As you read in Luke’s Journey to an IEP, Part 1: The Evaluation, I worked for two years to attain special education services for Luke for his Written Expression Learning Disability and I finally succeeded this past December. As of the last post on the IEP process, the evaluation was complete, I had been notified he would be getting an IEP, and I received an invitation to the first meeting to develop the content of Luke’s IEP.
We scheduled that initial meeting four times before we finally chose a day where the school wasn’t closed due to snow. It took almost a month just to make the meeting.
In attendance were: the classroom teacher, the two special education teachers (who also conducted the meeting), the school psychologist, the school occupational therapist (OT), and me. I could have brought others for support if I wanted. I do wish I had asked his counselor to attend in hindsight, but I didn’t. I also wish Daddy had been there with me. I think he’ll attend the next one.
We started out pretty rocky. I arrived at 7:30 a.m., much to my displeasure, and they weren’t ready. The resource teachers came in and then had to set up their computer. That was a comedy of errors in and of itself, but somehow helped me feel more at ease. They couldn’t find the power cord for the netbook. Then they couldn’t get the projector to work. All the while, she’s trying to figure out where all the other attendees are. They finally got the computer up and running about 20-25 minutes after we were to start. The entire IEP form is completed through a computer program, so it was important. To their defense, we’d lost about 10 days of school due to snow, including the day before, and everyone was off kilter.
With the form ready to complete, we were still missing the psychologist and the OT. And now the classroom teacher had to try to find someone to cover her class as school was starting and we hadn’t begun the meeting yet. So she left for a good 30 minutes, struggling to find coverage for her class. The resource ladies and I started on the IEP form. They had completed much of it beforehand.
First we reviewed his test scores. Luke was given the following tests:
- hearing screening: PASSED
- vision screening: PASSED
- Woodcock-Johnson III Achievement Test: Average is 90-110 (I think); Reading 116, Math 115, Reading Comprehension 110, Written Language 91, Written Expression 85
- OT observation
- Intelligence Test (IQ): they used scores from prior testing that were 11 months old (tests have to be within 12 months of evaluation to be admissible); Luke tested in the Gifted Range: 90-97th percentile on all areas except processing speed which was 58th percentile. His full-scale IQ is 125, 95th percentile.
It’s important to know what tests comprise your child’s evaluation but to also understand the individual tests and what the results mean in the context of your child’s intelligence, abilities to meet their potential, and how these results are used to determine eligibility for services.
Let’s take a closer look at Luke’s scores as a working example.
- Hearing difficulty is not the cause of his classroom problems.
- Vision difficulty is not the cause of his classroom problems.
- Achievement Tests measure a student’s capability in written test format. If you look at Luke’s scores, you’ll see that he scored above average in reading and math, average in reading comprehension, and below average in the writing segments. You must keep in mind though that these tests are administered one-on-one in a quiet setting, with prompts to stay on task from the proctor. This is not a good measure of a student’s capability in the classroom. In my opinion, the report card is a more realistic measure of a student’s capability meet expectations in the classroom.
- An OT observation and evaluation is not applicable in all cases. Luke was evaluated for a writing disability, which occupational therapy can sometimes help with. Assistive Technology also falls under the OT’s duties in our system so she was evaluating his use of the AlphaSmart as well.
- The Intelligence Test is meant to measure an individual’s intellectual potential. Again, looking at Luke’s scores, you can see that he has a gifted (i.e., above average) intelligence. Without impairment (ADHD, writing disability), he would be able to achieve “A”s.
There’s an obvious disconnect for Luke between potential and performance, even when tested in an ideal setting. His writing scores on the achievement test were below average while everything else was above average. And the intelligence test confirmed that he has the “smarts” to be achieving above average in all areas.
I don’t want to overlook the low processing speed though either. That is a very important clue as to why he has trouble finishing assignments. It also accounts for why it takes him so much longer to answer when spoken to — a behavior trait that can be frustrating for teachers and seem defiant when it’s truly not. A low processing speed should signify right away that a student needs modified assignments and test scores.
A good rule of thumb for judging an acceptable amount of homework is 10 minutes per year of grade. For Luke, a third grader, he should not do more than 30 minutes per day of homework. That’s not much work when you have a low processing speed (not to mention distractedness, lack of focus, and a written expression disability). A reasonable accommodation for low processing speed is to have modified assignments reducing their length and testing accommodations to remove any time limits.
He qualified for the IEP/Special Education under “Other Health Impaired,”
based on the fact that he met the criteria for one of the fourteen disabling conditions
, the disability has an adverse affect on his educational performance, and the disability requires specially designed instruction.
We then reviewed the goal already determined by the resource teachers. Luke only has one goal in the entire IEP, much to my dismay. “Luke will write a story with a beginning, middle, and end with 80% of the conventions correct in 3 out of 5 trials.” Now that will take a miracle I think, so it’s certainly not a goal that will be easily met and then quickly dismissed from services. You want to be sure your team is not setting goals that can be achieved in a very short period of time or are not enough of an improvement. If the goals are met, they can be placed back into the general education program. I was upset that he didn’t have more goals. Yes, writing is the biggest challenge right now, but it’s affecting his entire classroom experience, not to mention all the ADHD traits and challenges.
With this goal he was granted a “related service” of Occupational Therapy. They even answered yes to needing assistive technology in the form of a word processor or computer access, and I am still fighting what is turning into an unpleasant battle to get him the Assistive Technology he really needs. For the subject of writing, he is also provided with small group pull-out in resource for 30 minutes each day. And the OT will work with him three times in the next nine weeks (yep, that’s it).
Writing is the only thing addressed for the resource placement for Luke. He is being placed in the “least restrictive environment,” i.e., the general education classroom, for all other subjects. There’s a section in the IEP for “General Education Program Accommodations” to address a student’s needs in the mainstream classroom. You want to have a list of possible accommodations ready for this meeting. We had a 504 Plan in place up to this point so I expected we’d copy in those accommodations. I was wrong. I was told that the teacher is on board with them so there’s no need to have them in the IEP (if they were in the IEP and not being followed, I’d have a legal case to force their hand). I asked about next year and the next teacher and was told we’d cross that bridge in the future if we needed to. ugh!
Luke’s “General Education Program Accommodations” are as follows in every subject:
- multiple test sessions
- preferential seating
- student marks in book (testing)
- testing in separate room
- modified assignments
- use of chewing gum
- use of graphic organizers (appears in writing and social studies but not in math (he really needs help with organizing there) or science, or reading comprehension)
I did NOT shorten these much. They are listed that general and brief. Again, this is for the protection of the school and not the best interest of the student. Which tests? Just End-of-Grade or all tests throughout the year? How are assignments modified? Are they shortened? Are they made digital for completion on the computer for accessibility to a kid with a writing disability (totally SHOULD be, but I haven’t won that battle yet)? I need specifics and you should ask for them as well.
There was a lot of discussion during this process but I didn’t really accomplish anything. I went on and on and on about assistive technology and how much Luke needs to be able to complete all his work on the computer. His teacher tried to secure a computer for him in the classroom but met with many obstacles and couldn’t do it (software is on network, no wireless in classroom, it takes an act of Congress to get a computer for the sole use of one child, yada, yada, yada). The resource teachers don’t have any computers for their students and told me no student in the entire elementary school (340+) has a computer for use to complete all assignments. WHAT!?! I was told he could use one if I provided it though. Of course!
Despite a lot of discussion and near pleading from me, nothing was added to the IEP during that hadn’t been established by the resource teacher prior to this meeting. I was told repeatedly that we can add to it at any time and to just let them know what’s needed. That isn’t the way it’s panning out. sigh.
Do whatever you can to have a grasp on the evaluation process and qualification standards going into this meeting. They are required by law to give you the Parent Handbook on Special Services for each state. It’s tedious reading but you must ingest it cover-to-cover. I encourage you to also read about IDEA and any specific special needs you feel your child has (dyslexia, dysgraphia, vision impairment, etc). Get prepared.
I also encourage you to take another person for your “side of the table.” Even if it’s just a friend who doesn’t know much about any of it, they can help you to evaluate with less emotion after the meeting. If at all possible, take a private professional who is familiar with your child. I’ll be having that discussion with our counselor this week to see if she is willing/able to attend the next IEP meeting. She’s very outspoken and not afraid to hurt feelings or anger someone, so she won’t back down like I unfortunately do.
I left the meeting feeling okay about it. After all, we finally had an IEP meeting and Luke was finally getting help. My wheels were cranking, processing at lightening speed though, and with every hour that passed, I came to the realization it really didn’t go well and I became more and more upset.
I found the Assistive Technology (AT) coordinator at our County Education office a couple days later and sent off an email explaining Luke’s situation and all the data I’d found about certain software that could help him and my vision for him to have a computer in the classroom to do all his work on. I naively thought locating this person and getting her familiar with Luke would be all it would take to get him the appropriate AT. I thought she’d look at the facts and know I was right about his needs and do the right thing for my child. Uh, no, it doesn’t work like that. The special ed system is a system of disqualification. It’s designed to discover the LEAST they have to do for a child. Sickening.
Luke’s second quarter report card was sent home Thursday and I was blindsided to find that his grades had plummeted. All his grades dropped except reading (still an A) and writing (because there’s nothing lower to drop to if you’re already failing). All of his behavior marks, every single one (like 15-20) dropped as well. I was crushed. Luke was crushed. And then I became pissed! Here we are with special education, special services, time in resource, and a teacher who seemed to “get it” and the bottom fell out. How can I be doing all the right things and everything still go so wrong?
I have messages all over the place at the school to try to modify what we’re doing to actually help him. I am waiting for the resource teacher to let me know if we have to convene another meeting to add to the IEP. I have a pleading message in the inbox of Luke’s AT “case manager” to give him AT during more than just his 30 minutes a day in resource, to not let him fall through the cracks, to not fail him. I have a message waiting with his teacher to find out what she’s willing to do to help him remember to bring home his homework folder on Mondays and turn it in on Fridays, despite the fact that third graders are supposed to be accountable. Correspondence has been flying back and forth for over a week now and I haven’t made any progress. If anything, we are all just completely exasperated with one another.
Stay tuned to see if an IEP is really the answer for Luke…
PREVIOUS: Luke’s Journey to an IEP, Part 1: The Evaluation
Related posts: adhd and school, classroom accommodations, CO-MORBIDITIES, dysgraphia, gifted and adhd, learning disabilities, NEWLY DIAGNOSED, Penny Williams, special education (IEP), twice exceptional, written output disorder