Why am I googling “How to survive an IEP?” the day AFTER I had an IEP meeting?

Boy, that makes it sound dreadful. But it really wasn’t!  Overall, it was a very good meeting.  Paul (and our family) has been blessed with a caring team of professionals.  They have a positive outlook on Paul and are quick to notice the ways he has improved and gained skills.  Of course, we also can look candidly at the areas where he needs continued work.  As the parent who is obviously the most invested, emotionally and otherwise, in the child, there can erupt moments of sadness or grief during these discussions.  Thankfully, I really only had one eruption, but I didn’t cover the room with ash, so it wasn’t too bad.

I took a little time early yesterday to prepare- brainstorming a slew of different goals that I could have for Paul, but highlighting only a couple in varying categories (fine motor, gross motor, social/behavioral, communication) that I thought were most important.  It felt good when so many of our goals and ideas overlapped.  And every once in a while I could add a suggestion or two, so I actually felt like a knowledgeable and contributing member of the team.

So, we walked away with great goals for Paul.  Several that I had set in my mind to work on this Summer.  Though, it’s sort of laughable- I am not sure what I will accomplish this Summer considering the discomforts of the third trimester and having a new baby showing up.  But we can be optimistic.

I was surprised to learn at the end of the meeting that the one concern I did bring up isn’t technically part of Paul’s IEP, and that is the particular time and class placement.  The preschool constitutes children that are 3-5 years old.  There are 4 classes- two in the morning and two in the afternoon. It seemed to me that the class time and age group (though the ages can be mixed, so perhaps we should call it more of a “peer group”) could have an impact on the effectiveness of the education offered to a student.  However, it’s not included in the IEP, and therefore, I’m not clear on what role or weight my voice carries in the decision.  Though, to be honest, I’m really not clear on what weight my opinion carries in the IEP either.  Still, at least I know I belong in that decision making; class placement might be another story.

Here’s where I’ll go into some of the details.  This is really more for my own benefit since the meeting is fresh in my mind, but if anyone has any input I happily accept it.  Feel free to not read on, because it might be cumbersome.

Still, we had a good discussion about it.  Up until the day before the IEP, it was looking like Paul would stay in the morning class.  His preschool teacher knew this was our preference since Paul still naps in the afternoon from 1-4.  She mentioned she was about 90% sure he would stay in the morning which is where the younger kids generally begin, and said that he would be sort of like the “big boy” in class, but at the same time, it looked like his skills would blend well with the incoming kids (Paul is definitely the lowest functioning child in his current class, all of whom are moving on to the afternoon, with one even moving on to typical preschool.)

But then that changed the day before yesterday.  His teacher apologized and said that she spoke to the director and was told that because Paul will head to Kindergarten the year after next, he needed to move to the afternoon.  I was very glad she told me this the day before our meeting because I got to think though how I’d get to approach the topic.

Realizing that there could be reasons for moving him to the afternoon kids (other than being on track for K the following year) I wanted to ask at the meeting about why that decision was made.  I was simply told it was for the sake of social modeling and to prevent reversion.

I expressed some concern that since Paul still takes a significant daily nap that he might not be the best learner during the afternoon session.  A tired Paul is not cooperative, alert, attentive or particularly happy.  I want to be sure the time of his class is conducive to learning, because he has a lot to learn and it takes a great deal of effort and time for him to acquire skills.

There were some ideas to the contrary:

On the topic of reversion: I wish Paul was attuned enough to his peers to notice, and mimic their behaviors, good or bad.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t do any of this, so reversion or picking up negative behaviors (think hand flapping, or something) isn’t really a concern with Paul.

“It’s good to get him adjusted to a new schedule because in Kindergarten, he will have school for twice as long.”   Well, he doesn’t need a year to adjust, and there’s a big difference between just turned 4 and just turned 5; he likely would drop the nap by the time kindergarten started anyways.

“If he’s in a younger class, it’s sort of like ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease.’  Paul may get less assistance if other, younger, children are demanding time from the aids.”  That’s true, but at the same time we are really only guaranteed the services that are outlined in the IEP, so I want to be sure he is in his most cooperative and receptive state for those.  (I’ll admit this reason is somewhat compelling though, because the reality is that Paul gets a lot of assistance from aids. Even though there’s no guarantee that support will be there for him in such abundance, it has been, and he’s benefited.)

And then somehow the director who was sitting next to me must have read my notes on my computer where I wanted to bring up various possibilities of Paul’s future placements, asking about a third year of preschool or 2 yrs of Kindergarten, so she brought up that subject for me.

Insert eye roll here.

It’s important to think about when he is older because he will only receive services until he is 18, so he may miss out during his last year of high school.”  Yes, it’s prudent to think about that.  At the same time, if Paul is best suited now to repeat one of his early years, I don’t want the *possibility* of him missing out 15 years later to dictate the decision.  A lot can change in 15 years and Montana has already come close to passing legislation to extend that upper age limit, plus, they can (and maybe do?) receive federal funds through IDEA up until students are 21.

In the end, the only compelling reason was this: that some of Paul’s more primary goals for the year involve social modeling from his peers and the younger morning class next year is shaping up to be more “low functioning” with severe autism, so they may be unable to provide the social interaction with Paul that he would need to make progress.

So it was left open ended, that we’d think about it. Paul’s preschool teacher and I are probably the only ones on the team actually thinking about it (I had a great conversation with her the next morning), but such is life.  I will review his goals this weekend, but I anticipate that it will be ok to start him in the afternoon.   Still, we are banking this entire plan on the flexibility and adaptability of a 4 yr old.  

Paul is purposefully frustrated by us every day, at every meal and playtime, to help him learn new things.  It really shouldn’t fall on him to accommodate a team of adults.  There are benefits that make it worth it to give this a try, but if he can’t adjust or is just miserable, we’ll need to step in to take the burden off of him.

I would love some sort of plan set up to ensure that, if the afternoon just doesn’t work for him after a 6-8 week trial, we have greased the wheels to move him to the morning to ensure he can learn more effectively.

Does anyone know of a way I could accomplish such a “plan”?  I’m not clear on what a “parent IEP attachment” is (if you know, teach me!), but no matter what it is, I don’t think it applies here because technically AM/PM isn’t part of his IEP.  Any idea of something we can put into writing? I am not looking for something legally binding or particularly formal, just something that I can submit to have on record, and that can be in some way acknowledged by his team.



2 thoughts on “The IEP

  1. Patty Holm

    My experience 15 years ago with my son’s IEP was that when he was in 2nd grade he was having a lot of pull out time and one of the team member noticed that this was could be causing him hardship in the social aspect of his development so his IEP was revised two month into the year to give him more time of support in the classroom. My understanding as a parent was that an IEP could be revisited anytime If anybody felt there needed to be a change to help the child be successful.

  2. lori

    We also live in Montana and just met for our son’s IEP for kindergarten. He is a moderate functioning little boy with autism and only turns 5 in June. He is going to do a “practice” year of kindergarten, only going 1/2 day, and our goals are more social / communication / learning the routine this year. Next year he will do full day kindergarten with the emphasis being more academic. I would be really concerned with the afternoon program if he is still so tired. We feel the same with not wanting our son to graduate before he turns 18, which is why we want him to repeat kindergarten. I think all of your concerns are very legitimate. I would push for what you want. Our public school is very open to this idea because it’s been done in the past and has been quite successful. I know with preschool it’s a little different, but I would still go with my gut on what’s best for your son, and definitely have a backup plan if the afternoons just don’t work for him. Best wishes and may God bless your growing family!

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