Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I had big plans today.
I was going to write a follow-up post to my lack-of-job-whining post. I left a part out and was going to go ahead and share it today...
Until I went to Alek's IEP meeting.
Now, it doesn't seem so important.
Side note: Why is it that I can go weeks without any real blogging fodder...and then all of a sudden be slammed with so much I have a backup in my queue seven days deep?
But I digress...
I went to Alek's tri-annual meeting today, and I am not pleased with the results.
Alright, part of me is pleased...the other part is TICKED!
First, some background.
An IEP is an 'Individual Education Plan'. This is the plan the school district draws up when they've ID'd your kid as having a problem that could use some extra help.
We had Alek tested in second grade. He was having some speech issues that weren't clearing up on their own...and he seemed to still be behind on his English.
The district agreed he did have some issues and with our help came up with an IEP. Alek's had two things on his plan...
- Speech. He had difficulty pronouncing his /l/ and /r/ sounds - like so many other kids his age.
- Language. Not surprising since his rocky start in life, the complete change in language...and one other condition.
It would be verbatim or nothing.
So you can see where this hurts his academics, can't you? He is able to memorize absolutely anything, but when it comes to concept ideas or inferences during reading - he sometimes gets lost.
It shows up the worst on tests and projects. He has an incredibly hard time with reading comprehension tests. They leave him befuddled and frustrated. He has to have directions for projects repeated for him, just to make sure he gets it (I usually have the teacher just email me the directions so I make sure he and the teacher are on the same page.)
The frustration continues during class discussions. If at any point he gets lost because he's not able to understand what is going on around him - he shuts down. He'll start daydreaming...playing with his pencil...staring off into space, which forces the teacher to bring him 'back' with a tap on the desk or a hand to the shoulder. Its subtle, but its there.
The second thing to keep in mind about an IEP is that it is good for three years....hence the 'tri-annual' part. Actually, each year the IEP is reviewed to determine how well the child is doing and to take another look at what needs to be done to help them, but during the tri-annual the child is actually re-tested to see if the same problems still exist.
So with all of that in mind, here is what happened.
I went to Alek's tri-annual meeting and was told he doesn't qualify for an IEP anymore.
His speech is at 100% - which I totally agree with - see I told you there was good news.
And he's made huge strides in his language acquisition - which is also great news. If you think about it - it must be incredibly hard for a kid to acquire a new language when he has an auditory processing disorder.
He's come a long way.
But while his language is still a concern...its not low enough to be considered a real problem.
So Alek doesn't get an IEP.
I asked about a 504 Plan.
He doesn't qualify for that either!
Alek's teacher tried advocating for him. Here is what he wrote in his report...
'Alek's comprehension has improved throughout the year, however, he does still have difficulty taking tests. Alek often has struggles during the CORE Reading time when there is not some sort of visual representation of information or he is not actively engaged. Alek struggles in book group giving a summary of what was read. Using a notebook to write information down has helped Alek to remember the story and search for main ideas or deeper understanding. Using a projector to give the reading lesson has helped Alek stay focused and learn the content that is needed to be successful. Posting of the comprehension skills and content and strategies gives a visual representation of reading information for Alek to refer back to. Alek has been a great addition to S________ Elementary School. He has a positive attitude, is polite and is well liked by his peers and teachers. I would like to see Alek continue to make progress using strategies to help him process auditory information."
His teacher gets it.
His teacher wants him to get help.
It didn't matter.
Their hands are tied.
There is nothing they can do.
The federal government doesn't recognize APD as a disability.
So my son, who has a true learning disability, is in danger of being 'left behind'.
Thankfully, when we first moved to Grab-your-lasso, Wyoming, we were overflowed to S_________ Elementary. We were too late in registering them - there was no room left at the neighborhood school for our kids.
At the time I was incredibly disappointed - it would mean I would have to cart them across town twice a day - or let them ride a bus for an hour each way.
But now I realize its a good thing - because S________ Elementary is considered a Title I school...which means Alek can continue to get services for his APD even without an IEP.
Once he goes to Jr. High - in a little over one year - he will be on his own.
It doesn't take much to help Alek succeed...just some minor accommodations here and there, but in about 18 months he will have nothing.
No more requiring a teacher checking to make sure he understands the directions...
No more being placed in the part of the classroom that makes sure he has fewer distractions and is easier to be redirected by the teacher...
No more requiring the teachers to use overhead projectors to put the notes on the board - instead of just saying the stuff out loud and assuming everyone can follow along.
So Alek has 18 months to learn all of the coping mechanisms he'll need for the rest of his life, before moving into a jr. high where no one will help him.
And Shad and I will have to advocate for him even more than we already do.
We will have to become even more of a watchdog...just because the federal government doesn't think my son's disability is a disability.
It may not be a disability to them...but if left unchecked - it can become a huge disability in the future.
Without the extra help, Alek will more than likely get frustrated with the school experience...and you know where that leads. Grades drop...school becomes less important...and you can forget about college.
All because the federal government (who comes up with these regulations) doesn't think my son's problem is worthy of an IEP.
Well, I'm sorry. That's not good enough.
They WILL be hearing from me.
When we started the process of adopting Anya and Nick back in '02, we found out Iowa didn't recognize international adoption and that we would HAVE to readopt them once we got them home.
The mother bear in me didn't let the state get away with it. We had gone through too much, paid too much money, had too many headaches and jumped through too many hoops to have the state tell me my kids weren't my kids.
So I called my local representative who immediately constructed legislation which passed unanimously in both houses and was signed by the governor just a few weeks later.
I am not afraid of doing the same thing again.
I WILL contact my U.S. Senator...and we WILL do something about this. If he isn't willing to help me, I WILL keep knocking on doors until something gets done.
Alek isn't the only child in this country who is dealing with APD.
He isn't the only child who can be helped with just a few sessions a week to teach him coping mechanisms...and get the simple accommodations he needs.
And he isn't the only kid who is in danger here.
For now, Alek is holding his own with his grades. He does A and B work...even with this disability. But that is in large part to a huge amount of work we do at home...and a huge amount of extra work he has to put in just to stay afloat.
Just think how much better he would be doing if he had all of the help he needed...
And just think how much worse he'll be doing if he doesn't.
That's not an option.