Some of you may well be veterans of the special education system. By this, I mean parents whose children once had IEPs, but are now homeschooling. I am also such a veteran. And like you, I have battle scars.
It is a relief, in a way, not to have to deal with the stress of having an IEP for your child. Meetings, at which you feel very small, not merely because you are sitting in a chair made for a four-year-old. Meetings, in which you feel ambushed by agents of the school system. Meetings in which you feel like the lone voice advocating for your child.
Not the Lone Voice, but One of Many Voices
Of course, this is mostly perception. Teachers and administrators do care.
But still, being in an IEP meeting about a child with significant disabilities, can sometimes feel like you are being set up for a fall. As a parent, you want your child to be treated like a “normal” child. Included. Loved. Surrounded by friends. Treated fairly.
Teachers and administrators, meanwhile, may have additional, sometimes overriding, goals. Maintaining order. Guaranteeing objective fairness for all students. Complying with rules and standards from on high. Ensuring passing test scores. Keeping the school grade an “A.”
Trip down Memory Lane
I don’t often take this trip down Memory Lane, but I certainly did today. I was reading the introduction and first article in TASH Connections, Volume 42, Issue 1, Spring 2017 called “The IEP as a Living Document.”
(Thank you Council of Parents, Advocates and Attorneys for the link!).
TASH is “a leader in disability advocacy for 40 years…[working]to promote…inclusion…and eliminate the social injustices that diminish human rights.” (See “About” page for full mission statement.) Thank you, TASH, for allowing this valuable resource to be available free to nonmembers during the month of August 2017!
Just to give you a taste for what’s inside, I’ve included a couple of quotes that beautifully describe my IEP experience, almost as if the authors had been there with me.
The first quote is from the introduction to the volume.
Moving Beyond Compliance: An Introduction to the IEP Issue, is written by Amy L-M Toson, PhD, who got her PhD at the University of South Florida and now resides in Dallas TX (beginning p.6).
- “The current IEP process …
- (1) divides parents… against school personnel,
- (2) uses standards based curriculum as a justification and rationale for segregated programming and placement; and
- (3) focuses on procedural compliance over authentic partnership.”
The other three quotes are from the next article.
The Individual Education Plan: From Individual Needs to Meaningful Relationships is written by William R. Black, PhD and Jessica Montalvo, both from the University of South Florida (beginning p. 8).
- “…our son would represent an investment of time that the system would not necessarily reward professionally or financially.”
- “In retrospect, I see my own complicity in failing to recognize the parent’s legitimate concern that we were segregating her child at such a young age, denying all students the opportunity to learn from each other.”
- “It was as if he [the child] had to prove himself to gain access to regular or “normal” education and she [the regular ed teacher] was policing a type of regular education/special education border …I was the parent whose son seemed undesirable and the IEP meeting became the mechanism[/}means to carefully construct a type of special education/general education border wall.”
This article goes on to suggest that democratic principles be incorporated into the IEP process, in the tradition of a town hall, so that the entire group or community benefits from what is now a very private process. An interesting idea.
Tear Down That Wall
I can’t wait to read the other articles.
I’m sure that those with legal backgrounds may detect a hint of criticism, a suggestion that the current system is too adversarial. Legal minds may, with good reason, balk at the idea of changing, especially if that would diminish individual parent rights to enforce IEPs.
But the articles I have read so far are well thought out, and raise legitimate issues. So, I think they are well worth a read.
Even if it hurts.
Let’s not build a wall. Let’s tear it down.