Sunday, January 31, 2010

It shouldn't be so difficult... get a child the help he or she needs in school. Really, it shouldn't. And, it's sad to say, I've spent much of my time and energy these past few months battling it out with the special education department at my daughter's new school. KJ has something that functions like dyslexia and/or dysgraphia. But my daughter is very confident and is a dedicated and determined student, so, ironically, it is because of those desirable qualities that we have a problem...

I could give you a play by play of the last two IEP meetings (IEP = Individual Education Plan - the document that states what the school must do for my child because she needs special education services), but there is not enough space here to give you the dirty details. What I will tell you is that California, and in particular - this school district - makes it very difficult for students with a general "learning disability" to get the services they need so that they are successful in both the short and long term.

What you should know is that in order to qualify for special ed., a student must 1. have a discrepancy between the student's IQ and performance (performance = test scores from tests administered by the special ed. teacher and a school psychologist). In addition, 2. the student's educational performance is considered (educational often is equated with academics, and they often refer to grades for that). Finally, it must be determined (at least in California) that 3. there is a processing disorder. As I mentioned, my daughter is a good student - she always has been. Even though she gets frustrated and cries and spends twice as much time working on assignments as everyone else, she somehow manages to earn As and Bs. Still, if you look at her writing, you can see that there is a problem...

Without further adieu, the highlights (or the "low" lights - which is the case here):

Meeting one:

  • I was ambushed. While very few of my daughter's test scores have changed, still they told me, straight out, "your daughter DOES NOT have a disability."
  • I noticed discrepancies in several areas in my daughter's tests. When I brought up those concerns, however, the special ed. teacher spent most of the time comparing my daughter to her non-special ed. child to minimize my concerns.
  • The psychologist straight out told me that I have to let my daughter fail before she will be reconsidered for an IEP.

Meeting two:
  • They brought in a district representative in order to further squelch my concerns.
  • I came prepared. I brought my husband and my research.
  • They had to admit this time that my daughter actually has a discrepancy in THREE areas, which is one indication that she has a learning disability.
  • The district rep. did agree that my daughter does seem to struggle in writing, but the psychologist was adamant in her conclusion that my daughter "does not have a processing disorder."
  • Both the special ed. teacher and the psychologist poured over the previous IEP designations, questioning me as if I had somehow sneaked my daughter into the system. I explained in the last meeting that she couldn't read until the third grade and couldn't read cursive until a year ago, but they didn't remember that.
To make a long story short, my husband requested that we have KJ re-tested.

Wow. Talk about running a marathon. I guess all that training prepared me for more than just running a foot race. I can't imagine how a person without a degree in education fares in this process!