Offers and Acceptance.

[Warning:  This is a bit of a rant.  I also wish to state that the rant is from the perspective of a mom of a child with ASD – not a lawyer.  Anything said in the following post should not be construed as legal advice.  Should you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney who specializes in Special Education in your jurisdiction.]

The all powerful IEP is the basic document from which all the rights of a child with a disability spring.  From that document, in theory,  come real-live tools used to even the playing field for a child that has special needs.  Whatever you obtain, acquire, keep, or lose will be based upon the goals and other language you agree upon in the Individualized Education Plan.

Under the law of the United States, every special needs child is entitled to a free and appropriate education.  What is appropriate will be determined by the language of that IEP – that we parents sign.  As a mom of a child with ASD, it is my belief that it is extraordinarily important that you read it right side up, upside down, inside out and backward and forward before you sign.  Know it.  Agree with it.  Change it if you must, but do it before you sign.

Having said all that, guess what?  My son has no working, agreed upon IEP.  Am I the only one who is still without an IEP over four months into the school year?  And yes, you read that right at the top of the page – I am a lawyer.

I am not a lawyer who specializes in IEPs or special education or any educational issues.  I  am a litigator though.  That means I go to trial.  I have picked many juries.  I have questioned witnesses, taken hundreds of depositions (testimony under oath in an office before a court reporter which is used at trial) and given both opening statements and closing arguments.  I have won and I have lost.  The point is that I am not afraid to fight.  And there is no greater cause than my son.

And yet, here I sit with no IEP.  I have been given no written offers.  And the only acceptance I have is that the whole system is broke – funding wise, and, as in, it ain’t fixed.

I have strong feelings and opinions about the whole IEP process.  On one level, I understand how lucky I am to live in the United States where public schools have funds designated for special educational needs to help even the playing field created by a child’s disability.  It is a privilege to have the right to a free and appropriate education.

Having said that, the IEP process is full of politics, “little” white lies, misinformation and ineptitude.  Teachers and Special Education teachers are wonderful people.  But they are covered with layers of bureaucracy.  Not many are trained to any depth on autism.  Is it enough to provide an “appropriate” education?  Who knows?  Do we get the teacher’s resume?  Review and critique their training?  Do we know how effective their methods are?  What are the percentages of children who have been measurably helped by any given teacher?  Are there stats like with sports teams?  No.  How many unqualified people fill classrooms with just a body? And yet they hold our most precious cargo in their hands to mold. When I ask, I get vague, how-dare-I-ask, evasive responses.  I don’t trust – trust must be earned.  It hasn’t been.

Unfortunately, the system that surrounds teachers is sometimes poorly run, underfunded, and overpopulated.  Mix inadequate funding, high numbers of students, and high turnover rates, and you are not living in Utopia.  The IEP meetings are always, by their very nature, adversarial.  The school district will always be trying to maximize their savings by providing the bare minimum to meet the language of the document you have agreed to.  I don’t believe it’s anything personal.  It’s simply business.  The less they pay, the more people can be funded.  The way funding has been explained to me is that there simply are not enough funds to provide the “appropriate” part of the education equation to every child.  So, should I accept that my child is receiving an inappropriate education because of the lack of funds, or do I fight for every cent that will make his education appropriate?  You know the answer.

So, why, if I’m clearly not going to lie, and an innocent child is involved, do they always lie to me?

Don’t tell me that you are offering me an ABA trained, one-on-one aide,  “comparable” to my one-on-one EIBT [Early Intensive Behavioral Therapy] trained (no- really trained) tutor when you hire a minimum wage, college student, whose only training is one week following another similarly-situated, college student, who has been trained by the trainee of a trainee, of an ABA-style behavioral analyst.  Don’t try to replace my EIBT tutors with babysitters.

Don’t tell me your six hour kindergarten program with PE, art, and social studies, in the afternoon is appropriate for my son.  Don’t tell me that leaves me two hours a day to run ABA programs, late in the afternoon when my son would be exhausted.  Don’t tell me that  vague notion of an offer is comparable to my son’s current high intensity school math, spelling, writing, reading program in a 12-2 ratio of students per teachers for three hours a day, not including his one-on-one EIBT tutor, who then follows school with three additional hours of intensive behavioral therapy that integrates his school and nonschool life.  An EIBT tutor who follows him from school to afternoon ABA intensive programs, that is part of a layered, professionally and scientifically proven program that redesigns itself weekly to meet my son’s new challenges and monitor his daily gains.

My son doesn’t need your “PE”, social studies, and art in kindergarten.  He needs not to scream.  He needs to talk.  He needs to learn to sit still.  He needs to comprehend stories and verbalizations that go far too fast for him to follow.  He needs someone to facilitate the conversation in a way he can understand.  He needs to catch up, not sit in a whirlwind of indecipherable chatter that is overstimulating and useless to him.

Maybe there is someone out there who needs your six hour a day babysitting program.  I need teachers who will teach what my son needs to learn.  Not what you deem my daily allowance.  Because that is unacceptable and not appropriate.  I will assure my son has every single tool he needs to help him succeed.  And we can do it the easy way – or we can do it the hard way.  They’re both easy for me.

Today was Round 2 of the IEP Wars.  When all was said and done, there was some amorphous, indistinct, thing the district was calling an “offer” but it was not in writing.  It was not detailed.  It was vague.  It was a shadow and a ghost.

When I sat for the first IEP round, no offer was made.  I am rather surprised that this is where I sit, near Christmas.  No offer in writing.  Some vague notions about an equivalent level of service with no details and no understanding of my son’s needs.  They want to take away funding of a proven successful program and replace it with a question mark.  And they expect me to say “thank you very much” and be on my way.

What they want from me but won't be getting...

I’m thinking not.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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22 Responses to Offers and Acceptance.

  1. Karla (Mom2MissK) says:

    It’s frustrating, inadequate, and not fair. I guess that’s why it’s free.

    I’m beginning to realize that the only way I can get the education my child needs to survive after preschool is to pay for what I can and do the rest myself.

    So, anybody want ot buy a crochet pattern and help get my kid the one-on-one Speech therapy sessions the school has decided she doesn’t need?

    • solodialogue says:

      It’s a sad realization to come to, especially considering how much it costs.

      Now, if you’d teach me how to crochet like YOU, the pattern might get me somewhere! But I can’t buy advanced “Latin” when I have not taken the basic course… 😉

  2. I love your mind. Your thinking process. That is the EXACT mentality I took with Tommy’s educational needs (and still do). I never would/will nor HAVE accepted anything below what he NEEDED. I’ve watched SO MANY parents allow their kids into their glorified classrooms (daycare) so that in their minds their kids can seem normal. I’ve watched people walk into IEP’s fully UNprepared (in the sense of knowing what is NECESSARY for their autistic child) because they think “the school knows best and they’ll do what’s right for my child”. Your child being around “typical” kids is NOT going to TEACH your child to be “normal” …*smh* Further, if your child is NOT being served appropriately, you PULL THEM OUT! You don’t leave them there because “you need the break”. And, they wonder why things fall apart when they approach middle school and all hell (realization) hits them.

    You give me hope… that there ARE still parents out there doing the work. Doing the research. Walking into their IEP’s knowing what they want and are willing to do what’s necessary to get there. Its a LOT of work, and a hard fight.. and you’re doing it. I commend you 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks Rhonda. I think you know what your comment means to me and to everyone who is in our shoes. I have not watched a lot of parents allow their ASD kids to become a product of school sponsored daycare, but I’m starting to see my share and it is just unfathomable in my mind how that can happen. I think there are lots of us parents out there doing the work. I know that I find tons of inspiration and hope in you and Tommy. Thanks for being here. I’m grateful. 🙂

  3. Jen says:

    We are on revision #3 of this year’s IEP. It will never be perfect as long as K goes to public school, but I am trying to get it as close to perfect as I can…and we continue to bleed money supplementing therapies privately. It’s political and financial and wrapped in red tape. And the law is so vague in some areas, no one knows what the hell to do. We are basically just going to put ourselves in the poor house fighting for K…which is not fair, but at the speed the school system moves, if we didn’t K would definitely be screwed. I wish we could afford something better.

    • solodialogue says:

      We too, are on revision #3 of the IEP – but just the GOALS! We have no offer and no agreement on anything. The law is always vague and subject to manipulation which is why my profession is so “beloved” (HA!) and yes, I know all about supplementing with privately funded therapies. We’ve done it since the diagnosis. Luckily & hopefully, when the newly passed law requiring insurance companies to pay for speech, OT and ABA comes into effect next year, the IEP will mean less and all the kids here in California can get more.

  4. Melissa says:

    Wow. Just wow. It’s always staggering to me how much fighting there is to do. We went back to the district 3x. And I know it’s just about time for her to be re-evaluated. But I never had any doubt that she wasn’t going to get what she needed. One way or another.

  5. blogginglily says:

    IEP’s are a bitch, for sure.

  6. Broot says:

    It’s rants like these that make me think that the parents of special needs children are likely the ones that will overhaul the U.S. Education system. Got a video for you to see about the NZ education system – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Z30CXVAjw but if you start at 2:23 you’ll hear the interesting thing about the Finland system. How cool would that be? Then it’s not about money, it’s about helping each child (including special needs) become a confident and competent learner.

    • solodialogue says:

      These were amazing videos! I wonder how the system in Finland operates like that! I had to share the second one on Facebook. It’s so full of common sense. It’s a bit of a jolt to recognize how 98% of kindergarteners test at the genius level and slowly have that eroded by “education”! What an eye opener. Thanks for sharing these. I consider them gifts. 🙂

  7. Lana Rush says:

    Everything we are currently doing for Lily is private pay, supplemented with whatever scraps our health insurance company throws our way and of which we have to scream, plead, threaten, and call dozens of times for. Your post is exactly the reason why we haven’t gone the public school route. Yes, I vote and pay taxes and all that so I SHOULD be able to expect my child to receive a free and appropriate education. But when I read stuff like this, I know for so many kiddos, it’s just not happening. The system IS broken and our children are suffering.

    We have downsized homes 3 times, we have no cable, we live and die by Dave Ramsey’s cash envelope system so that we’re not over-spending, and every month it’s still right down to the wire. It’s frustrating and like Jen said, we’ll probably end up in the poor house but I just can’t take our public school system.

    I’m willing to fight, to stand up and be heard, to do what it takes to create change in the system, but in the meantime, I’m keeping my kid out of it.

    • solodialogue says:

      This may be the truly honest way to get through education. Right from the start, here in California, we get funding through a Regional Center under the state’s law. They fund day to day life skill type things which include ABA and we are required to get THAT funding to involve the school district which is required under state law (and federal law as well) to provide the educational portion. We take what we get and supplement what we don’t. I hate to think of how many families are unable to fund anymore and then their children get lost in the system. Very sad. 😦

  8. Kelly Hafer says:

    This is heartbreaking. Tootles is not a number, just like Ted is not a number. They are not wickets to hit, quotas to fill or bodies in chairs. They are our children. This bullshit (sorry) about appropriate is nothing more than code for “as little as we can possibly get away with.” We, too, are still waging the IEP battle for both boys. And I wonder why. I really want to kick autism’s butt sometimes.

    • solodialogue says:

      Our kids are not any of these things, Kelly! We have to keep on fighting those IEP battles to extract that funding that supplements our supplements, right?! The system is broken. I wonder how to fix it.

  9. (Love your Contracts reference.) This makes me SO mad. Without any way to help you. Gah! It makes me really glad that I’m not having to expend more energy and frustration on school. I know that’s unhelpful (and possibly offensive) ’cause it leaves everyone else not lucky enough to homeschool out in the cold. Crap. Now I’ve made it worse. The system is SO broken in so many ways. ((hugs))

    • solodialogue says:

      I wonder if you are the only one who got the contracts reference… A+ to you, my dear. Not offensive at all. Homeschool is admirable. My hat is off to you. I’ve considered it – not there yet. And yes, it is – so, sooo, broken.

  10. Grace says:

    Oh, I hate to show up here a day late and full of negativity, but. . . .I’m battle-scarred and weary from all the fighting. And the stupid, stupid games.

    I know I don’t need to tell you to read the fine print on anything, but state-mandated coverage for therapy is not all it’s cracked up to be (based on my experience). We’ve had the mandate for a few years in my state, and my son is insured by a plan under the mandate (self-insured plans are exempt). Hasn’t done us a darn bit of good. I finally found an ABA provider within reasonable driving distance, but they’re not participating in our insurance plan (or any other plan, for that matter, except Medicaid). Their advice to me? Get ABA written into his IEP and let the school district pay for it. So we’re right back to square one. And the battle rages on. . . .

    Free Appropriate Public Education = You Get What You Pay For

    • solodialogue says:

      Well, I didn’t think that I’d be screwed out of something I hadn’t even received yet. But for every law, there is a way around it so this does not surprise me – just makes me sad and disgusted. So, we’re just gonna get fingers pointing back and forth to each other… Someday, we’ll figure out another way. We will Miss Grace. But I’m too tired to think about it right now…

  11. ElizOF says:

    Have you confronted the culprits and spelled out your needs. The process can be mind numbing but you must be a tad forceful to ensure the paperwork is offered to you with all the offers clearly spelled out. I’m surprised you still don’t have one… 😦

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