Tuesday, April 24, 2007

IEP's and non-academic goals

Photo credit- kirkland73

Somewhere this last week, on someone's blog, I read about a person's son having services dropped at school because he was doing well academically. I've been looking all day, and now can't find whose blog it was on. I like to link to the original sources of the ideas I get, but can't find it now.

As I recall, the blogger in question raised the quite legitimate questions of what about preparing their child for "real world" skills. Things like communication, independent transportation, doing laundry, etc.

Indeed, the closer one's child gets to "aging out" of the educational system and the few supports it provides, the more one's mind turns to the question of "What's next?" and "Is he prepared?". Susan Senator, on her blog, has recently been advocating forming a new organization called "Autism Works" to deal with some of the challenges that autistic adults face.

But rather than talk about future projects (which I totally support and feel are worthwhile), I'd like to talk about what the IDEA law says now about services to prepare your child for living in society. My apologies to non-US readers, as this law applies to the US only.

First of all, one of my favorite disability law reference sites, which I reference a lot is Wrightslaw.com. It's a one-stop smorgasborg of just about anything that you would want to know in regards to disability rights law.

As dull and boring reading law is (I always thought practicing law would be fun, except for all that dull, boring reading I'd have to do), there is a lot to be learned that is useful when going into an IEP meeting. The IDEA 2004 regs are finally in effect, and some of the things that this latest iteration says are actually good for us.

One of the things that struck me when I read that post on the other blog last week was the old (but still used) dodge of "If they're doing well academically, they don't need services." That is, of course, patently absurd. This was not true before the IDEA 2004 was released, and is even less true now.

From the Wrightslaw site:

...The requirements about using present levels of functional performance to develop functional goals in the IEPs of all children with disabilities (below) are in IDEA 2004, the federal special education regulations, and the Commentary. ...

Furthermore, the idea of "functional goals" is addressed:

...Functional means nonacademic, as in “routine activities of everyday living.” This clarification should help IEP Teams understand that the purpose of the IEP is to prepare children with disabilities for life after school. this should also help the school understand that teaching children how to "function" in the world is just as important as teaching academic skills.

"It is not necessary to include a definition of "functional" in these regulations because we believe it is a term that is generally understood to refer to skills or activities that are not considered academic or related to a child’s academic achievement. Instead, "functional" is often used in the context of routine activities of everyday living." (Commentary in the Federal Register, page 46661) ...

So this basically says that all children with a disability need functional goals set for them in their IEP. And these goals are to help them prepare for life after school, not just to function in school.

Another useful change in IDEA 2004 is the change in definition of the term "Transition Services". Again from Wrightslaw:

...(34) TRANSITION SERVICES - The term `transition services' means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that--

(A) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests..."

(Note: the underlined words are new in IDEA 2004) ...

By law, transition services have to start no later than when the student turns 16 years old. So it appears that the law, like society in general, is starting to move towards consideration of what happens after a person "ages out" of the special education system. At least the law is supporting providing meaningful training of students for life after school.

Even though Buddy Boy is only 7 now, I know the time will come very quickly when we will need to make some major decisions about how he will live. A lot will be determined by how much progress he makes over the next several years, as well as what his preferences are (further schooling vs. joining the workforce, living at home vs. somewhere else, etc.).

Now we just need to get laws passed that actually provide support for autistic adults.


Susan Senator said...

Thanks for the Wrightslaw quote on the new reauthorization. It is good to see it right there in black and cream(?) I love Wrightslaw too. I know that the current law has a lot in it already, thank God, but it can't hurt to strengthen, expand, and call attention to the situation of adults with DD and ASD. So few are employed and even fewer fulltime. It's disgusting!

Ange said...

I am preparing for my son's IEP next week. The part of the process that frustrates me (in my district) is that it doesn't matter what the law says, you have to know what your looking for and be lucky enough to catch it. Even then, there's not a lot you can do about it without a lot of effort, time, and possibly money. I was told my son (Educational DX: OHI) didn't qualify for language services because of his IQ. It took over a year, several letters, team meetings, and 3 child complaints to get it all hashed out. At the same time they *tried* to changed is educational DX to ED and drop his IEP and put him on a 504 plan.

Anyhow, from my experience, it seems that while a child is supposed to have functional goals in his IEP, if a child is not bombing academically, is doing ok with spoken language, and is compliant, then chances are he'll lose his educational DX (and his IEP) or not qualify for special ed services to begin with.

Unfortunately I see this too often in our district (a lot with kids with medical DX of asperger's, pdd-nos, and ADHD) and it is a tough, long process to fight.

Daisy said...

It's a long road. We're still traveling that road and feeling like it's an uphill climb on single speed bicycles. Amigo is 15 and we still beg for functional skills related to autism. Blindness? That's easy. But hello, all, he has both.

Mom without a manual said...

Good to read your post tonight. I am taking a breather to catch up on blogs. I've been preparing for our IEP night and day the past few weeks. Truthfully I am only accomplishing the creation of an ulcer!

We "start" the process this Thursday. We are going through our 3 year re-verification as well so they have already committed to two meeting dates. Atleast this way I can get a feel for how things are going and come home and do more and more research if needed!

I hate these things. No matter how much I know I always feel like the lesser player on the team and the one left out of the loop!

Oh well.

Joeymom said...

We have ESY IEP on Friday. You can imagine how I am doing. :P

I got the two pages of lawyer addresses from VOPA. I start another round of phone calls tomorrow to get one on retainer.

We have the same problem Ange is having- the law be damned if you don't know exactly what to ask for, and exactly how to ask for it. If your kid is "high-functioning", the law be damned that much more.

But we have news today. The director of special ed quit. I don't know if that is good news or bad news yet, but it may make for a whole new ballgame here.

Just what I needed. :P

Maddy said...

Yup I'm glad that some people are thinking and planning ahead, but for the moment we're just surfing in the wake for a while.
Best wishes

Mom said...

Thanks for cruising by, I added your blog to my list of RSS subscriptions and look forward to delving into it more in depth. You have great information here.

lizziehoop said...

The school system doesn't know how to deal with my son. He has autism but he is very intelligent, so intelligent in fact, the teacher seems to believe that the boy is faking the autism to get out of doing the work. He is manipulating her she says and has everyone fooled (he is 9). Apparently I have a genius on my hands because his autism was there from the very beginning - fresh out of the hospital was when he first started playing everyone for the fool...

Lawyer is a common word at our house and a word that gets thrown around at meetings with the school board as well. You guys are lucky to have this Wrightslaw - we have to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is a lot broader and can be interpreted in many different ways.


Club 166 said...

Amazingly, special ed law is one area where the US seems to have an advantage over our neighbors to the north.

But don't think we get off scot free. Even though the law says something, there is always a lot of lattitude on the school system's part in interpreting things like what behaviors are directly due to the disability, and what are behaviors that are not (and can therefore be punished). They also exercise a lot of lattitude in interpreting what constitutes an "appropriate" education for an individual (the law guarantees a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education), not an ideal education.


Anonymous said...

I have a website www.samsdogtales.com and I'm always checking to figure out how people stumble on me. I have a page called "The Ruby Slippers" about going from bad IEP's and a poor program for my child, to a good one. I was surprised to see the words "sign off on a bad IEP to start services" as the search words used 87% of the time that lead to my site. But then I saw that it lead to a lot of very good informational sites too, like yours. So now I don't feel so badly! Good job spreading the right words about fighting for rights!!!!