I was the I. When my son turned three he was entered into the area school district with the diagnosis of Autistic or on the Autism spectrum. Whatever they want to call it, it has changed a few times since: Autistic, Asperger’s high functioning, on the spectrum and now we have processing disorder.
Nevertheless, I attended my ﬁrst IEP meeting to hear what the team determined was the best route for my son’s educational placement. To my surprise, I felt like a complete moron! I am a college graduate, at the time I worked at UCSD hospital and I did my job well. Hey, on many occasions during the night shift, I could be found in emergency surgery cases. I am well educated and extremely competent.
To my surprise and horror at my IEP meeting, I sat with about five women that were speaking a complete foreign language to me. After hours, hearing about test results, which I really had no clue what they meant, I was exhausted. So I left confused and quite frankly depressed.
As years went on, I have attended many IEP meetings and I realized that my program specialist couldn’t pick my son out of a line up. Here this woman is deciding on what was best for my son’s future and she had no clue about him. So, I started asking questions and demanding better answers.
Well, the “Hen’s Nest” got ruffled. I was no longer addressed by my first name and I instead was addressed: “Mrs”. Every time I attended my son’s IEP meeting the TEAM, not me, had already decided what they were going to do in regards to my son’s education and future before the meeting even took place. I would show up for a timed two hour meeting and hear their test results and their personal stories of how great they were and then after an hour and 45 minutes, I would be asked for my input.
That provided me with fifteen minutes for my thoughts and concerns about my son’s well-being. What a joke!
There definitely is an IEP TEAM but as a parent, I feel that I am playing for the opposing team. I have learned a lot and have had to educate myself and at one point, I even engaged an advocate’s help.
The best thing parents can do is educate themselves on laws and academics. Know where your child is academically compared to his/her peers. Find out what learning outcome is expected at each grade level so that you can participate in the conversation. And by all means, ask for help, stand up as a parent, and advocate for your child. Sometimes fighting the good fight is hard but doing so respectfully everyone wins. Tell me your story!