy and the baby). Audiologist, district school psychologist, two speech pathologists, itinerant deaf/HH teacher, deaf/HH preschool classroom teacher. That’s six, right? A goodish crowd. All very nice, all respectful and eager to meet us where we are.

After introductions, we discussed the various options open to my boy (preschool, private speech therapy, etc.). We talked about the results of his speech evaluation and his history. The deaf/HH preschool teacher described her program, which is a four-hour/five-day preschool in which three other students are currently enrolled. It sounds like quite a nice little program, but I don’t think it best fits the needs and situation of Wonderboy and the rest of our family, so I declined that option, choosing private speech therapy sessions and audiology services instead.

Then we looked at the "goals" that had been drawn up by the speech therapist, itinerant deaf/HH teacher, and audiologist. The way it works is you must spell out, on special forms, the goals you’re aiming for and the specific services that apply to each. For example, one goal for Wonderboy is to be able to make several additional consonant sounds in a year’s time. ("Child will correctly produce consonant-vowel-consonant words containing the phonemes b, p, m, t, d, with amplification [hearing aids], with 90% accuracy.")  (That doesn’t guarantee he definitely WILL meet that goal by this time next year, but that’s what we’ll be aiming for.)

I was in complete agreement with the speech therapist’s goals and recommendations.  I approved those pages and they made it into the final IEP.

However, I did not agree with the necessity of the itinerant teacher’s goals/recommendations. Her goal had to do with language development—not sounds, but using words and sentences—and I do not see a need for outside help in that area. (To put it another way: we can homeschool him in that just fine.) The teacher, who is a very nice and pleasant person, described a curriculum she would like to use—both directly with Wonderboy and "training" me to use it myself. I had to suppress a smile. The curriculum is designed to get a child talking about all the different parts of his day, using conversation about household objects and activities to develop facility with sentences and individual parts of speech.

I think we’ve got that covered.

So we scrapped that goal and its accompanying recommendation for services. This was not a big deal; there was no tension involved. As the parent, the final say on goals and services is up to me. But it was also up to me to decline this section of the proposed IEP. 

I mention that here because I think it’s an important part of understanding the IEP process. The school district can make recommendations, but the parent must approve every syllable of the documentation. If you’re not happy with what’s in the IEP, don’t sign it until you are!

Which leads me to a very interesting and important thing I learned at the end of the meeting. I need to look into whether this applies to California only or the entire nation. As my pen was poised to sign the final paperwork, the psychologist notified me (as she is legally bound to do) that once the parent signs the IEP, the child is officially "in the system," and the parent can’t just decide later to pull him out of services without a big to-do. From that point on, the appropriate district personnel (in this case, speech therapist) must agree that the child no longer needs these services in order to cancel them.

This is a significant point. Apparently, it is a recent change to the law (again, I’m not sure whether we’re talking state or federal law—I’ll get back to you on that) during the past year.

Naturally, this caught my interest. I don’t like to be boxed into anything! Now, this news did not affect my course of action, because Scott and I had already made the decision to access these services through the school district instead of seeking them privately. We weighed the pros and cons before I ever picked up the phone to call the district.

But I was curious about how exactly this provision works. I asked what would happen if a parent wanted to pull her kid out of services, say, a month or two down the road. One of the teachers explained that if the speech therapist (or physical therapist, OT, etc) did not agree that the child’s special needs no longer existed, the case would have to go to mediation. If an agreement could not be reached—which I assume means "if the parent still wants out"—then the school district would initiate a due process hearing.

Got that, homeschoolers? If you decide to tap into the public schools’ special-needs services (which is your right), be sure you’re completely comfortable with the goals and services spelled out on the IEP before you sign it. Because once you do, you’re committed. Or rather, your child is. In California, at least.

So did I sign, you’re wondering. Yes. I do want to access the speech therapy and audiology services (ear molds, hearing tests) to which my son is entitled. After all, my tax dollars are helping to pay for these services. But this new law makes it all the more important to do your homework and to read the paperwork with an eagle eye. Make sure the IEP says exactly what you want, and not a syllable more, before you give it your John Hancock. 

Related posts on accessing public services for special needs:

Beginning the Process
The Speech Evaluation
Getting an IEP


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Comments

13 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Oh, Lissa, at some point in your life, I’m sure your life will get easier. But your little cherubs are just so darn cute!

    I’m so wary of public schools and govt that I’ll just keep you in my prayers and hope it all works out for the best. Give Wonderboy (and the girls) a hug from their friends in Colorado!

    Blessings, dear,

  2. Our cure for carsickness is ginger- in particular, nice spicy gingersnaps.

    Lots of great information regarding the IEP. Here in Ontario, it’s quite different, and we’ve chosen to go private. Unfortunate, since (like you said) our tax dollars are paying for these services, yet here we are paying again to get them privately.

  3. I am a new special ed. teacher in CA. I like how clearly you stated all the IEP information for other parents. I think one of my biggest hurdles now is helping new parents understand that the goals we (the IEP team) propose are just our best guesses of what we think (through observation and testing) their child should be able to learn within one year. Also, (and I know you understand this as a homeschooler) to further explain that the goals are not the only things we cover within the course of a school year. If I wrote that out I would need a lot more paper.

  4. Congratulations on the IEP – it sounds like wonderboy has a good team. My sons recieved speech, pt and ot through public schools here in Rhode Island and when we decided to discontinue pt and ot (not impressed with therapists at all) there was no problem. They simply informed us that because they qualified, they could receive it again if we chose. Maybe a California thing?

  5. I think a lot depends on the school district. Some are MUCH more open to the parents’ goals, and their role as head of the IEP team, than others.

  6. What happens if you move out of the district? Does the binding still apply or does it get transfered to another district?

    I noticed that your daughters go to a Little Flowers (club?). What is that like? Is it time consuming/expensive?

  7. Home schooling parents have more control over the IEP process than public school parents have in the sense that they can refuse to initiate the process in the first place. Had Wonder Boy been enrolled in public school, you, as his parent, wouldn’t have final say over the contents of his IEP. You are a voting member, but the other members of the IEP panel also have equal input. If they concur in their assessment that the child needs a particular set of services, that’s the way the IEP will be written. At that point, as a parent, you can decline to sign–or rather sign that you disagree with the IEP. *You* then have the right to take the IEP contents to ‘arbitration’ (for lack of a better word). But you have to initiate the process–the onus isn’t on the school to prove that their approach is right–it’s on you to prove that their approach is wrong. You can request that your child “Stay in Place” (i.e. not have the IEP applied yet) pending resolution of the arbitration process, but the school can also argue against that if they feel strongly enough about it. You are unlikely to win if it comes down to that. Your alternative, as the parent of a public school child, is to pull your child from school and home school. This is what we did with Ian. We were still able to access a limited amount of services through the school for him while he was home schooled, but that was completely at the school’s discretion. In short, if your public school decides that your child needs special education services, you can’t prevent the school from implementing that–you can, however, fight the decision–including going to court if you can afford that. Or you can home school, and you *may* get some support from the school even then. Personally, I found the home schooling alternative very effective. I believe my son improved more under my care than he would have under the plan the school proposed–and I know that he got a much better education while I was teaching him.

  8. Please post the legislation you were referring to, once you find it. My son is nearly 3 and we’ve been debating whether or not to continue his speech therapy through the school system. We’d be leaning towards “no” (if he even qualifies), but your information would make it a definite “no”.

  9. Congrats to Wonderboy and his new IEP 🙂

    No IEPs in Alberta, but an interesting system here; if you’re a traditional hs’er, with parents doing the teaching and taking full responsiblity for choosing and administering the curricula, you’re considered as hs’ing and show up in the government’s hs’ing stats.

    But if you you choose the “fully provided” route, with public school curricula that gets graded by ps teachers (the parent is more of an administrator or facilitator), or “blended” (not quite fully provided, but not quite traditional), the government considers the child as part of the public school system. Which means that every year there are hs’ers in Alberta who are unpleasantly surprised to find out that they’re technically not hs’ing…

  10. “From that point on, the appropriate district personnel (in this case, speech therapist) must agree that the child no longer needs these services in order to cancel them.”

    This is NOT true of Virginia. I have had several students assigned to my classes who had been pulled from much-needed services by a parent.

  11. Melissa, I know what you felt signing that IEP! Christina, age 4 who has Down Syndrome was in the system since birth, and I have signed so many IEPs I lost count.I’ve had 5 therapists coming to the house,for 4 years, which can be quite invasive, as they are eyeballing the cleanliness of the house, and how busy the older girls look while they are there(look busy girls!)Last year, the IEP committee, combined with these therapists, bullied me into putting Christina in a special needs pre-school. I looked for a local school with a short day (2.5 hours)and she had a very caring young teacher. However, a year later, her test results showed no increase in progress compared with home,and the school officials refused to let me meet next year’s teacher, so I went with my mommy instincts and withdrew her from school. Now, once again, the therapists come to the home, but this time, two of them have been badgering me to put Chritina in kindergarten next year. Sigh.
    That’s why it was so good to read about your self-assurance as a homeschooling Mom of a special needs child. We need to organize a support group, like NAATHAN.What do you think?

  12. I’m an IEP veteran for 3 of my 8, including dyslexia, autism and some speech disorders. My oldest boy, with the most severe auditory processing difficulties, is now an honor student at a Jesuit high school, but we homeschooled him until 8th grade.

    I think you are doing a wonderful thing to share your experience. I only would caution you that it has been my experience that when some teacher offers me services that I think I can do without her expertise, I need to research that area a little more carefully. Specifically, it is not uncommon for kids who have auditory differences to also have memory/word retrieval differences and processing differences that require a different kind of attention to detail for the primary teacher/mama. In other words, the info has to be inserted into the child’s life differently thatn you may be used to doing.

    I keep saying I am going to post more/write more on this…but I’m in the thick…

    Best wishes – I love your attitude for this. Homeschooling was and is a huge gift for both mom & dad, and for all special kids. It is the source of my confidence as an adult today that we were able to learn together what would be best for all of us.

  13. Here in NH it is not that way. Perhaps it is the CA. way?

    The services the public school system offered my daughter have been a tremendous help in her speech problems. I am so thankful that I can acess services that my child needs and my taxes pay for.

    I found I really needed the outside help with this one.