Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Letting Go of the IEP

The case conference for Sienna is in five days.

I keep going back and forth on what my position will be during this conference. It was a year ago when we had our first case conference at Laketown Elementary. It was then that they had told me that the school's psychologist did not see anything in my daughter that would support our independent diagnoses and the previous school's IEP that we had brought along from Chicago. The IEP process in Chicago was so different than Laketown. In Chicago, the school system held my hand and partnered with our family. I safely trusted their opinions. Now, I am in a rural town. They are clueless about autism spectrum disorders. After digesting book after book and Googling the hell out of Autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, ADHD, Mood Disorders, Sensory Integration, Sensory Overload, Hyperlexia, Co-Morbidity, and the like, I am still a clueless parent when it comes to my own kids. I try to understand my rights as a parent, I try to remember conflict resolution, I try to realize my daughter's needs in the classroom. I am flying by the seat of my pants trying to parent my own children in the home, failing most of the time. It is impossible for me to educate and lead the school to help my daughter in the classroom, especially when they claim they don't see anything out of the ordinary.

The school's diagnosis stated that they didn't see anything that resembled autism. The psychologist suggested that I find counseling and parenting classes to help our conflict in the home. Sienna's Kindergarten teacher mentioned to me by email that she was so sad for Sienna. She suggested that Sienna was typical and the only thing wrong with her was that I had taken her to too many doctors for too many tests and that would result in a couple of sad days for her. She was referring the the week we had last spring when I couldn't get my five year old out of bed. She had no fever and no other illness that I could detect other than, dare I say it, depression. That saddens my heart to see my own daughter so limp that she isn't able to sit up to eat.

At our first case conference last fall, when they told me that nothing was wrong with my daughter, I was excited and more than ready to sign on the dotted line! "What? Nothing is wrong with Sienna?! Great!!! Coom-by-ya!" With pen in hand, I recalled a tip that I read on line about never agreeing or signing anything during an IEP meeting. Always take it home and sleep on it. That I did. And, but that night I had trouble sleeping. My youngest daughter was having a difficult night sleeping and whenever I would try to console her, I remembered what that counselor said about my parenting. I felt broken and nothing I did or didn't do could console my youngest. In fact, nothing I did or didn't do seemed right when I was trying to comfort Sienna all those sleepless nights during her infancy and toddler-hood.

The school seems to handle Sienna well. Sienna has been thriving since we have moved here. She gets in a high abilities program because she tested at the 99th percentile in reading and math. She has gotten 100s on her spelling tests. And, when asked, none of the recess aides or special ed or classroom teachers see anything out of the ordinary. They see a spunky, creative quirky styled little girl. And, isn't that what I want them to see?

Last year I spent so much energy fighting the case conference team. I turned my wheels in trying to convince them that something was wrong with her. I have decided that I don't want to do that any more. And, my therapist agrees so does my husband. On Monday, when we go in for our next case conference, they will most likely tell me again that Sienna doesn't need any services. That she is 'not eligible' for services. I think I will smile and simply say, "Her professional medical diagnoses, both privately submitted and the assessment acquired through the independent evaluation state that she has diagnoses that would allow services based on the IDEA. However, I agree that with all the intervention that we have been working on in the home in the past four years, Sienna is now thriving. We do have some goals for her that we would like your help with in the social arena for her and if I may consult with the teacher and counselor from time to time, I would appreciate that." And let it go. Let the school do what they need to.

Afterall, I have a two year old who stays home with me who is on the autism spectrum. I need to reserve my energy for her. I can't lead the school in helping them recognize the early signs of Asperger's. I used to tell myself that God called me to this town to help the other parents who couldn't help themselves win the fight with the school system in helping their children on the spectrum. But I can now hardly manage my own family let alone advocate for the entire town. In God I trust.


Amy Miyamoto said...

I want to acknowledge you for sharing the truth of your story. As a former middle school teacher and trained school adminisitrator in CA, I am familiar with IDEA and the IEP process. I know how challenging it can be. I applaud you for sticking to your convictions to advocate for your daughter AND do what is best for you and your family. The line is usually a shade of gray. I also have a relative who has Asperger's and like you described - she is highly gifted and has unique social interpersonal challenges. You know your daughter better than anyone else.
Again bravo for the essential work you have done as a parent. You children are very blessed!
(Found you on Twitter)
On Twitter @amymiyamoto

Shannon@Vogue Mum said...

Your kiddos have a special mommy who would fight so hard for them! Remember your family is more important than the town. You may have broken the way through but don't stress about it. Give yourself more credit! God knew there was something special about you to give you these two girls on the spectrum.

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The Domestic Engineer's Union

Helene said...

You are an amazing advocate for your children!!! It amazes me how much you have to go through to make sure your children get all the services they need and deserve!! It definitely sounds like God is using you in some way...just keep relying on Him to lead the way!

autismfamily said...

Good luck with the IEP. Sounds like a lot of challenges with the school district. What grade is she in? Yes I agree always take the IEP home and do not sign there since there is too much data to absorb and agree to.