Saturday, November 19, 2005

I hate IEP meetings.

(IEP=Individual Education Plan)

I haven't always hated them. Back when R first started pre-school they were a breeze. He couldn't really do any of the things pre-schoolers are supposed to do, so we just set small, seemingly attainable goals, smiled, cracked some jokes, tossed our copy of the forms in the backseat, went to Target.

But then R started meeting the goals. Which is good, right? I mean, it seems to be important that a child sit when and where he should sit, that he feign interest in the poorly executed dreck of a story, that he clap when the others clap, or snap or stomp or wave or point. Fine. R can do those things. Hooray.

I worry now that these goals, these attainable, important goals may be sucking the very life out of him. Sucking out the very Robbiness we all know and love.

I volunteered in his classroom the other day, and, man, what fucking chaos. The room is teensy-tiny and inhabited by ten boys and just the two little girls. And it was deemed too cold to play outside. Those boys needed to play outside, cold or not. They were insane. Absolutely insane. Itching to use their large muscles. Since they could not, they decided to yell a lot and throw things.

Now, I am not used to groups of children of any size. I am used to just my one boy. My one thoughtful, sweet, easy-going little boy. And he remained my one thoughtful, easy-going boy all day at school. He wasn't interested in throwing toys at the other boys or yelling or being insane. I think he wanted to do Math. There was another one thoughtful, easy-going boy, called Josh. All he wanted to do was Art. He was adorable. He sat with me for a long time cutting and gluing and having an excellent time with ground cinnamon.

So I wonder, now that R can do the sitting thing and the feigning interest thing, ought he not be challenged to do more? He is freakishly smart. Shouldn't we teach him things, like Math? He loves to paint and read and write. Just because he isn't talking communicatively at school, well, is that any reason to make him stay in this class and feign interest for three hours?

I can see him having a much better learning experience over-all in a smaller class with more one-on-one instruction, with children who are interested in academics, who like to read and write, who want to learn.

I remember, when R was newly three, our visit with the Speech Guy at Childrens'....he told me that it was Bad that R could read before being able to talk. It's called Hyperlexia. Okay, yeah, wtf? How in the fuck can it be Bad to know how to read? HOW?! Not buying it. Didn't buy it then, won't ever buy it.

Anyway. Just thinking while typing.

Here are some online samples for those of you who are not familiar with the format.


Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Ellie's IEP will happen in a matter of months. Hopefully later, rather than sooner. I'm freaked all the way out about it already. I want to "teach to the test," prep her to the gills, pray for her to do everything in the testing situation that I know she can do at home. All to avoid a nasty, stigmatizing label that will bother me more than her, at least for now.

But intellectually, I know that if I just relax and let Ellie be Ellie, there's a better chance of her getting services, wonderful services from the school district. But man, these things are stressful. IEPs are what my mom does for a living, so I know that the other side is stressful too.

But Robby, Robby . . . I agree with you about the "hyperlexia." I can't get it. And the classroom thing too. Ellie's developmental therapist assures me that it's good, it's healthy, it's beneficial for kids to be in one of those insane classes. But I know that I would hate it and fail to thrive in that environment, so how can I want that for my child, you know?

Congrats to Robbie on meeting those goals, though. :)

8:35 PM  
Blogger Doug's Mom said...

Wow...I never thought of the IEP part of my son's education being frustrating. I have been frustrated that he isn't getting the INTENSITY of speech therapy that I believe he needs (thus our venture outside of the school system to get him additional speech therapy)...but, actually Doug's IEPs have always been a reassurance to me. But, then my situation is quite different from yours... I am primarily a home-schooling Mom, with only one of my three children in the school system (the sixth grader and pre-K child I teach at home, while only my first grader son goes to public school). I only have him in the school system because it was the quickest way to get him into the therapies (speech, language, English as a second language, and occupational therapy) that he so desperately needed. Now that we HAVE him in the system, (it took almost all of his kindergarten year in the school system before they worked through all the red tape to get him into the special ed program), anyway, now that he is IN the special ed program, I am very seriously considering pulling him out of school and homeschooling him...just bringing him up to the school for his speech therapy, occupational therapy, language therapy, and English as a second language instruction....but taking him out of the school system otherwise to homeschool him. Thus, having documented IEPs that show dismally pathetic goals and their inability to even meet those goals fully, provides for me evidence to the outside world that my child's lack of academic prowess is not BECAUSE he is being homeschooled. I suspect that I can accomplish more with him at home, teaching him one on one, than they can accomplish with him in school--but I KNOW that I cannot teach him up to his age/grade level. (Neither can they. He is halfway through first grade now and still his IEPs reflect that he isn't even up to "PRE-kindergarten level" yet.) So, for me, the IEPs are like a validation...they couldn't 'do it', so if I try and only accomplish a little...well, he is actually on track. It is his IEPs that have, in a backwards sort of way, given me the internal permission to go ahead and teach him along with my other two children.

I am not considering pulling him out of the system completely....just out of the regular classroom time. (Being a Missouri resident, I can homeschool and yet still access all the special ed help that my child would qualify for if he was enrolled.) .......And, honestly, his regular classroom time has not been wasted, either. When we brought him home from Taiwan a year and a half ago, he was SO FAR behind socially. His people skills were on the level of a rather immature two year old (though he was six). What he gained in social skills this past year and a half, I could have never given him in an exclusively family setting. But, he has accomplished those I think his ACADEMIC strides could be better fostered through home schooling. (You spoke of the boys in the classroom bouncing off the walls with no interest in child would have been the worst of the bunch. He is SO EASILY OVER-STIMULATED. He just does so much better in a CONTROLLED, calm, structured, unstimulating environment. He cannot focus in a group.)

My oldest child is very gifted--was reading fluently at the age of two. I have never worried that someone might accuse me of being negligent of her education...but that worry was deep in my mind when I began working with my son. For me, the IEP shows that he has difficulties learning and so I have permission to succeed OR FAIL in my attempts to teach him. I needed that....for HIS sake....the lattitude to NOT accomplish what the outside world will be expecting (or what I perceive they will be expecting)....only now that I have that lattitude, do I feel capable of teaching him myself.


12:10 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

The problem with hyperlexia isn't the early reading, which is just one part of it, but the other issues, like having trouble understanding spoken language and having trouble interacting with people. I think the therapy involves learning how to focus on other people, comprehending the spoken word, and not obsessing over printed symbols (like letters). I'm no expert- I just remember seeing a thing on the news about this a couple of years ago.

11:23 AM  
Blogger kevin said...


10:31 PM  

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