Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meetings Up to My Ears

I'm glad so many of you got a kick out of the Halloween pictures. I definitely looked at them multiple times myself and cracked up. Kids don't plan to have a good day just because it's a special day. So we had to make light of it. :)

Today was a big conference day. Had a parent-teacher conference with Mrs. Jackson, Cole's Pre-K teacher. She is fantastic. She has a great grip on Cole's strengths and weaknesses and really wants to set kids up for success and start their learning career on the right foot. Basically, Cole is doing great, except he's not all that interested in the academic "work" they have to do. He just wants to be a little boy and play. And who can blame him? Mrs. Jackson is fine with this as well, but did mention that barring some HUGE spurt in maturity/emotional development, she would recommend Cole having another year of Pre-K before going on to Kindergarten. She was so nervous to tell me this and then was relieved when I told her that we were on the same page. :) Cole is a young 4 and people around here tend to hold back before starting kindergarten. We just don't think that Cole is ready maturity-wise yet and we don't want to overwhelm him. He's a kid, and Kindergarten just isn't what it used to be!

The second meeting of the day was Dean's eligibility meeting for special education services through the county (Chesterfield Count). There were about 10 people at this meeting, and then me. I came in expecting to be a little overwhelmed, but it was even more so than I expected. They flew through checklists and didn't ask about my feelings about the report they gave for Dean's evaluation.

Back up - the evaluation was a few weeks ago and lasted about an hour. Four specialists evaluated Dean in every area. They basically came out in the end saying that Dean was average for social development (ok, sure), borderline delayed for motor (umm, what?), low average for communication (umm, WHAT?), and significantly delayed in cognitive (umm, what?). I expected having at least one area where I felt they underestimated his development (cognitive), but didn't expect having two areas where I felt they overestimated his development (motor and communication).

Evaluations are interesting because a child can do a task every day of their lives and then not do it during the eval and they are judged as not having the skill. Then they might never do something and then do it that day and they are judged as having the skill. One hour trumps all other parent observations and other therapist/whoever input. Blah.

So the meeting sped along and in the end they determined Dean is eligible for services (this is not a surprise and is what we were hoping for). I signed some things and we scheduled his first IEP meeting.

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, I started a significant conversation on my page about all this. I'm going into the IEP meeting with a better understanding of how this all "goes," I will be bringing someone with me, and I am planning on NOT signing the IEP that day and bringing it home to think about it. A friend posted a great quote in the aforementioned convo: "If someone is pressing you to make a decision quickly, it's a sure fire sign that you should take your time and think about it." I very much felt the pressure at this meeting for things just to steamroll along and sign, sign, sign. I decided not to fight the results of the evaluation too much because the meeting was just to decide eligibility, and he's eligible.

I'm nervous that I won't know how to fight through this process. I know a lot of you who know me are probably thinking it's ludicrous that I'm even thinking that, but there *are* times that I'm just so overwhelmed, I don't know what to say. Many situations with Dean have left me in that predicament. And sometimes I'm so tired of fighting and being on top of *everything* that I just don't feel like doing more. Diving into the waves....


Laurie said...

Ali, have you found a state group that advocates and educates parents about their rights? In South Carolina it's Pro Parents, and most states have something similar. They offer lots of classes on the law and how it applies to your family.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Laurie, I haven't looked into that yet, mostly because we're so new to all this. I learned about all this stuff in school, but of course I didn't pay much attention because I was going into regular ed and, you know, I wouldn't have to be the main one worrying about this. Cue eye roll.

Kelsey said...

Hi Ali, I knew Tim at Georgetown and stumbled onto your blog that way. I work in special education and I've been through all of these processes many times. If you'd like to talk at all, I'd be happy to give my two cents. My e-mail is kelsey.ruppel@gmail.com.

B said...

I found your blog doing some research for a new patient I have with PWS. I like to hear both sides of the stories (parent/patient as well as medical) I am on the therapist side of the spectrum. One thing that troubles me is the word "fight". I go into every meeting with parents expecting a team atmosphere and working together. I understand that this is not the case in every situation but I feel with anyone going into a situation feeling that they have to "fight" is going to have negative connotations and not set anyone at ease. Anyone worth sending your child to will completely understand and allow you to ask questions and read the IEP over before signing. They may ask you to sign an attendance log stating you were at the meeting but other than that ask them not to lock the IEP until it is finalized. You can always hold a special request at a later date to add/change things as well. You should be given a paper that states your legal rights with an IEP every year. And whoever you are receiving early intervention services with should be able to help set you up with an advocacy group should you have more questions about your state. An IEP can be a positive experience!!

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Hey B,
Thanks so much for "stopping by" and commenting! Yes, I agree that an IEP can be a positive experience... or I should say, so I hear since we haven't had one yet for Dean. :)

I used to be on the other side of things too, and I felt a lot more positively about evaluations, IEPs, and the like when I wasn't the child's parent. Being on this side of things, I can tell you that it's a very, very different perspective. I feel badly looking back thinking about meetings where I probably thought everything was going well and fine and inside maybe the parents were feeling that this was not the case. :(

Also, when you have a child with special needs, the word "fight" is frequently appropriate. You're going against the natural course of things because, truly, no one is going to advocate for your child more than you are. Since Dean was an infant, I had to fight to get him out of the NICU, fight insurance companies, fight doctors, etc. I actually usually still approach any of these situations assuming that things are going to go well and then adjust if/when necessary.

I went into the meeting a bit on the defensive, admittedly, because I did not feel that the evaluation of Dean was very accurate. They overestimated his abilities in some areas (Dean's therapists and doctors agreed with me on this) and underestimated in other areas. Dean has significant delays and yet almost did not qualify for services because of these inaccuracies. So we didn't even start out on the same page, and then at the meeting, the proceedings moved so quickly that I left with my head spinning. Even Dean's service coordinator (who was there with me) agreed that things were not explained well and that SHE misunderstood some of what they were recommending.

I think as an educator/therapist, you can have all the right intentions and that doesn't necessarily mean that everything is going to go smoothly (although it very well can!) every time. Well, to you it might, but to the parents, it may or may not. We're all entitled to our "side" of the story because we play different roles.