Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Weasels Words, Procedural Nightmares, And IEP's Gone Wrong

I have learned the hard way that some districts try to "weasel" out of providing FAPE (Free APPROPRIATE Public Education) by including what I refer to as "weasel words" in the IEP.  I found this out the hard way, as I was attempting to enforce son 2's IEP in 9th grade.  It stated that he "may have paraprofessional support in all academic classes" (thereby excluding choir and gym, where he was fine).  When I asked him how things were going with the para, he said he really wouldn't know, as she was mostly with the other kids.  Come to find out that "may" is a weasel word.  "Paraprofessional support" is a weasel word, if you interpret it as meaning, "Support by a paraprofessional for whom your child is the main concern".  Son 2 was traveling the regular education halls and classrooms with a pack of 8 kids with disabilities, and one para.  Not particularly effective.  But legal, because of "may", and "paraprofessional support".  Basically, she was there for him if he happened to have a meltdown, she'd walk him to the resource room.  The rest of her time was spent with the other kids, who were loud(er) and more disruptive than he.  In light of that, I am attempting to come up with some of the other weasel words from the weasels in my experience.  Feel free to add any I haven't listed.

"Access to" bit us one year with son 3.  His IEP stated that he would have "access to" his AAC device in all settings throughout the school day.  Which, as it turned out, meant that it could be hung on his wheelchair and the wheelchair parked in the hall, because he had "access to" it by asking his para for it.  Which he couldn't do, because, (HELLO!!!) he's nonverbal, and needs the assistive communication device to ask for it.  Makes sense to me, but then again, district weasels aren't about making sense - they're about the easy, cheap, quick and dirty way. 

Another weasel word would be "will be allowed".  Sounds good, right? Son 2 "will be allowed" to use Dragon Naturally Speaking to complete written assignments over one paragraph in length.  Of course, it doesn't say when he's supposed to TRAIN Dragon to recognize his voice patterns...  Also, this means that he's allowed to, but doesn't say if HE has to request it, if they'll suggest it, etc.

Getting a straight, clear, concise IEP is kind of like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree.  So, if you find that you've allowed some "weasel words" into yours,  then remember that YOU, and you alone, have the power of "no".  Write the letter requesting a team meeting in 10 days to change the wording as follows:  "May" becomes "Will".  "Will be allowed" becomes "Will use after training the program in one resource room hour during the first week of school".  "Will have access to" becomes "Will have with him in a place where he can reach and use it". 

For me, the IEP meeting is almost moot, as it seems that what I've understood verbally is generally vastly different than what they give me in writing a week later.  But the power to disagree is solely parental, and sometimes, "stay-put" is the best option.

We're all in this together,



  1. Well its about time you started to blog - you have so much to share!

  2. Thanks, Marianne. :) But really, thank Elise. She talked me into it.

  3. omg, if it weren't so common and intentional on their part, it would be funny. We are about headed into due process -- and here I am, an attorney, as is my little guy's father. But I, too, have let a weasel word slip by me here and there, and bam - they got me (or more appropriately, they got my little guy.)

  4. Thanks, Elise. I was actually trying to copy yours, but I don't see it in templates, and I have no idea how to speak Html. And missfancypants, it is, indeed amazing how many of us are "got" by our generally trusting natures, and weasel words.