Finn’s Assessments: Round 2

The second round of assessments with the school district people took place this morning.  Michael had to be in court, so I was on my own this time.

After last week’s meeting and first round of assessments, it was difficult (impossible?) to go in there again today and not feel defensive.  I arrived in the classroom, and there were four people waiting: the special ed teacher from last week, the SLP from last week, and two occupational therapists.  I sat down at the table, determined to just observe and not get myself in a tizzy.

I would like to be able to be objective and find something positive to say, but the truth is, the whole thing was extremely stressful.  For the first ten minutes or so, all four people swarmed on Finn, each of them trying to get him to follow simple directions, but simultaneously.  It was utterly ridiculous.  He was given no time to warm up to anyone, just stuck in a little chair at a little table with four complete strangers hovering and breathing down his neck, giving directions in sing-songy voices.  He was game to sit and bask in the attention for about two minutes; then it was clear that he was overwhelmed.  He kept whining and whimpering and trying to climb out of the chair, and each of them kept putting him back in the chair and trying to get him to “perform” (yes, the term “performance” was used more than a time or two).  I really cannot fathom how they could expect to get anything meaningful out of him under such stressful circumstances.

After a while, one of the OTs came over to the table where I was sitting and started asking me rapid-fire questions about Finn.  Then she put a written questionnaire in front of me and asked me to complete it to the best of my ability.  Meanwhile, there are still three people with Finn, trying to get him to do things.  I start filling out the questionnaire (questions pertaining to fine motor skills and sensory stuff), and then the SLP comes over to the table and starts asking me questions and marking down my answers on paper.  So now I’ve got two people on me and two people on Finn, and we’re both overwhelmed.  I guess I could have called a stop to the whole thing, but I honestly just wanted to finish and be done with it.

Finally, towards the end of the allotted hour, the special ed teacher came to the table and started asking me questions about Finn.  Then she asked, “What is your goal here?”  I said, “For school?  You mean ultimately?”  “Yes,” she said.  “Ultimately, we want him fully included in a regular classroom,” I told her.  She said that may be possible at some point down the line, but probably not to start.  I already figure that a “mainstream” preschool is not even going to be on the table, that they are going to recommend/offer some type of developmental (special ed) preschool program for him, and that if we want something alternative, we will have to seek it out ourselves and it will not be supported by the school district or his IEP.  Which is fine; we are completely willing to seek out whatever we feel will work best for Finn, be that what the special ed people through the school district recommend or not.  I told her that if she was asking me what our goal for preschool is, I can’t answer that right now, that we need to see what they offer/recommend for Finn, explore that, explore other options, and then make a decision.  She indicated that they are having some trouble coming up with an appropriate recommendation since we have declined so many of the assessments they wanted to do.  I didn’t appreciate this kind of pressure and just smiled at her and didn’t say anything.

I am feeling very frustrated.  My heart is bruised and my emotions are frayed.  This is my son, my baby boy we’re talking about.  He’s not some case or some file number.  He’s a real live human being who has a whole life ahead of him, and unknown potential.  I’m not kidding myself; I know he’s got challenges and will need specialized help, I know that.  It’s just really, really difficult to be in this position, of wanting to protect him and shelter him, wanting him to succeed, not wanting to see him just get warehoused in the Special Ed system, and wanting these people – everyone – to see him as a person, a unique, wonderful, stubborn, affectionate, curious, willful, mischievous little boy.

This is a reality check.  So many things are going to end up being battles we have to fight on Finn’s behalf.  And I get the sense that the battles the school district people are accustomed to fighting with parents have more to do with parents wanting more services than the school district is willing/able to provide.  They seem to not know what to do with us, the parents who are declining things, not asking for more, but asking that he not be seen through some cookie-cutter lens.

It’s not going to be a simple thing, just enroll him in school, bada bing, bada bang.  It’s going to be an uphill battle, it feels like always.  I suppose we could make things super easy and just sign on the dotted lines they put in front of us, initial the pre-checked boxes, let them stick him on a short bus going to some special ed program where nothing terribly meaningful will ever be actually expected of him.  Let them do all their prescribed one-size fits all therapies on him, one more retarded kid moved through the system, don’t put up a fight, just cooperate and go along with it all.  But I can’t, we can’t.  I don’t know what Finn is going to be capable of, I don’t know what he will be able to be someday, I don’t know.  But I want a meaningful life for him.  I want to see him, one day, get on a charter bus with his classmates, headed for Washington DC for their eighth grade trip.

So now they will take whatever information they’ve gleaned from last week and today and put together an IEP for Finn.  Our IEP meeting is scheduled for June 28.  Stay tuned.



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14 Comments on “Finn’s Assessments: Round 2”

  1. starrlife
    June 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    It is very hard to be in this process but unless someone is going to completely divorce themselves from any part of the system – which is fine in my opinion, either way is fine to me- a way to articulate goals, needs and hopes between parties has got to occur or else a less desirable outcome is guaranteed.. Parents are the advocates and that means a thorough understanding of how, why the system does what it does is a great way to make sure that our kids needs are met- whatever they may be.
    The idea of battles as inevitable is not an auspicious start. Many of us parents have had a wide range of experiences. Some have to fight early, some later, some not so much. I can remember telling the team that I did not want my child discussed from a deficit perspective and that made a huge difference in the support they were able to give me. That does not mean that I didn’t hit new members of the team that I had to re-visit this issue with. You are the leader- they need your input. Assertive input takes a lot of emotional energy but I know that you can do it Lisa. That will take you out of their perception of you as just plain old resistant.
    Do they have any IEP, family to family supports/ trainings in your area? I’ve been reading other folks who have been there (Tricia from Unringing the bell comes to mind) and they loved these kinds of trainings.
    Also, one question- why not pre-school mainstream- that is very important in my opinion. Sets the stage!

    • Lisa
      June 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      Well, there is certainly a big part of me that would like to divorce ourselves from “the system,” but if I am honest with myself, I don’t know that we have all the know-how and tools to help Finn be successful on our own. I totally understand and agree that this part of the process – the assessments.coming up with goals, etc. – is necessary. That’s not really my beef so much, it’s just the way it’s being done. It seems like there could be a better way. Sticking Finn in an unfamiliar setting, surrounded by strangers who are hovering and asking questions and trying to get him to do things – it’s very stressful and doesn’t seem to have any sensitivity that he’s an individual who might not “perform” well under such circumstances. It all seems very assembly-line to me.

      Michael and I are trying to educate ourselves about IEPs, the system, the processes, etc. I think we will likely also look into getting an advocate at some point. And I am all for mainstream preschool – I just suspect that they won’t support it.

  2. sonia
    June 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    I’m still in shock on how they are treating you and Finn…especially Finn. To me, it seems like they are taking out their frustrations for whatever reasons that they have on you and onto Finn. We had Lillian’s IEP today. She didn’t have to attend because all her evaulations were done previously and on different dates with each of the therapist. Which was great, because there was a meet and great portion before any evaluations began. It went well for us today.

  3. Brandie
    June 9, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    This reminds me a lot of Goldie’s evals. Which I have to say were on the poor end of the spectrum. I have read about evals being done individually, one at a time and on different days, which would be ideal. But, we were bombarded just as you and Finn were.
    I know my view on education can be a bit extremist and some people are offended simply by the fact that we homeschool, but I really see the system available to Goldie, here, as just another institution. Their biggest concern was not my child, but money. They refused to tell us all of the preschool options. They tried denying her services until I told them she was not going to have an IEP. Wow, that changed their tune and they began to offer all kinds of things because they didn’t want to lose the money.
    As for not mainstreaming a preschooler, that is total BS! School doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. Goldie is learning the same things and sometimes more than the other children her age. I observed both a special ed and an inclusion preschool. The first was very focused on the disabilities and the other was nice, but needed a more experienced teacher. No one we came across during the IEP meetings ever seemed to care about Goldie as an individual and how this transition would affect her. I tried talking to them about changes in our family that would be happening at the same time and I was ignored. I felt vindicated reading your post and knowing I’m not the only person who feels like they view my child as just a number.
    One thing that helped me was finding out what our other options were. Goldie gets private therapy paid for by my husband’s insurance and then the state’s medicaid. This works perfect for us and I just hope nothing upsets our apple cart. Having your own goals for Finn may help you steer the meetings and IEP in a direction you feel comfortable with. And I don’t mean therapy goals, for us it is “enjoy time with peers without therapist interference”. 😉

  4. Tricia
    June 9, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    I never looked at it that way before. I was a mom who didn’t know much, just needed help and signed on the dotted line and initialed the boxes. My son doesn’t have down’s, but the school psychologist thought he had Aspergers early on…and it turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis. I was fine even if it was correct, but he still has many challenges and is on an IEP. Even with that, I can say that the school district has had many more pro’s than con’s and has helped my son on his IEP for the past 6 years. Yes, it is scary, but I think(hope) they have good intentions for your son….maybe you can just help guide them through your intimate knowledge of your sweet boy, Finn and that will help them help him.

  5. mumofone
    June 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I am astonished that this is these people’s view of the best way to interact with a child. It would be confronting for any “average” child let alone one who they seem to “assume” will be “less capable” than the average. They seem not to have taken this into account whatsoever and yet they are supposed to be the experts! No wonder you struggle with how this whole thing works. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to be in your shoes. I have only admiration that you somehow seem to handle this with good grace and are capable of keeping your priorities in focus – that is, what is best for Finn. I hope someething works out in the end…but frankly this IEP system doesn’t seem to inspire much confidence in my opinion 😦

  6. Addie
    June 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I think we went the opposite direction as you b/c Wallace is 6 and not a baby, but are still coming to the same conclusions – that they are just trying to pass him through regardless of what is best for him all the time..

    We let them go ahead and do all their tests, and decided that once everything was in place, we could pull out whatever we didnt want… figured that was easier than trying to get them to add it on after we declined in the first place.

    Its so hard to know what to do though…

  7. Jaida
    June 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    I have a couple of things I want to say, as a fellow parent whose son with Ds started his education in SoCal (we moved to MN a year ago). Firstly, I think it might be worth requesting that Finn’s assessments be done individually. My son had about 6 assessments but they were each done individually with one person and I was there to participate and facilitate a good interaction/experience.

    Secondly, I want to caution you against taking such a pessimistic view of Special Education. My son was offered a placement in a contained special ed preschool program in South Pasadena and it was fantastic. Small class, great ratios and absolutely NOT a program that did not require anything meaningful of him. I wonder where you formed that opinion…have you toured your local options? It seems like you are also seeing special ed through a cookie cutter lens and not appreciating the possibility that they may be offering Finn something you would like very much.

    When we moved to MN and went through the IEP process again, we had two options: either put our son in the mainstream preschool program – two mornings a week with a 16/2 student/teacher ration, or the special education program – four mornings a week, with a 2/1 student/teacher ratio. Despite the assumption these days that it is mainstream or nothing for our kids, we chose the special education classroom. It was the best fit for our son (who, by the way, everyone felt would be very successful in the mainstream setting) and again, he received very meaningful education and had a wonderful year. This fall he WILL join the mainstream pre-kindergarten class as a transition year before he starts mainstream kindergarten next year and again, he is expected to be successful.

    I really want to say these things in a supportive way, because it’s obvious you are struggling. But I would just really, really encourage you to follow the process through and see what your options are before you make a decision, and keep an open mind. There is nothing wrong with a special education classroom if it’s the right fit for Finn. They are not all wastelands where they send children they don’t want to deal with, and I think the hard-working teachers would be really offended to hear that assumption.

    I really wish you guys the best. It’s not easy, but there are a lot of really good people out there, offering their time and expertise to help our kids succeed in whatever setting.

    • Lisa
      June 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Jaida, I appreciate your input. As I said, we will NOT be making any kind of decision until we know all of our options and explore those options. My pessimistic view comes from a less than positive experience with early intervention, as well as seeing how the Special Ed system here has been for friends who have children with special needs. I’m sure there are teachers and therapists out there who truly care about the individual children, but the truth is, the whole education system here is falling apart due to budget cuts and other factors, and the Special Ed system is no different. Yes, I know my views tend to offend teachers and therapists; I’ve had a few come here to defend their professions (without expressing any compassion or empathy for where my feelings as a parent might be coming from; and the vast majority of teachers and therapists in the Special Ed field are NOT themselves parents of children with special needs, so I’m sure it’s very difficult for them to understand how we the parents might feel and see things, and they certainly don’t seem overly concerned about offending me with their views and assumptions). My concern is not the feelings of the powers that be in the Special Ed system; my concern is my son.

      Anyway, obviously this is an emotionally charged issue for me, and obviously I don’t have a very positive view of the whole thing. Thus far, it has not been a positive experience, neither EI through Regional Center, nor the process of coming up with an IEP for Finn. How anyone can think that the way the assessments have been handled is beneficial in any way to Finn is beyond me. I wanted to go into this process with an open mind, but frankly, they got off on the wrong foot with me from the get-go.

      Again, though, we will not make any decision about placement for Finn until we have an opportunity to explore all of our options.

      • Jaida
        June 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

        I’m so sorry that it’s been a negative experience for you. There is nothing like that sick feeling in your stomach when you feel like the world is against your kid. Although our experience with Regional Center was much more positive, I DO know that feeling and it’s awful. I hope they can do right by you guys and propose something fabulous for Finn. I will say that I think an advocate is a great idea. Just knowing that you have someone there with you that knows the system and can say what they need to in the event you guys need some bolstering would be invaluable. Although we didn’t hire one ourselves, I was fortunate enough to have a fellow parent available by phone who does sort of informal work. If you ever would like to speak to her I think she’d be willing – she lives in SoCal too (btw, I think we have a mutual friend maybe, do you know Andrea Jimenez?)

        Anyway, I will keep following your journey and hoping for the best possible outcome for you guys and your adorable Finn.

      • Lisa
        June 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

        Yes, I know Andrea! We were on a pregnancy board together and her daughter and my Lilah were born around the same time.

        Michael and I are actually looking for an advocate; anyone you could put me in touch with would be much appreciated. My email address is bloggymamaATgmailDOTcom. Thanks, Jaida.

  8. Jackie
    June 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

    I was just reading another blog and she wrote some very similar things Its about her daughter Lily.

    • Lisa
      June 10, 2011 at 12:13 am #

      Thanks for this, Jackie. Beautifully said. Really touches a chord for me.


  1. Finn’s Transition to School District – Part III | Life As I Know It - June 22, 2011

    […] Assessments, Round 2 […]

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