Thursday, December 01, 2005

IEP Annual Review--Beware the Unintended Consequences

My son's annual review meeting is tomorrow. I should be asleep--it's midnight--instead I'm sitting here quietly obsessing about what's wrong with a system that has so many negative unintended consequences.

"Where all the women are beautiful and all the children above average" (With apologies to Garrison Keiler)
He has an IEP--the Individualized Education Plan that opens the magic doors to classroom accomodations and access to the personell that can shift his school life from living hell to something resembling bearable. But starting off with the name--shouldn't *all* education be individualized? Each child will learn best in idiosyncratic ways. It makes sense for the adults in the system to be flexible in the way education is delivered so each kid gets what he or she needs.

However, that very document, the IEP, is predicated on *impairments*. It, by its very nature, focuses primarily on the things my son has difficulty with or cannot do. I have certainly mused about this before, but there are dangers in letting a list of impairments define reality.

"Accentuate the Negative. . ."
Although provision of 'special education' services is a federal mandate, it is not fully funded at the federal tax level, and so paying for the implementation of federally mandated services falls to the states and local districts. We all know there is no endlessly refilling tax coffer. (I envision some 'Willy Wonka'-like everlasting gobstopper) Districts are between the proverbial rock and hard place. So are parents. So we must accentuate the negative to keep our children's needed survices.

"You say potato and I say Pot-ah-to. . . let's call the whole thing off."
A parent's biggest fear is that once a child gets what he or she needs and starts to thrive, the school will begin to pull back. But that is in fact the success point--the point where everyone has figured out what the child needs to do well. That needs to become the baseline, not an argument for releasing the child from an IEP.

"To be or not to be. . ."
So all this is fairly general and abstract. Lets really take a good look in the mirror here. My kid's an Aspie. I'm an Aspie. Is there a point where it ever becomes useful to disclose this to the team? If I thought for a moment that my disclosure would educate the school, would let them see me as a role model for my son and others, would want to use what I know to help others in the school, I would tell them in an instant. My fear (what keeps me 'in the closet' about this) is that they will completely discount what I say because I'm an Aspie.

"Time Flies when you're Having Fun. . ."
The other irony is that the areas in which my son needs the most guidance are not traditionally academic concerns. I feel the school is doing a poor job with the social and emotional issues that plague my son. Despite a zero tolerance approach for 'bullying', in actual day to day middle school life, my son experiences quite a large degree of both physical and verbal bullying. By the very nature of AS, he will have difficulty developing and implementing the strategies to assure his social and emotional safety in school. Yes, middle school years are tough for all kids. they don't need to be make frankly impossible for my kid.

/end incoherent rant at midnight-thirty.

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