Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Straight Shooting

The IEP went fine. I knew it would be stressful — so very much like a “team” of specialists descending on Aidan’s bedside, which used to happen daily when he was in the hospital. That component was unavoidable, but the “team” did their best to make things go smoothly. Present were: the SLP, the psychologist, the special education resource person, the principal/superintendent, and a special education supervisor from down in town. It took an hour and a half.

Basically my options were to accept the special education provisions they offered, which entailed sending Aidan on a publicly funded bus down to town for schooling at the “Severely Disabled” special day classes, or to refuse their provisions, which meant continuing to homeschool but not receiving any school services beyond yearly evaluations and assessment plans. Obviously I chose the latter; and obviously I can reopen the case at any time.

I suppose the third alternative, which didn’t come up, was to try to do some sort of fight to get him services up here beyond assessment. Kevin and I talked and we just didn’t know if we felt strongly enough about the services to make a big fight about it.

They were all very nice and respectful, but I remember when Flannery O’Connor’s editor said she was a “pretty straight shooter” when discussing publication of her first novel. She wrote to a friend:

“Please tell me what is behind this Sears-Roebuck Straight Shooter approach. I presume … either that [the publisher] will not take the novel as it will be it left to my fiendish care (it will be essentially as it is), or that [the publisher] would like to rescue it at this point and train it into a conventional novel … The letter is addressed to a slightly dim-witted Campfire Girl, and I cannot look forward with composure to a lifetime of others like them.”

OK, so I will admit that I had just a tinge of the “Sears Roebuck” feeling during the meeting. I am sure this is quite common when parents deal with schools, even when the people themselves have the best of intentions (they seemed to) and the nicest personas (they seemed to). The fact is that their agenda is to protect themselves from Aidan to some degree, or direct him according to what works for them, and so their talk about what they COULD offer was instead of the conversation about what they WEREN’T offering.

So please separate my intuition about the meeting itself from my perceptions of what the people in themselves were like. I didn’t have a problem with the people and their level of conscientiousness in doing their job — that was well above average, I would think. The ones that had worked with Aidan expressed much affection and admiration for him which seemed sincere. The special education supervisor loved my PLAAFP that I had prepared for him; she said it was one of the best she’d ever heard from any teacher. : ).

But there was a basic discomfort, that reminded me of a few times when the medical community wanted to do one thing for Aidan and we knew that was not the best thing for him. Fortunately, we do not need the schools the way we need the medical community when Aidan’s in medical need. I got affirmation that what we are doing now is indeed the best thing for Aidan. In the severely disabled program, he would be learning life skills and how to use a communication board. The life skills he can learn fine at home and the communication board isn’t something he really needs at this point.

They all gave me very complete reports from their area of expertise, and this was very helpful. Across the board Aidan seemed to be cognitively and functionally at a moderately delayed level. The psychologist said his scores might be slightly downwards of his actual ability. She noticed his difficulties with getting in tune with the testing format. He is actually higher in verbalization than in most everything else. His conceptualization and his ability to problem-solve, at least in the abstract test-world, is very low. They put him at roughly a 5 year old level which leads me to think that I have been on the right track by minimizing academic expectations and rather, trying to help him to interact with the world in concrete, creative ways.

I have a whole pile of papers to study, which is just the sort of thing I revel in. They gave me some goals which will be somewhat helpful, particularly the way the speech therapist broke down the goals into sub-goals. We can of course look for a private speech therapist. I’m not sure if this is very critical because his speech is actually a bit of a strength for him in relative terms.

I think it’s very difficult for people to do their best for the child AND for the system they work for. I’m sure it’s a bind that comes up in the educational profession more than any other. I couldn’t get a reading on whether it seemed like an ambivalence to them the way it did to me.