Thursday, October 9, 2014

IEP Hell: The Neverending Headache

If you have been following along with the saga of my middle son's IEP's, you will know that we have had our ups and downs.  Mostly, luckily, thankfully, our experience with these meetings has been positive.  Until last year, with the start of his transition to high school, we never really had any kind of problem that we could not solve.

I am feeling that those days are behind us.  Even after a somewhat positive resolution to our last meeting before this school year started link here , we find ourselves baffled by school officials' lack of understanding of what inclusion looks like.

For instance, it does not look like a modified gym class for kids who are recovering from injuries.  Seriously, it does not.  

Charles is not injured.  Down syndrome is NOT a reason to be left out of a typical gym class.  In fact, Charles has ALWAYS been included in a typical gym class...until this year.  They decided (unbeknownst to me) that it would be better (their word was safer) to put Charles in a class where three or four other kids were getting therapy for injuries, rather than with the "general population". I am using that term with no irony whatsoever.

The gym teacher, who, all in all, seems like a very nice person who is trying to get a handle on how to include and teach Charles, is completely overwhelmed by this task.  I am not exactly sure why, but lack of understanding about what Down syndrome is and isn't seems to be a big piece of it.

I really didn't know what to say in the moment, because to me, it seems like a no-brainer that you would just assume he can do stuff until you see that he can't and then modify from there.  In the case of gym, the only modifications Charles needs are the ones that address his AAI What? and those are minor.  He can run, shoot hoops, play games, do bench press...pretty much everything that gym entails.  Can we just for a second assume that he can do stuff before we decide (with no evidence other than ***whispering*** psst, he has Down syndrome ) that he can't?

The problem "they" say is that Charles once left the gym without permission and they are worried that it would be hard to watch him in a large group setting, such as a regular gym class.  I get the need for safety, but let's break it down a bit.  He left this gym class/therapy and went to the next class on his schedule; most likely because he was TOTALLY BORED!  Who wants to sit around watching other people get therapy?  Further, they decided this BEFORE he started school! They had it in their heads that he could not handle the larger class and put him in this poor excuse for a gym class instead, without consulting me (I would have laughed at them) or even trying out the regular class first.  


So, I told them that we needed to get him into a regular class, like YESTERDAY and they brought out the standard, tired argument of who was going to "watch" him, since, you know, they are so understaffed and the district won't give them another aide and yada, yada, yada...

I'm sorry, what?  

I pay taxes and ridiculous school fees for this "free" education and my kid will get what he needs; and if you put him in a class that actually has activities to keep him engaged, I am pretty sure that he won't feel the need to wander off to the math lab for some excitement.  Besides, my kid is LEGALLY entitled to receive a free, public education in the least restrictive environment; in this case, the high school that his brothers also attend, five blocks from our house.  This is not special treatment.  It is legally protected and socially just inclusion.

His case manager actually started complaining that there were so many kids "like mine" coming down the pike that they didn't know how they were going to handle it. And I said (trying to restrain myself from rolling my eyeballs out of my head) "Yes, you had better believe they are all coming!"  The insinuation was that "we" were the problem.  We.  Us pesky parents and our stupid kids.  

Are you freaking kidding me?!?!  These creative, bright individuals can't think of a way to revamp the system to accommodate children AT THEIR HOME SCHOOLS IN REGULAR CLASSES?!?!?  How about take 75% of the teachers and aides in the segregated classes and put them in the others?  Co-teaching?  Extra hands?  Spending less money busing kids to other schools also means more money for extra teachers.  For the other 25%, we can have some smaller classes for those kids that really, really need it and even those could go away in time, in my opinion.  We are finding out that our kids learn better together.  ALL our kids learn better together; no matter where they are on the continuum. Read Thisthis, and this.  

I am SO TIRED of having to educate the educators.  I am tired of getting beaten down to the point where I feel like my only choices are to pull him out altogether or leave him to rot in "life skills".

I have more to say, but right now, I am just so freaking tired.


  1. Wow, I understand what you mean now. How can we get through to people that difference isn't *DIFFERENCE*? I hope something changes for the better. They need to go see what real inclusion looks like, clearly it is completely alien to them. :(

  2. Right. Like, he's different, but he's not THAT different. It's not teaching a polar bear how to tap dance. "Oh, I think I might need some extra training for that". Um, yeah. AND IT'S GYM! GYM SHOULD BE EASY! I didn't even get into the crappy teacher who "can't keep him on task" or the one that thinks reading groups are still a great idea. Sigh.

    You know what I remember about reading groups? Is that I was in the "highest" one and the ones in the "lowest" one were really, really stupid. That's what I thought, because they made the distinction so clear.

    Inclusion does not look like this.

  3. There was recently a reminder in the FB inclusion group to tone down the battle cries and try to work WITH schools. But this is exactly why parents are so.freaking.angry. One person can only have so many informative mtngs trying to win people over who are already legally obliged to be there before they just say knock this shit off. [On a lighter note, though, I would have paid serious cash money to get out of gym in jr high].

    1. I saw that and almost left the group. I mean, really? If you can't be real in those groups, what is the point? Though, when you let 5000 people join, do you really know who is in there? Frustrating.

  4. Wow, that sucks! It doesn't seem like he's going to get much exercise or learn anything in that modified gym class.
    When I was a kid I got put in a gym class like that. I was happy about it because I hated gym class, but I was actually the only kid in there who had an IEP and wasn't just recovering from a physical injury of some sort. But for a kid who actually enjoys gym class and is able to participate, it seems pretty stupid to exclude him. I hope you are able to get a solution there!

  5. Thanks, Angel! Crazy, right? Sigh. Onward!