Meanwhile, back on the farm, we are still in the midst of the unresolved mess with the school district concerning Finn’s proposed IEP.
We last communicated with the school district back in July, when they held Finn’s IEP meeting without us and then sent us the proposed IEP for him that they had developed without our input. After responding to them in writing telling them to screw themselves (in code), we decided to put the whole mess on hold and enjoy the rest of summer break, which we did. As summer break drew to a close a week or two ago, we received this letter from the school district:
This letter is actually quite handy, as it succinctly summarizes what the school district is proposing for Finn’s IEP. And as you can see, what they are proposing is preschool in a separate special ed school servicing children with moderate to severe disabilities, five days a week, five+ hours each day. Finn is three years old. And they think he should go to school every day for five+ hours a day.
I don’t know – I suppose it’s possible that, as in a game of bargaining, they are starting out high, assuming they will be haggled down? However, that really doesn’t make sense, as it would be us, the parents, bargaining for more, not less, right? (Although we are the rogue parents who actually do want less . . .) Anyway, preschool five days a week for five hours a day for a three-year-old seems really excessive to me, and not something I am willing to entertain.
I like how they say that they are sorry we didn’t attend our son’s IEP. Fortunately, we have everything meticulously documented, so they can try to play it off this way, as if we were negligent or disinterested or somehow egregious in our actions, but our documentation tells a different story entirely.
I assume a lot of the verbage in this letter is boilerplate. It certainly doesn’t lend to any sense that there is anything truly individualized about this process. The paragraph on the second page about offering twelve days of services over the summer to “prevent regression” – what the eff? If this were truly aimed at Finnian specifically and not just some standard paragraph inserted in their form letters, this paragraph wouldn’t have been included, because they would have taken into consideration that Finn has received no services since last year (at our option), so offering services over the summer (twelve days! pfftt) to “prevent regression” (regression from what? From the forward progression he has continued to make without any services?) isn’t even applicable to this particular little boy. I also like how they misspell Finn’s name on the last page of the letter; really makes me feel confident that these people (a) see my son as an individual, and (b) are experts in the education field.
The school district makes very clear that they are unwilling to offer us any options for Finn’s preschool placement. “It was determined by the IEP team [without the parents’ input – and the parents are supposed to be an integral part of the IEP team] that Finnian requires as his least restrictive environment to meet his unique needs a program that serves students with moderate to severe disabilities.” Period, end of story. I have this sneaking suspicion that this placement has nothing to do with Finn individually or specifically; I suspect that this particular program at this particular school is the only option offered to any child with Down syndrome (or other disabilities) by this school district, and that this placement was determined before they ever met us or Finn or conducted any of their assessments of Finn. Just a hunch.
I’m not going to bag on special education classrooms in general. It’s a viable option for many families, and I’m sure it works out well for some children. There are a whole host of reasons why I do not want Finn boxed into a special education classroom, not the least of which include the fact that I strongly believe that he will get the most benefit from typically developing peer models, and that I strongly believe that full inclusion in school benefits everyone, including typically developing children.
That said, Michael and I will be visiting the preschool class being offered, if only to be able to say that we took the time to check out what the school district offered in order to give it legitimate consideration.
However, we have all but made up our minds that Finn will not be attending preschool for another year – special ed or otherwise.
I confess that it’s not always an easy thing to go against the grain. Most of the parents I am acquainted with who have children with Ds do seem to travel a path that follows a prescribed protocol: all the therapy and services available from as soon after birth as possible, and then preschool promptly at age 3, if not sooner. This works well for many families, and most of those families believe that this protocol has had actual impact on their child’s development and abilities. I can’t argue with that assertion. I can only speak for us, and say that I don’t believe that any of the therapy Finn received for the first couple years of his life made any difference; he has continued to thrive and make great developmental strides without any therapy or services for the last nine months. And I don’t believe that another year without preschool is going to make or break him. I am not in denial that he has special needs, that he is developmentally delayed, and that at some point, he will benefit from the special help that certain professionals can offer him; I’m just not convinced that the time for that is now.
So we have an appointment to go visit the special ed preschool in a couple of weeks, and then we will meet with the IEP team again and hash things out with them. As I said, we are heavily leaning towards declining preschool placement for now (and what I envision for next year – and will be looking into over the next year – is some type of private preschool, which the school district will not support), so the big question when we meet with the IEP team in a few weeks will be: do we want services (speech and/or occupational therapy) for Finn through the school district even if he’s not attending preschool? We are leaning against that as well, but are willing to at least ask them what stand-alone services would look like.
My guess, though, is that we will be declining everything and starting the whole IEP process from scratch in a year.