Well, you know, I didn’t want this page to catch fire or anything, but wifey and I were burning pretty hot coming into Dar’s IEP meeting last week.

Our previous IEP meeting had been in February, where we were told that we’d have another one in “April or May.” Since then we’d heard a loud splashing wave of nothing.

I called the Family Resources Network for advice. Sonja told me, “If you’ve called for an IEP, that means they have to let you know within 30 days. Tell them that.” I said that according to my research, they can avoid that on a technicality. She goes, “I’m just trying to give you some leverage you can use.” Did she mean that I should say something to them on the chance that they’ll get scared because they don’t know the law?

By early May, with no IEP in sight, and no plan for Dar for the fall, we did email the rep at BUSD, who was like, we’re working on it! We nagged his teacher, we nagged his BUSD therapists.

Finally, I mean por fin, on Wednesday, last week, as I dropped Dar to school, his teacher asked me, “Are you and your wife free on Friday?” My first thought was, hey, an IEP meeting isn’t like meeting for frappucinos. People take time, sometimes months, to gather all the relevant information. The various parties – in Dar’s case, speech therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, 1-on-1 specialist, teacher – produce reports, and wifey and I like to avoid wasting everyone’s time by reading those reports ahead of the actual IEP meeting. Dar’s teacher assured me there’d be no reports (not very assuring, is it?), just a discussion of where Dar would be in the fall. So my second thought, and first response, was a sheepish, “uh, yeah, sure.”

I haven’t reported it here (man, I have a lot to catch you up on!), but buried in that last paragraph your eagle eye may have spied that Dar now has a 1-on-1 specialist. This is someone that the BUSD hired because it was clear he’d met so few of his annual goals at the last IEP (February). I could talk more about this new person, but one piece of good news is that she’s with Dar all the time that he’s at school. Her boss came to my house to see Dar’s current ABA therapist (who’s not paid by the BUSD), and lately I see some other boss hovering around Dar’s specialist most times I pick him up. All three of these women were caught flat-footed by the news of a new IEP, and none of them could attend it. (As the parent, I can invite anyone to my child’s IEP; these would normally be good candidates.)

With a day to prep, wifey and I worked at double-speed. The last doctor who saw Dar strongly recommended against “mainstreaming” him, in print, and we prepared to bring her letter. The BUSD has written to us to say that Dar will be entering Washington School, across from BHS, which is considerably farther from us and has more difficult parking than any other possible option. Per their strong insistence, I attended Washington’s open house, even though I had no way of knowing who his teacher will be or if he’ll be in regular Kindergarten or Transitional Kindergarten. (Open house is a clusterf***, but let’s move on.) Since the BUSD can only offer mainstreaming, we want other options of “Special Day Classes” (just for kids with IEPs) in Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Oakland, or wherever…we’re willing to go far if it’s the best thing for Dar. Heck, we’d commute to Buenos Aires if it would get him talking. Or perhaps he should be going to non-public schools, perhaps at the BUSD’s behest.

As IEP meeting day dawns, it’s not clear that the BUSD will be offering anything other than a room with 20 other typical kids. We write down our questions. They include:

Dar gets a 1-on-1 aide for every minute he’s at Washington?

What metrics are we using to judge Dar’s progress at Washington?

If the BUSD decides Washington isn’t working, what happens next and on what timeline?

Non-public schools? Via? Anova? A Better Chance? Spectrum Tara Hills? Star Academy?

Can we call and check on availability? Can I do any legwork/calls myself?

Is there a waiting list? Might their situation change between now and September?

K or TK?

If we go with a K, are we guaranteed two straight years or might there be a new evaluation in a year that might change his environment?

Why does BUSD always mainstream?

…aaaaaaaaaaaand then wifey and I got to talking and we thought we should produce a physical document to them, signed by us, just for the record. We wrote the following:

Dear Berkeley Unified School District,

The below-signed, [our names], provide this letter to say one thing: after consultation with several doctors and experts who have had the chance to spend time with and evaluate our son [name], we do NOT think that full inclusion (a.k.a. “mainstreaming”) in public schools is the best possible option, nor the Least Restrictive Environment, for [name].

Thank you,

[our names]

…aaaaaaaaaand then we went into the meeting, and things changed in a way we did not expect. I’ll finish this little mini-chapter in our lives next week. Ooo, cliffhanger!

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