If I thought evaluations and annual reviews for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) was difficult for a child in grade school-- yesterday I learned the whole process for a child in middle school is like a trip into the Twilight Zone!
I have always appreciated when parent advocates, mental health case managers, or just about any other live human is willing to attend the IEP with me. Now, that I have a few under-my-belt I completely agree with the advice that parents should NEVER go alone. There is just too much paper and too much "Administration-Speak". It's impossible to leave one of these meetings without things being a blur. Parents have very little time with the "so-called" concerned IEP Team members before, Duty Calls and one-by-one they duck-out glad to have another meeting over.
When my friend shared that her son, an 8th grader, was about to have his IEP Annual review I was more then happy to help her go over the IEP paperwork from last year and she was "skilled" enough to drive to the office and get a copy of the IEP she would be asked to sign this year! Between the two of us and a stack of Big Yellow Sticky Notes we had a few days to go though both plans and make notes... Actually Polly, had time to make several Notes and write a Second Blog about the IEP.
Following my own advice (that I was given and learned the hard way about) I urged Polly to consider bringing her own "Parent Advocate" or a few to the meeting. It seems the majority of the Parent Advocates for Clark County, Washington have burned-out or retired as all of the parent advocates on our resource list are "No Longer" advocates...
I am not usually excited about entering a middle-school building as it brings back my own childhood memories and the buildings always smell like prepubescent body odor. The only place I can imagine worse is a jail or perhaps one of the Psych Wards Makala has spent too much time. But, For my FRIEND going with her just to keep notes was an Honor. Plus she got me lunch after the meeting which made it fun time for us. Even though, the actual meeting wasn't worth the amount of procedural ordeal.
I fail to understand why a meeting with five school staff members needs to be called to go over 3-5 ACTUALLY WRITTEN IEP Goals... I guess, it is just too simple to communicate with parents by way of letter, phone or email... And there needs to be 5 Educators in the Room to change the light-bulb -- I mean, witness the disclosures and signatures. Oh, and the 8th grade boy we were all talking about is now of age to attend the meetings as well...
I was informed sometime ago that in the state of Washington children the age of 13 years old have "rights" to be part of their education and mental health plans. I have not been very secure in knowing that my daughter will be able to decline services, make mental health decisions (What an Oxymoron!), and participate in the IEP meetings... What I was not aware of until attending Polly's IEP Meeting for her son was that children had all these rights at the age of 13-years-old and the parents have none.
I sat and took notes as the Down-talking started and one-by-one Polly looked over her son's IEP and all the Big Yellow sticky notes. With nearly each and every issue brought to the attention of the educators I listened (and tried not to barf) to the Educations start the Administration-Speak and have a glimpse into the future of what I will soon be dealing with myself.
There was but, one or two concerns my friend had about not only the IEP but, her sons ability to endure a day in the HELL I like to call Middle School... It's hard enough when you are one of the "In-Kids" but, it must be like being boiled in hot wax when you have Asperger Syndrome. Might as well put a target on the poor kids back. He surely isn't ready to deal with many of the social situations... Not to mention ready to MAKE DECISIONS for himself about everything.
Polly asked, "Why is he in Regular Physical Education -- PE, when we all agreed last year he should be in Adaptive PE?"
The Administrators and educators were very quick to point out: "He Wanted to Take Regular PE, he selected that class himself!"
It was pretty sad (in a, I can't believe these people kind of way) when the Team Leader looked at my friends son and said, "Right, You wanted that PE Class?"
Of course, within just a few moments my friend learned that her son didn't even NEED PE as his requirements had been completed... Apparently, none of the people who know how to do the IEP meetings with such skill ever bothered to let her son know this fact!
When he was asked if he knew he Did NOT have to take P.E. this term? His Answer was complete Manifestation of his Disability -- Asperger Syndrome and he said, "I heard the Governor of the state requires 2-trimesters of PE."
Apparently only the Idiot parents understood how this little boy isn't ready to be making all his own decisions and how horribly disgusting it is that he wasn't helped more when selecting his classes... Apparently, the ONLY PEOPLE who do not get it are the trained people our Tax Dollars pay. Their primary concenr appears to be calling big meetings--over what should be common sense to anyone who actually cared about the child more then the 200 pages of dribble parents are presented with to make it look like they did their job.
We may just be moving when Makala turns 13 as I can only imagine the choices she will make about her education and mental health... I might as well rent her a condo and pretend my job as a Parent is over after seeing what it means for a 13-year-old to have the right to make their own choices.
I don't see how the state of Washington or any other with such laws, came up with this idea. Why on earth would the state empower Disabled Children to be responsible for their education and mental health needs? The fact is that for some of our children we simply PRAY they will be ready to manage through life when they become Adults... We hope some of our children can make a choice of which socks to put on by the age 18. Or make choices the help them keep a minimum wage job.
In Washington children make their own decisions and this Includes disabled children. I just can't wait until Makala finds out she CAN Choose to NOT take her medication, or choose to check herself out of therapy... Oh, and just as soon as Washington allows her to Choose I want it to be clear her choices will NOT be my Liability if a disabled child can make all their own choices then
WHAT DO THEY NEED PARENTS FOR?
I will be doing a lot of research on this subject during the next few years...
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