One Mom’s Perspective of the IEP Process.
I have always made clear that my interest is in my child, his well-being, and his functioning on grade-level – nothing more and nothing less. My goal has always been to advocate for my child so that he could have available to him a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet his unique needs and prepare him for further education, employment, and independent living – that is the intent of the Legislature when it penned IDEA.
Beyond accomplishing that goal, I have no other interest in engaging you, the school district, or in being in a litigious and adversarial relationship with you.
My child has been in Special Education since he was three. He is now ten. After seven years of receiving special education and related services, the gap between him and his peers are getting wider, rather than narrowing through the special education services he has been receiving.
The intent of NCLB was to narrow the gap with special education and related services. The opposite has happened in my child’s case.
You mentioned that your staff feels like they cannot do anything to make me happy or that nothing they do is enough to satisfy me. Please know that my own happiness or satisfaction has never factored into my advocacy efforts for my son nor has it ever been my goal in this advocacy journey nor in my engagement with you.
My own happiness or satiety in this process is not my concern and it shouldn’t be your concern either, but the concern has always been focused on my son’s well-being and whether he is closing the gap as well as is on par academically with his peers. Once that goal is accomplished, I’ve done my job as a parent and we should have very little or nothing at all to contend about.
We have a legally binding document/contract – the IEP – which outlines what the school/district has agreed to do in order to give my child a FAPE and to close the ever-widening gap between him and his peers. You asserted that he has made progress and I should celebrate that. I agreed with you that he has made minimal progress, but he is so far from closing the gap and functioning at his grade-level that I cannot stop to celebrate for long.
So I will continue to advocate for him to the best of my ability, with more fervency; and to give him what I believe will provide him a fighting chance at being a successful, independent adult. In the midst of my advocacy efforts, if we are able to agree, then that is fabulous. If not, I will do whatever is in my power to secure what I think is appropriate so that he can function independently once he reaches adulthood.
Put some gratitude in my attitude?
You also mentioned that I need to show more gratitude toward school/district staff and watch how that can transform my relationship with them. While gratitude is desirable, expecting gratitude from parents whose children’s have special needs and who are not closing the gap academically is not a desirable goal.
School districts and the PTA already have means of recognizing teachers and showing gratitude for them; there’s Teacher’s Appreciation Week; there’s teacher’s and various holidays where students – mine included will make a card and give a little present to the teachers; so expecting more gratitude from parents whose child is not on grade level does not seem to be the right focus and endgame.
Instead, I would like to see us focus on my child and how to have him function on par with his peers academically, socially, and functionally. While I am appreciative of your work and dedication to my child and your job, we have repeatedly disagreed on processes, interpretation, and procedures. It is with these that I’m contending with and never with you as separate entities.
You won’t allow me to observe my child or had put undue restrictions on my ability to advocate. You put in place one restriction after another to deter my advocacy efforts. IDEA allows parents are to be equal and full participants in the IEP process. How are they supposed to be full and equal participants if they are not given the access to the child’s program and school setting that is given to your staff?! That does not seem to be a full and equal partnership!
As Billy Joel sang, “it’s all about trust.”
Talk about trust and mistrust – you’ve ignored my reports of bullying and poorly handled allegation of inappropriate behaviors. You interviewed my child, who clearly has language challenges – recall, retell – and concluded that nothing happened.
You ignored our inputs that due to his language challenges, he may not have given you an accurate account of the event in question. You accept the account of the perpetrator as gospel while ignoring that of mine and my child. You have stated, “We don’t do that.” in IEP meetings when you should have known better than to have said that to a parent requesting services for their child. It was only when you were called out on it that you gave my child what was appropriate to meet his needs.
You have not reliably taken down notes from the IEP meeting and when I questioned you, you asserted that this is your notes and I don’t have to agree with what is written. You don’t respond to direct question. You didn’t want me to express my disagreements, especially on reports completed by your staff. You tried to shut out any disagreement, as it would be disparaging to your staff’s ego.
How can you really engender trust between parents and staff when you’ve instructed them not to communicate with me, when you’ve instructed them to watch out and really scrutinize and monitor my passage onto school grounds, even on events open to all parents? You did all this because I challenged you and would not accept what you say at face value; all for the expressed purpose of advocating for my special needs child.
The IEP is an adversarial process, often with districts and parents at odds with each other over how to allocate limited resources. IDEA, state laws and district policies are written vaguely for a purpose. Disagreements and litigations happen as a natural byproduct of our inability to agree on what is a FAPE for a child. Seeing the process as anything, but adversarial is looking at it in a naive manner. I have no intention of ever engaging you in an adversarial manner, but contentions happen as a byproduct of our inability to agree on interpretation, processes, and procedures.
Staying Child Focused.
I am my child’s voice and I will not hesitate to advocate for him. I have no vendetta or ill-feeling toward you. I only wish the best and brightest for you. I think you are a fantastic human being. It’s unfortunate or perhaps ordained that in this time and place, we are on opposite sides of this adversarial process. I will do my best to play the role that I’m put in and I pray that you will likewise.
My advocacy has always been focused on my child and never on me. I hope you would focus on my child and his well-being and academic progress. It has never, ever been about me at all. I seek nothing from this advocacy journey, but my child’s ability to function independently as an adult, whether that is toward further education or employment. It has always been about my child and nothing more.
One of the parents in our Facebook group, I’ll call her SN, posted this and gave me permission to reprint. This was originally published in 2016.