Mama S here. So, the day after court we had a meeting at P’s school. An IEP meeting. One of the most daunting meetings I have ever had. There are so many memes about how hard and frustrating IEP meetings are. We are blessed beyond measure. Our IEP meeting went very smoothly.
It all started the weeks we were learning about P, her history, and when we were deciding if she should come live with us. We heard about how hard school had been, about behaviors, about struggles, and about strengths. We decided that if she was going to come live with us we were going to tackle the school issues proactively.
We reached out to P’s new teacher before school started and gave her the 10,000 foot view of our situation and P’s history. We didn’t want to shape her views, but we wanted to give her a heads up so that we could communicate as things went pear shaped, as we assumed they eventually would.
Things were great for the first month. New school, new friends, new teacher, new family. Her teacher thought we were just those over active imagination parents that blew things out of proportion. Sure, she couldn’t sit still, couldn’t focus, didn’t participate in activities that were required, but it was a new year, that was to be expected. Then, things started shifting. She stopped listening, started refusing to do class work, started to pick on her peers, started to aggressively defy the staff of the school when frustrated, started to act the ways that she had in the past. We asked for an evaluation for an IEP based on doing research and knowing that she met the criteria for an IEP (diagnosis by a medical professional, challenges related to that diagnosis in the school setting, previous attempts at modifications were not resulting in successful learning) and we were told that they wanted to start with a check in/check out process first. (*Please note- we requested the IEP evaluation in writing- they were legally required to comply, but didn’t.) P has a 2nd year teacher and she wasn’t aware of the law- we are new to this so we didn’t know either. The school apologized profusely for not complying with the law in regards to submitting P for an evaluation and testing at the first request. We all learned from this process.
We would have been fine with trying Ci/Co while the paperwork was being complete and the evaluations were done- as this is a multi month process, but no. Check in/Check out. Well, this is a GREAT thing for so many kids. The idea is that the kiddo gets a sheet with behaviors that are expected and depending on how they display the behaviors they get a 2/1/0 with 2 being highest. The kiddos check in with a different teacher in the morning/ at break/ and at the end of the day to discuss. She was also given permission to take breaks as she needs to throughout the day. What. A. Disaster.
The school learned (after ignoring our concerns) that P does not do well when she does not get a perfect 100%. The first point in the day when she got lower than a 2 she would give up for the rest of the day. It was either really high scores or super low scores. No in-between. The check in/check out teacher was giving her candy- big no no. that caused super huge behaviors in the after school program and at home at night. It took two very pointed conversations and my near rage to get her to stop. Why people think it is OK to give school children candy and treats after their parents say no blows my mind. That is for another day.
After that process they shifted to a check in/check out where there were no numbers and the percentages started over again after lunch. Yikes. Still no good.
We asked again for an IEP. This time I emailed the special ed department and they knew that they had to. I got push back from the principle and was given attitude about “I know why you would want an IEP, but we are doing everything we would do with an IEP”. Yeah, I don’t care. I want the legal protection.
Over the next 2 months there were testing/evaluations/chats. Finally, the big day had come. Our big meeting with the IEP team. All of us crammed into a conference room to chat about P and her struggles. We were so torn. On one hand, we were excited. This would mean that she will be getting the help she needed. On the other hand, we felt like we were not doing enough to help her be successful in school. So very torn!
I did a ton of research on IEPs. Spoke with an attorney at my firm that specializes in IEPs. Chatted with other parents that have gone through the process. We were ready and armed for bear! We brought our licensing worker with to help back us up and a list of goals and things that we wanted her to work on at school.
The meeting. The meeting was GREAT! The entire team was kind, welcoming, encouraging, allowed my tangents on P’s strengths and how I thought they could tap into them to help her be successful in her new modifications, they listened to tips on things that I thought she could do to help calm down when frustrated, and we came up with a plan. The meeting was a smashing success. Our licensing worker was so impressed with the team- she has been through a bunch of those meetings- and thought that P was set up for success.
Some modifications that we have- scheduled breaks at various points throughout the day to specific people, separate testing area with frequent breaks to slow her down on testing, a taped area around her desk that allows her to get up but still be considered sitting at her station, social skills classes in the afternoon, she writes down the time every time they change schedules/she leaves the room (pre-teen- doesn’t understand time), and every day the highlights of each class are written in a book and she brings that home to talk us through her day. All very exciting. Also, another kiddo in the class got an IEP the same week and the school decided to put an aid in the class as the harder points in the day to help the whole class. Very awesome!
We got the paperwork signed by her mom and we were off to the races.
A few weeks later, things are going great. P started this process in tears. She was sad that we needed to do an IEP and was afraid of getting picked on. Cut to yesterday and she was telling me that she thinks the IEP is helping her in school. No big problems, no calls home, just little pre-teen stuff. This is all very exciting and we hope that it continues.
We cannot say enough great things about our school and the special ed team that we have. The biggest tips that I would have for people is to talk with someone that is in special ed. Perhaps a special ed teacher, paraprofessional, lawyer that specializes in IEPs, etc. Ask all your questions in advance of the meeting and be ready to talk about the hard stuff by preparing ways that your kiddo can overcome it with help. Be ready to be overwhelmed and exhausted and be excited, this could be the start of something great. Also, know that an IEP doesn’t change the kiddo. Just because you have a plan in place doesn’t mean that your kiddo is going to comply or that the school will be as passionate about helping as ours has been. Be the advocate and follow up. As many times as necessary. You are your kiddo’s champion and that is needed in this crazy world.
If you ever want to chat about the process or what we know, please reach out!
All the love,