Monday, April 23, 2007

IEP's are like ...?


photo- this morning on my cell phone

One of the blogs I follow on a regular basis is by Joeymom. She's a great mom who teaches art history in Virginia (and how could I not like a mom who names her kid Joe?). In one of her recent posts, "The Parent Role at an IEP Meeting", she very humorously recounted how being a parent at an IEP meeting is like being a passenger on a plane.

...However, on an IEP Flight, you as the passenger are also expected to understand how to fly the plane, serve the other passengers, and have full knowledge of how to maintain and even fix mechanical and other problems mid-flight. If an engine falls off, you're expected to know how to safely land the plane, re-attach the engine, and get the whole mess back in the air. The pilot won't set course or work the instruments unless you spefically request that s/he do so, and then often says they don't have the resources for working the controls anyway, and besides, do you really NEED to work all those buttons, levers, and gauges? Can't you see fron the windshield where you are going? When you go to find resources to help, you find a flight simulator; but you soon find it is either for an outdated cockpit, a simplified cockpit, or when you go to actually request the controls be worked properly, you are told that you just had simulator training, the pilot has had real flight time! So you try to sign up for flying lessons. Now you're told that you're still just an amateur. But they still won't work the controls unless you specifically ask them to do so, and say exactly what to do and exactly when. ...


While I found Joeymom's description very amusing, I thought it was not quite right, as the flight crew on a plane are personally invested in having a safe flight for themselves, as well as the passengers. If the plane crashes, they're also out of luck. That's not true with our kids' educations. I suggested that perhaps IEP's are more akin to being forced to work with a contractor who only builds wood houses, except that you have supplied him stucco to work with.

While out on a bike ride this morning, I was thinking of another analogy of what it's like to work with the IEP "team".

Say you are a cyclist, and a new road is being built in your neighborhood. The law says that cyclists are entitled to ride on the roads, but most motorists in their cars are not cyclists, and don't particularly appreciate having cyclists "clogging up" their roads. You have to go to the municipal meeting/department of transportation/whoever is in charge of building the road to convince them of what they need to do to make the new roads friendly and accessable for bicycles.

The problem is, although people on this committee have read about cycling and road construction, none of them is a cyclist, and many of them also feel that you are asking for something extra when you are talking to them regarding things such as bicycle friendly road grates, bicycle lanes, and traffic signal sensors that recognize cyclists.

The people on the committee also let you know that they are the professionals, not you, so you should just leave everything to them. They seem not to be able to comprehend plain language suggestions made by you, and insist that everything be put into the technical language that they are accustomed to using.

The committee tells you that there is only so much money for road construction, and they can't afford to spend so much accomodating cyclists. After all, they are already putting in curb cuts for wheelchairs, why should they also have to spend money accomodating you, too?

And all you keep asking for is a way to get to your destination using your bike.

So, how would you describe an IEP (or whatever your country's equivalent) meeting?

9 comments:

María Luján said...

Hi Joe
In my country the equivalent of your USA IEP meetings are the meeting of the special teacher with the teacher and the director of the kinder in our case with the parents to agree about the Individual Pedagogic Project. If needed , professionals can be requested depending on the teachers and the personal situation of the child to assesorate on the topic.
In our case, by law we had to "integrate" (this is the word)- with an special school- public or private- at our election and possibilities. We choose a private school.
Probably I am very lucky because the teachers of non-autistic children in the kinder have been extremely dedicated to overcome the challenges than my son presented to them from 2 to 4 years old and when he had 5 years old by law we were requested to integrate. The special school gives support ( pedagogic and in terms of approach and understanding about teaching autistic children) that I have considered excelent in terms of how these strategies have helped my son in several areas of higher difficulty to him (interaciton with peers, pretended play, acceptation of certain spaces of waiting and collaboration). My son goes two days per week with a total of 5 hours to the special school and a total of 9-10 hours per week to the kinder.

Daisy said...

"And all you keep asking for is a way to get to your destination using your bike." This metaphor is so true. I find myself in IEPs as teacher and parent wanting exactly the same result: success for the child, including mine.

Lisa/Jedi said...

IEP's are weird & strange enough as it is (we are gearing up for IEP season here, too), but I discovered another aspect of the strangeness recently- my best friend is a special education teacher in another town, in the same state, about an hour away. Technically our school districts have to abide by the same state & national laws when administering IEP "justice", but in chatting with her about the process over the past few years, I've discovered that they do things very differently than we do here, from who calls the meeting to who attends to who is responsible for gathering & presenting the information. It boggles my mind. I wonder how fair this lack of standardisation can be. I suppose it can be argued that doing things differently all over the state may allow for flexibility, but I think it's more a symptom that you only get as good as the district wants to give you, laws be damned. The bright spot is the new "IEP Direct" system that NYS now uses, which makes at least the reporting format consistent, & has made information sharing among my son's different service providers easier.

kristina said...

Ideally, a conversation.

In reality, a number of sporting events come to mind....

Steve D said...

In our case, IEP has gone from signifying "Inducing Extreme Pain" to "I Expect Progress".
Seriously, the first few were horrendous, but through firmness and mutual respect, my wife and I have some to see eye-to-eye with most of the school's team members.
It should not be this way, but we feel that things like sending cookies for the teacher, m&ms for the Special Ed Director, thank you notes for a job well done to the aides, and things like that really improve the process. While it is supposed to be "all business", we try to make a little humanism unavoidable...

Joeymom said...

I have to say, I thank everybody, I send in the periodic presents, I send in suplies for my son's classroom (paper towels, wipes, small toys for "renforcers", that sort of thing). I'm the chair of the Parent Advisory Committee. I'm the parent on the Autism Support Team, a committee of school personnel and me trained especially by the state to train school personnel about ASDs. I even bring food to the IEP meetings, because often (and especially in high season) these people have so many meetings they don't get a chance to eat. I never even gave these activities a second thought until this year, when things started going south because I wanted Joey to have chewing gum so he could focus at school. I certainly advocate being nice, polite, and considerate to anybody; but don't get your hopes up that it will help you much if you discover your kid needs something- even something simple- and the district doesn't want to give it.

Daisy said...

Induce Extreme Pain? I Expect Progress? Amigo, age fifteen, calls them I Eat Pizza.

Ange said...

To me it's like the card game War. Each member brings their cards to the table. Unfortunately, the school deck is stacked mostly with Kings, Queens, and Jacks and the parents' deck has less cards. Parents keep playing their cards, not really sure of the hand they're playing, not really sure which card is going to pop up at any given time. Every so often the parent flips up a card that wins and keeps them in the game. The cards are treated as nothing more than objects to get what is desired... they bend, rip, tear, and fold. Both parties get lost in the game and forget about the purpose. The players rotate in and out and with that the rules of the game change frequently. It's a game in which the ending is determined by whomever tires first. I wish it wasn't this way for us right now, and I am trying to balance it out with volunteering (which is being rejected in many cases), appreciation, etc. But I am tiring....and my children are only in preschool and 1st grade.

Club 166 said...

...It's a game in which the ending is determined by whomever tires first. ...

I sensed this very early last year, when we had some "active disagreements" with the school during Kindergarten. Which is why I was determined to a)show no weakness, and b)act like I had all the time and money in the world to keep on coming back to the table.