As you transition from Early Intervention to your county school system’s services and preschool programs, there comes a time when you have to subject your child to a bunch of evaluations in order to determine his or her eligibility for services. Yesterday was our turn.
I should preface all this by saying that this sounds like things are worse than they really are, though there have been a number of issues to be sure. We’ve been frustrated, and that’s been made worse by us just being plain exhausted lately.
We haven’t exactly made it a secret that we haven’t been particularly enjoying this process. Early Intervention was a lot more laid back for us. One thing we’ve learned is that getting specifics from anyone in the IEP development process is a chore. (link to Wikipedia for those who don’t know what this is) There’s a straightforward enough explanation for this. Anything they say could be used against them at a later date if a child doesn’t get the services the parent wants. However, when all that butt covering gets in the way of actually getting any real information about what is going on, I don’t give a rodent’s posterior about one’s need to keep one’s legal issues covered.
So we’ve had to push back – not hard, but we’ve been firm about some things. Reading the tea leaves, it appears that our concerns were escalated to the next level up. This has led to a lot more clarity (at least on our part) and a sense that we’re all on more equal footing, which is how it’s supposed to be.
Making clear some expectations you have as parents seems to improve matters. Whether these came up for us because of real or just perceived problems, who knows. But when it’s hard to get specific information from people, it’s also hard not to assume the negative. This just breeds mistrust and suspicion and defensiveness, which would seem to me to lead to more legal action in the long run rather than less. With the stakes this high, we have a right to whatever feelings we want.
Here are our basic ground rules:
- We expect to be taken seriously as real equals, not just people saying we are and not acting like it.
- Along those lines, we want to know what’s going on ahead of time so we can reflect and be proactive rather than reactive with no time to prepare.
- We have done a lot of research and we know what we’re talking about.
- We expect specific information, not only because it’s just appropriate but because we have a right to it.
- We have no intention of accepting the school’s recommendations just because some people say so, unless they are in line with our expectations for services.
- We are reasonable people who will not make excessive requests, but we also have a good sense of what J-Man needs within the framework of appropriate levels of services.
- We will not throw this thing together at the last minute. When we show up at the IEP meeting, everyone will have already seen all the information needed to create the plan. We expect no surprises and will be very angry if there are.
- Our son is the most important thing in our lives. I would suggest not screwing around.
I put a lot of things in writing (e-mail in this case), which is something most everyone encourages. That has also helped.
[Time for some ranting.]
One of the ‘concessions’ we’ve had to push the hardest to get is to find out the results of the evaluations before the IEP meeting. This seems like a complete no-brainer, but apparently it’s not. The default option appears to be that you show up to this big meeting that a half-dozen people have to squeeze into their calendar, at which time you get the evaluations results and then the recommendations from the county on what they think your child should get placement and services-wise. Talk about being put on defense. No thanks. This process may make sense to them, but as an outsider, it seems sloppy.
In our county, this meeting rarely seems to happen earlier than a week before your child’s third birthday, which is, oh by the way, when all Early Intervention services are scheduled to cease. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I think this is asinine, but that’s not a battle anyone involved is going to win.
In any case, we told them we have no intention of just showing up and having no idea what they are going to say. We aren’t willing to come for a two-hour meeting to craft his entire plan from scratch after just hearing the evaluation results for the first time with no opportunity to prepare our comments on them beforehand. To me it’s like playing poker with someone where they get to see all of your cards and you get to see none of theirs. I don’t think so. I stopped short of threatening the nuclear option (telling them we were fully prepared to walk out of the IEP meeting if we weren’t comfortable with the evaluations and the recommendations and not given any time to prepare responses to them), but we’re certainly willing to pull that trigger if need be.
Given that the meeting is five days before his birthday, we are not about to throw all this together at the last minute in some rushed meeting. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. And we don’t give any more of a rat’s behind about whether people don’t have the time in their schedules or not. We pay a lot of taxes; go hire some more people. But like I said, we seem to have ‘won’ a preliminary meeting to go over the evaluation results the week before the IEP meeting. This should be the rule and norm and not something we ‘win’, but apparently not.
As has been noted in numerous places, persistence is a virtue. We’ve expressed our frustrations in a professional manner, we’ve made it clear that we understand the information we’re entitled to, we’ve made it obvious that we aren’t ‘show up and see what happens’ or ‘whatever you all think is best’ types of people, and that we have no intention of accepting something just because someone says so without considering it and verifying it first. We had hoped that this would be as congenial as Early Intervention has been, but ultimately that’s OK. This is just business and not anything personal.
I’ve tried to have the attitude of, “expect that things will work out how we want them to, but be ready for anything if it doesn’t.” This keeps things positive and nice until there’s a reason to be less than nice. At least at the moment, I feel like things are in a decent place.
We encourage you to read our various posts about IEPs, and especially take a look at our guest poster GIgi’s helpful pointers and tips. Obviously there’s way more to learn about this subject, but these will give you some sense of where we are in the process and what we’ve been facing.
There’s still another evaluation, but it’s more of a basic observation. Still, there’s more to come for sure. We’ll keep you posted.