Sunday, June 26, 2011

Am I Right?

This post has been in my head since the first of May.  I just wasn't sure what I wanted to say.  I am still not so sure, but I feel that it should be said if for no other reason than to get it off my chest.  On May 10, 2011 we held our second (yes, second) meeting to complete Rachel's IEP.  We spent a total of five hours over two meetings discussing Rachel's past and previous goals and whether or not she had mastered them.  Sadly, she had mastered few of them.  The school stated that they let us set the goals last year knowing that they were lofty.  But it was not us who set the goals, as the IEP was written before last year's meeting and we just went over it, just like we have done every year, including this one.  This is neither here nor there, but it is frustrating for the school to always try to but the blame on someone other than themselves. 

This year, I made a point to get a copy of the IEP prior to the meeting, and I pored over it trying to think of questions I needed to ask and things I needed to request for Rachel.  I am still far from an expert at these things, but I feel that we did indeed do our best to get what was in Rachel's best interest.  We fought to get Rachel in a regular classroom and argued with the staff and teachers about whether it could  be done.  This past year she was designated as resource student, meaning she was to be in a regular classroom at least 40% of the time.  This was not done, and we were determined to get her into a regular classroom so that we could be sure she was getting to be with regular peers.  I know that she cannot keep up academically with her peers and would need assistance in the classroom.  I knew that it was pretty much impossible to get Rachel an aid in the budget strapped school district, but we tried anyway.  We did our best.....but the school wins again.  According to them Rachel cannot do the work of a first grader.  Duh!  From everything I read about inclusion, the ability to work on the same level as the other students is irrelevant. 

The inclusion specialist had been out to the school to observe Rachel prior to our IEP meeting per my request.  I wanted to go into the meeting with some people on my side.  I wanted the inclusion specialist to see that Rachel is not a behavioral problem and that she could be in a regular classroom with assistance so that she could put pressure on the school to get Rachel included..  The specialist apparently did some testing with Rachel, that I was not informed about and found Rachel to be on the level of a two year old in some areas, a three year old in some areas, and a five year old in other areas.  She presented this info at our first meeting. I had no idea where she was going with this at the time.  I agreed with her findings, but did not see how it was going to affect Rachel's placement.   The specialist failed to show up at our second meeting, despite the fact that she is the one who picked the date.  At the second meeting she was contacted by phone, at which time she stated that she recommended placing Rachel in the self contained classroom for most of the day.  Wow!  That was not what I was expecting to hear from an inclusion specialist!

Mike and I refused to accept that placement and pushed the staff to find ways to include Rachel.  At the conclusion of the meeting Rachel was listed as a self contained student despite our protesting, but we added an addendum that stated that she would be in the regular classroom for science, social studies, activity, lunch and recess.  She will be in the self contained classroom for reading and math.  The fact that she is listed as a self contained student means that the school only has to get her into in a regular classroom 40% of the time or less.  If they do less, they are still okay by the IEP.  Hmmmm....all my prepping and pushing served to get us nowhere.  We are right back in the position of the school keeping Rachel in the self contained class as much as they see fit, or as I believe, as they find convenient.

 We will be meeting with the staff again in August to set the schedule in stone so that everyone knows where Rachel is going to be and when, and to try to get her in the regular classroom as much as possible.  I am doing this because for the last two years the school has failed to follow the schedules we have discussed at the spring IEPs I am going to be all over them this year to make sure Rachel is not in that self contained classroom all day. 

As a final blow, I was told just last week by our family liaison that the inclusion specialist actually wanted to put Rachel in an even more restrictive setting.  She actually recommended that Rachel spend 100% of her time in the self contained classroom.  The liaison told me that the inclusion specialist thinks Rachel is so far behind in her academics because she has not been in the self contained classroom all the time.  It hurts to hear that others think that what you have been doing is harming your child.  It makes you question if you are doing the right thing to continue to push for inclusion.  It makes it hard to stick to your guns about what you think is right.  But self contained classrooms go against EVERYTHING the Down syndrome community says is the best thing for Rachel.  Could it be that she is behind in her academics because the school switched out her teacher in the middle of the school year?  Could it be that the new teacher had never taught before and seemed overwhelmed with the task at hand?  Could it be that I need to find another school for Rachel and give up the hope of having her go to school with kids from her neighborhood?  Could it be that I am doing everything wrong?  Oh, I hope not!  


  1. Wow, I can't believe that an inclusion specialist would have that type of recommendation - especially that she really wanted 100%! What is her job supposed to be? Inclusion!

    I know there is a huge 'push' in the Ds/special needs community and that does make it so hard (from my own experience in IEP mtgs). I have the same frustrations as well. "Everyone" says full inclusion, our kids should be fully included and as parents we're supposed to know what is right for our kids. But I feel like I don't know what is right. IEP is supposed to be individualized and what is best for each child. I try to push for more inclusion as well, but on the other hand, academically I know Kayla is also behind. I've heard/read so many stories of kids being completely and fully included in reg ed classes but it hasn't happened for Kayla yet, and I'm not sure how to make it successful. When I mentioned having Kayla in math w/her reg 2nd grade peers just to have her work modified the spec ed teacher said that based on where Kayla is that wouldn't be modifying the curriculum, it would changing the whole curriculum. Sigh ... And I know Kayla probably WOULD benefit from the smaller, group setting w/more personalized instruction to work on 'her level' but it pains me to know she's not fully included. Last year for 1st grade, and when we start 2nd grade in a couple months, she'll be about 50% for reg ed room and spec ed room. She'll do reading/writing/math in the spec ed room. Social studies, science, lunch, recess, and all specials (music, art, gym, etc) with the reg classroom.

    I don't agree w/that specialist saying 100% of the time self-contained. That is awful. There is no reason she shouldn't be able to do lunch, recess and the fine arts classes w/the regular class. And maybe start to bring her in for the social studies/science like you mentioned. The 'real world' doesn't operate in 100% 'self contained' and that is where our kids are going to find themselves eventually - in the real world. The 'real world' and our kids need to be able to interact together. School should prepare all kids for life with and without disabilities. So sorry for the long reply!

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  3. I just read this. I certainly don't think you are doing everything wrong. You are her mother, and you know her better than anyone else on this earth. And if your instinct tells you she should be in the inclusive class more than the "experts" are telling you, then I have to think the "experts" are wrong.

  4. oh ugh. I'm sorry, honey. Is there any way to check out a different school. Yes, I totally "get" the neighborhood issue, but I also know (firsthand) that most of their time is spent in school, so who they are with IN SCHOOL is more important than going to school with neighbors. The boys still hang out with the neighborhood kids, even though they don't go to school with them. Sofia has a "best friend" across the street, and I honestly do not see their relationship changing based on where they go to school.

    I think you, as mama, have to go with your gut, but remember that you know what makes your daughter respond best.