IEP Wounds

A very happy Rachel!

Rachel’s 32nd IEP meeting is Monday. I’ve been reviewing and cleaning out.  I visited a few 8th grade classes today.  Educator friends, something you need to know about is IEP wounds. Of course the the wounds may be from the doctor who said, “If you had an amnio we wouldn’t be here” or “your child will never be able to read or write” or “you should put him in an institution because he will ruin your life and your other kids lives. It’s not fair to them.” It may have been the preschool that said, “We don’t take THOSE kids.”  Maybe it’s the church that told you they don’t know how to work with your child but you are welcome to sit with him in the observation room and listen to the sermon.  You might be more like me. It’s the IEP wounds that as hard as I try have left scars. You see it may be your job. Even if you love my child and most everyone who has worked with Rachel loves her and is fiercely devoted to her, but you won’t carry the wounds or scars from those words with you the rest of your life like we do.

So Ms. Dr. of School Psychology when you make me sit and review your psychological exam that both my husband and I told you we understand, we disagree with it but we aren’t challenging it so we want to pass on reading it in the meeting.  When you tell me “No we have to go over it word for word,” I sit and grow small. My throat starts to close, tears start to well, the ugly in me starts coming out because a psychological exam will never tell you who Rachel is or what she can do. It only tells you how someone measures what she can’t do. Considering that one of the questions for her as an eight year old was “Can find and use a payphone” – well, I think they or the people still using that instrument are the ones who need some kind of intervention. It will tell someone she is “extremely low” in some artificial task.  Forever, I will remember that.  My pediatrician had the best advice when I showed him.  He said, “That’s nice now go home and throw it away. That is not Rachel.  She’s qualified for her services so throw it away.”  Thank you Dr. Kip for seeing Rachel for her abilities and love for life!

Off to claim her diploma
Off to claim her diploma

Yes Ms. Resource Teacher who says “this child cannot function in the regular classroom” and makes me remind her 13 times what IDEA says about a free and appropriate public education in the Least Restrictive Environment in a five and a half hour IEP meeting. Yes Ms. Resource Teacher you have long forgotten that but I haven’t.

George & Rachel walked together of course!

Oh and Principal Person when you tell a family that if left to you THOSE kids would all be down the hall together, please remember that I will always remember that you said that. When you segregate them to “their own hall” and “their own lunch table” and when you put up a sign at registration in the entry that says “Special Education Children in the Gym,”  what am I to think? Everyone else may think you are just old school and otherwise a good principal. I think if you don’t educate all kids as our kids then you should not be a principal.

Ms. Thing, the therapist, where to begin? You should really have a malpractice suit filed against you. Your ineptness forces me to have to request an Independent Evaluation and then you force me to threaten you with a state complaint in order to get my daughter’s records. I hope you realize that someone else will always feel the oozing from the wounds you inflicted. What about the therapist that missed six straight sessions and then filed faulty paperwork to cover his tracks?

Some of this is real life from my own life and some are real from the lives of others in our community. The point is that we parents will always have the scars and the history. It is personal for us. It is our life. In fact sometimes when I least expect it, I feel the scars.  We just tell our current IEP team that they need to understand we have battle scars and that when we question them when they have just told us in plain English three times that yes Rachel will get a diploma – we have battle scars.

Friends of Rachel were there. Good friends.
Friends of Rachel at kindergarten graduation.      Good friends.

Yes Ms. Para I do remember the tears that fell down your face as you sent her off to middle school and that you stayed an extra year in in your position because you loved her so much.  Yes Ms. Kindergarten teacher I do remember the smile on your face at her Kindergarten Graduation. It was almost as big as her smile. Yes, Ms. Teacher who told your son that in 20 years of teaching the most memorable child you had is Rachel. She’s pink and she sparkles and she taught me so much.  I remember you Ms. Preschool teacher as you cried describing to an IEP team what you and the other children had learned from Rachel.  Yes, I remember all of that and makes me have a happy heart (Rachelism) and causes me to shed happy tears.

Sometimes wounds take a very long time to heal though. Sometimes they leave scars.  Sometime the scars don’t go away. I’ll trust that you will think about this when I seem demanding at an IEP meeting, and I hope you’ll give me an extra measure of grace.

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  1. Thank you for your post. I am a teacher- a special Ed teacher for years, a classroom teacher for years and now a specialist who sees every child in the school on a weekly schedule. Education is a process that is filled with many points of view. While there are the random incompetent teachers, administrators and parents, most of the stake-holders are good people doing their best, given their circumstances, most of the time. The perspective of parents of special needs children, or indeed any child, tends to be focused on the interests of that single child. Few of the rest of us in education can hold that specified a view because we are responsible for all of the children. And all of the paperwork, and all of the meetings, and all of the standards, etc, with less and less time allotted to even plan and prepare solid educational activities. This larger responsibility does not negate the responsibility to each individual, but it can make it nigh on impossible to fill. At least I never feel like all the kids are getting everything they truly need to be successful out of me. I wish the best for your child and all the children.

  2. Beautifully said. I will definitely use this when speaking to new general ed and special ed teachers at colleges in the Central Valley. Your experience, is my experience, is all our experiences as moms of kiddos with DS in some shape or way. It’s why I sit at othe moms’ IEP meetings to advocate for their kids and speak up when their eyes fill of tears. I can’t believe it’s still so hard. Marisa was fully included in Kindergarten 22 yrs ago. Makes me sad , frustrated and angry. But most of all it makes me take action. Thank you for all you do!

    1. Thank you for reading. It should not still be so hard. I think a very frustrating thing to me is that the research shows inclusion works but no one seems to pay attention to that research! Onward!

  3. Amen. It is not a fair system. It is by its very nature adversarial. We ended up going to a catholic school and have wonderful meetings!!

    1. Thanks for reading Erica. I am glad the private school is working for you. Everyone doesn’t have that option and sometimes it doesn’t work so we have to keep on advocating for systems change. One day, one child at a time! Will your child be able to attend Catholic school through 12th grade?

  4. Oh My do I know how this feels. 4 years ago when I enrolled my son in kindergarten and was (what I thought was a good thing) turned out to be a disaster. I was sitting in the hall filling out the paperwork in a new school (to us) in a different state that we had just moved to when this man walking down the hall over heard me talking and stopped and said in an hateful tone, let me see that, oh we have a school down town for kids like him. I was so upset and 4 years later I still cannot get past those word. I eventually had to change to the school downtown in order for my son to make it in school. We still struggle but we will survive.

  5. Thank you for reading, Robin. I am sorry for your experience. I am sorry that so many people feel these hurts. We must continue to advocate to for systems change.

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