Finnian’s Proposed IEP

Well, well, well.  The long-awaited, much-anticipated draft IEP finally arrived in yesterday’s mail (Michael arrived home after our mail, including a notice that we had been missed to sign for a Certified Mail package, had been delivered, and managed to chase down our mail carrier up the street to sign for it).

I’ll confess right off the bat that it was upsetting to read.  It is so, so difficult for me to separate myself emotionally from all this; actually, I’m not really sure I’m supposed to endeavor to do that, but I do know that continuing to be overly emotional about it does not necessarily help me to be a better advocate for Finn.


In a nutshell, what our school district is offering/recommending to us for Finn is preschool in a separate, special ed classroom “MOD/SEVERE” (at a Title 1 school – not a “mainstream” school), five days a week for four hours per day, with speech therapy and occupational therapy in both group and one-on-one settings.  (These are the only two therapies being offered because these are the only two areas of assessment we consented to.) There are lots of goals outlined for him to reach by May, 2012, including things like demonstrating an acceptable attention span, to wit:

By 5/15/2012.  When presented with an adult directed activity involving the adult, Finnian and at least 1 peer,  Finnian will maintain attention (looking at activity, body facing forward, engaged in activity) to the activity for a 10-minute period, with no more than 1 point of redirection (visual, gestural cues) minimum of 3 opportunities daily as measured through 10 random data collections over a one month period.

Huh.  Sounds like a party, doesn’t it?  I don’t know . . . this just rubs me all kinds of wrong ways.  Beginning with the fact that this goal stems from the school district’s determination of Finn only being able to demonstrate an attention span of  “3 seconds,” during their assessment, and as reflected in their assessment report.  What a load of hooey!  This kid has an amazing attention span!  Ask anyone who has spent any kind of meaningful time with him.  What would they possibly expect of ANY almost-three-year-old (at the time of the assessment) in a strange setting with several strange adults hovering over him and making rapid-fire requests of him?  But, given the manner in which the school district has proceeded with this process, we were never given the opportunity to request that this assessment report be modified to more accurately portray his ability.

Also, is it just me or does this sound very  . . . I don’t know . . . performance-centered?  I mean, Finnian is a child, for goodness sake.  Is this what we have to look forward to for him – being stuck in a school setting where his every move is measured and recorded and somehow scored?

There are lots of other goals listed, including recognizing colors and letters, etc.  Only some of the goals bug me.

I am rather upset, though not altogether surprised, however, at their offer of placement at this particular school.  No alternatives or options.  I get the distinct impression that this is where our school district expects to send ALL children of Finn’s diagnosis, that in the eyes of the school district, their “offer” was already set in stone long before they ever laid eyes on Finn or conducted any assessments or IEP meeting.  Which leaves me feeling very pigeon-holed.  Where is the “individualized” aspect of this IEP?  Or is it really just a one-size-fits-all-kids-with-Down-syndrome proposition?

But there I go, getting emotional again.

What I can say at this point is that we are not going to be making any hard and fast decisions about this anytime soon.  We will visit the preschool program they are recommending in September.  Off the top of my head, here are some of the options for us to think about, in no particular order of preference:

  • Accept the school district’s offer of placement and services.
  • Accept the school district’s offer of services, but not placement.
  • Look into a Montessori preschool, and couple that with ST and OT through the school district  – or through our health insurance carrier.
  • Look into a church-based preschool (horrors!), like the Mother’s Morning Out program I had the twins in when they were three – a couple of mornings a week.  Not extremely academic, but may allow Finn an opportunity to be around “typical” peers in a setting away from home.  He would also not be required to be potty-trained, which he is not.  Couple with therapies through the school district or our health insurance carrier.
  • Forego preschool altogether for the time being and just do therapies through the school district or our health insurance carrier.  Maybe join a mommy-and-me class one or two mornings a week with him for the socialization/peer modeling aspects.
  • Forego preschool and therapy for the time being and revisit in a year.

Of course, the alternative preschools, like a Montessori or church-based, would be dependent on their willingness to take on a child with Down syndrome.

Lots to think about.  Like I said, we’re not making any decisions now.  We are going to enjoy the rest of summer, and when all the other kids are back in school, we’ll wrestle with this some more.


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8 Comments on “Finnian’s Proposed IEP”

  1. Alyson
    July 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Ahh Montessori…I was a Montessori 3-6 teacher up until having Reegan 6 years ago. My absolutely favorite route of education 😉

  2. esther
    July 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    oh my…i am surprised at the 10-minute attention span thing..for a 3.5 half year old, that’s a lot, it seems. and without being there and by simply reading about this from your blog, lisa, it does seem to me that they knew finn’s placement before the iep was even done.

    wonder, do you think that they know that you chose not to do any therapies for finn for quite some time now and that they are trying to “prove” or say that “hey, you did not take what the state offered you, then hey, here you do. your son is not where he “should be” and so this is what you get”. maybe this is too much thinking into this, i don’t know…either way, good for you for taking the time to think through this…because i do think that you will make the right decision based on the simply fact that you (and michael) are the parents of finn and know him the best. noone else does. ok, maybe kevin and the other kiddos! 🙂

  3. Jaida
    July 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    I always find it emotional too, even when it’s mainly “good news.” It’s hard to see some of that stuff written out in black and white, even when you do think it’s accurate. I think you’re good to take some time and review your options. I would urge you again, though, to just go and tour what they are offering so you know. Not saying you’ll love it, but you never know.

    Sorry this has been such a saga for you guys. I sort of wish I still lived in SoCal so I could meet you and Finn 🙂

  4. Ashley
    July 16, 2011 at 12:54 am #

    Have you ever considered a Waldorf school coupled with therapies? I really like Montessori and Waldorf for very different reasons, but it would seem to dovetail with your desire for Finn to get to be a child, accepted and praised for who he is with little pressure to “perform.” It might be a nice thing for a year, especially since he is still so young.

  5. starrlife
    July 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    That attention span stuff is BS and so is the non-inclusive setting. It’s pre-school for Christ sake! My reco is look for the Right place – not the ideological one, but the one that really WANTS Finn (personally our local Montessori only takes bright kids who are Dr’s children it seems – not a single mention of anything not achievement oriented in it’s brochure:). It’s out there somewhere.
    We had to have pre-school since we both work full time and Kayli is an only child so she bloomed there with her peers where they could entertain her all day – it was helpful to her to learn the structured day as well in prep of school.
    As for the reaction- even I, a veteran of many IEP’s and report card/evals flinches. What helps me regain my equilibrium is that 1) I have had mainly positive people to work with who are sensitive even if needing to use these things due to bureaucracy 2) reminding myself that these are all comparison based (to so called median kids) and that our kids are extraordinary and thrive best on standing on their own merit so to speak. It’s a bit like adjusting a lens that is skewed when you read those things – just adjust immediately after reading.
    Who gives rat’s ass what those bureaucrats think! You know your Finn and his teacher- if she’s good will do the same.
    You need to be potty trained in pre-school? That is so strange.
    It’s a combo of advocacy fighting with acceptance – tough combo but you’ve come so far! It’s just a new world when we have to be out of the home and put up with the idiotic systems stuff! But there are many, many individuals in the system who see it your way- you will find them- it might take longer in a huge state. No family orgs that can assist you guys with that?

  6. Stacey
    July 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    I happened to run into our school counselor at the grocery store the other day & asked her about your situation, in general terms. She said it sounds like Finn was screwed both with the way the assessments were done and by you, the parents, not being given the opportunity to participate in the IEP development itself. She suggested you consider filing an appeal and/or getting an independent educational evaluation (at public expense) so that you can get a *real* IEP and Finn can/will get the services you want him to get from the school district. You also have the right to mediation services to try to resolve any conflict with the school district. I Googled “IEP appeal” and found a lot of interesting information so if you haven’t done that yet, do it now. 🙂 She also said if you don’t already have a copy of “The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child,” by Lawrence M. Siegel, get it.

    One interesting thing I found in my short Google search (“IEP appeal”) was about costs. You mentioned private school being an option, albeit an expensive one, and utilizing services through your insurance coverage. You shouldn’t have to use your insurance to provide services that the school district should provide, that violates the IDEA’s provision to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). See Knables v. Bexley. It also seems that if you can show that the district has continually failed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for Finn, you might be able to sue for reimbursement of private school tuition. See Florence County School District v. Shannon Carter.

    • Lisa
      July 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      Wow, thanks for this Stacey!

  7. snannonn
    July 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I can only comment from the perspective of a parent of triplets with developmental delays, but my trio were all in developmental preschool and had IEP’s. The IEP’s are something the state mandates, which means they are very technical and must adhere to a strict guideline. In my experience, the teacher themselves are who you should be most concerned with, not what the IEP says. The triplets had a wonderful teacher whom they loved and she genuinely cared about them. Her way of teaching was fantastic and she was able to go outside the box and still technically try to stick to the IEP. She’s the one that mattered in my kids’ lives. Not that damned piece of paper. I, personally will be forever grateful for what she did for my kids in the 2.5 years she was with them. She was able to do things for them that I, as their parent could not. So my advice is to not worry so much about what the IEP says and get to know your son’s teacher. She will make the difference in his life, not some words on a piece of paper.

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