For people who care for children with disabilities …
Wow have we’ve been busy with holidays, birthdays, and Jack’s IEP in December. I had some reservations about his IEP meeting. I seem to always get nervous prior to it, but this time it was different…lately Jack seemed to have lost his love for school and my husband and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Prior to our meeting with his team we sat down and went over what is different this year. We came up with a lot of scenarios: Jack had to have surgery for a broken arm in October and missed some school, he returned to a new teacher, a new speech therapist, new grade, and new curriculum. A lot of “new”.
We sent out an IEP agenda to the teachers and therapist so they knew the areas we wanted to address. When we finally had our meeting, they told us that they also noticed a change in Jack. As a team, we went through his daily schedule and all agreed that he had too much on his plate. I mean the poor kid was being pulled out of his classroom eight times a day. We figured out he was only spending 15% of his time in his self-contained classroom. He was going to general education literacy, general education spelling, general education shared reading, language lab, speech therapy, PE, music, and art. No wonder he hated school—he could not form a relationship with anyone since he didn’t spend enough time in one place! I was so mad at myself for not recognizing this sooner. As much as I would like Jack to be included, it just wasn’t working for him.
We agreed to meet again after winter break to come up with a plan to get Jack to enjoy school again. In the meantime they asked John (my husband) and me to write our hopes and goals for Jack prior to the second meeting and they would do the same.
Click here to read the letter I wrote — hopefully it can help you get ideas to use!
All of this preparation paid off. In the meeting, we went through his schedule and decided that Jack did best in a small classroom. We agreed that Jack would now be spending most of his day in his self-contained classroom for curriculum, and still be able to enjoy PE, music and art, along with speech therapy and language lab with his peers.
I know inclusion vs. self-contained is a touchy subject with parents, but I think it all depends on the child. We needed to do what was best for Jack and his well-being. I left the meeting with a renewed confidence about the team. I know without a doubt they want the best for my son and they are going to push him to his fullest potential. They will not label him because of his diagnosis. They will give him all the tools that he needs, but we also have to do the same at home. I feel strongly about John’s and my involvement.
While I have confidence in Jack’s team, I also know that they have a lot of responsibility and their time is stretched thin, and we have to be Jack’s best advocate.When we were about to meet again my nerves where through the roof. What if they did not agree with our goals? What if they wanted to go in a different direction, what if they refused?!! They asked the principal to join our meeting. That’s pretty unheard of, so that even put more pressure on us. I was determined not to leave until we felt good about the outcome.
Quickly, here’s what I found worked to make my wants and desires clear to the team:
I sent out an agenda a week prior to the meeting; we always come with our own goals for Jack. I also think it is so important not to wait for your child’s yearly IEP to find out if they are struggling. Even though we get notes weekly on Jack’s strengths and weaknesses and a more detailed email monthly, we all missed this!!! So hopefully we will nip any future problems in the bud. This not only makes the team stronger, but it forms a great relationship between all of us. I have the utmost respect for Jack’s team and I know we are lucky to have them.
I would like to hear how other families deal with crisis in school. I know each of our children is different, but if we are our child’s advocate then maybe something that is working for you might work for another family.
Here are some photos of all my boys.