Life in a family of nine neurodiverse individuals: How we do it, why we do what we do, helping you do it too. "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters, compared to what lies within us." - Oliver Wendall Holmes
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.
I'm a mother of seven, ages 22 to 6. They all have special needs of one variety or another, hence my interest in parent advocacy.
Despite special needs, every child has their own needs, and all children have some things in common. You will find here rants, raves, excitement, tears... things all parents go through. You will also find acronyms that special needs parents know, as do the professionals that work with our children. My hope and my goal is to provide experience, strength, and hope, as well to learn from comments and receive your experience strength and hope.
I don't have all the answers, but between us, we can find them!