So, this week we had Dar’s annual IEP. As loyal readers know, mentally, we’re on a bit of a precipice between public school and other alternatives. So this was a bit of a biggie. We asked for everything to be emailed to us in advance…most of the emailing happened scant hours before the IEP, giving us no time to review the reports pre-meeting. Wifey took a half-day off of work to attend the 1:30 meeting…which lasted 3 hours.

Here are some of the questions that we wrote down and printed out (2 copies) for wifey and I to bring to the meeting.

The stations – have we done this idea before with another kid? Can you elaborate on how their program went?

What’s going on with the work station in Libby’s [his teacher’s] room? Why hasn’t that happened yet?

How often can we see the “log sheet” that Sophie is keeping?

What percent of Dar’s time is Libby-instructed time, and what percent is Sophie[aide]-instructed time? What’s the desired ratio? Why?

Can we compare PECs books? What’s the overall plan – can we integrate home PECs and school PECs more?

Have the kids been bothered by Dar?

Here are my notes on some of their answers:

The stations are “trying to get him under control.” Not a great phrase.

The stations are meant to “transition from one closed-end activity to the next” – teaching waiting and taking turns. They emphasize that they don’t take him out of the class only when he tantrums.

The IEP states as a goal, and I quote their bold-lettered statement

90 % of time student is outside the regular class & extracurricular & non academic activities

10 % of time student is in the regular class & extracurricular & non academic activities

I asked about this and Lauren said sorry, that was supposed to be switched, 10 and 90. That’s a pretty big typo, in my mind. During the minutes I was waiting to ask about this, I was getting ready with, “uh what’s the point of him being in an inclusion setting if the goal is for him to be outside the class 90% of the time?” But I don’t say that.

Elaine, the target of much ire on the email group of Berkeley parents with special needs, says: “The classroom isn’t structured so that he knows what to do.” Yes, I get that. So why are we bothering?

Luckily, Teri, the supervisor of his aide, and Libby, his teacher, has my same concerns. This is Libby’s first IEP with us, as she points out, “Before this I didn’t exist on Team Dar.” She makes all the requisite caveats about how great Dar is, then finally, in the nicest possible way, she does ask about placement, about why Dar is in her class. She points out that Dar is so small, and that’s partly due to his age. She talks about rising academic standards in kindergarten, how they’re now doing stuff that she used to teach to 2nd graders: reading books, writing words/sentences, certain math expectations. She says something like “Look, the first few weeks are getting to know each other, but after that…” She makes a motion like a rocket going up into space.

Sara, who was there for all of those long discussions, explains that the conclusion was that transitions have made him regress before, and they wanted to minimize those. Libby is grateful for the explanation.

I wonder if Libby wants Dar out of her class. I wouldn’t blame her.

Elaine says they don’t want Dar to be, in her terms, “a bump on a log,” or “his own island.” Right, we don’t want that either.

The answer to my question about percentages of Libby time and Sophie time are about 5% to 95%. I’m like, Damn. So what’s the point of him being in Libby’s class again? They assure me that they want those numbers to change…I wonder. The answer to my question about a work station in Libby’s room is that they’re working on it, but I confront that…wouldn’t it have happened by now? Maybe there’s some other reason? They promise that it will happen, and I promise to check back in a few weeks.

Elaine also says: “Sophie isn’t teaching, but re-presenting.” That seems ominous…as though to lower our expectations for the one-on-one aide.

During the placement discussion, Lauren and Elaine spend a long time explaining the horror of Special Day Classes. Finally I have to stop them. As the only man in a room of ten women (it’s always like that at IEP time), I almost never raise my voice, but now I do: “We didn’t ask you about Special Day Classes, we asked you to justify BUSD’s inclusion-only policy. It’s like you’re Democrats whose whole shpiel is that Republicans are terrible. Well I agree that Republicans are terrible, but I also don’t think in binary terms of one-or-the-other. I might be thinking of some kind of third or fourth party. I might be thinking of home-schooling Dar. I might be thinking of hiring someone.” They were apologetic.

Lauren talks about a vast improvement from August to now…just in 6 weeks.

Wifey and I are very impressed with Jennifer, the speech therapist. She sent us her portion of the IEP early, and it had a lot of “Dar will do x 7 out of 10 times…” metrics so that we can really judge. Also, she seems like the one person who understands the PEC system. (Libby openly asks what PECs are. I appreciate her candor – because to me she’s admitting that she’s never had a student as severe as Dar before.) Jennifer is entirely open to setting up a separate meeting with me where we would coordinate his home and school PECs. Yes! If nothing else, that’s a good outcome for this meeting.

Jennifer was really our bright spot for the meeting, the one who made us feel like this could maybe perhaps possibly work. Some of them were parroting the company line, some of them were in and out of the room, some of them (Libby and Teri) were as skeptical of inclusion as we are. We’re not going to abandon a 1-on-1 aide yet…clearly many of the other options would NOT include a 1-on-1 aide…but we are noting our concerns.

Noted. Right here.

Next week: reading off the IEP