Things I wish I would have known: The battle of the Experts in the writing of an IEP

Something I wish I would have understood when I started to advocate for my children

After the initial shock wore off, regarding my daughter’s learning disabilities, I made the determination to put her into school. Her birthday was behind the deadline, which meant that she would have been required to wait another year before enrolling in school. Fortunately, the work we had been doing at home allowed her to test in anyway. This was important to me because I wanted her to be challenged and having her in school was going to help to push her in areas where her LD was causing her to struggle.

By her 3rd grade year, however, we were noticing that she would pass a spelling test at the end of the week, but she was unable to spell those words by Monday morning. We approached her teacher and were informed that the school, at that time, was already providing a service to my daughter. We knew that she was on an ILP (individual learning plan). Her ILP was to have us do extra work at home with reading and writing, but we did not know our daughter was being pulled out of class.

We then demanded to know why. Why were they pulling her out of school without notifying us about it? We were told that since she was obviously passing her tests, then it didn’t matter if they pulled her out. We then asked to see the tests that made it important for them to take her out of class – even for a short while. In our opinion there must have been some cause for concern for them to take such an action – especially without bringing the parents in on the plan.

The school showed us exams/evaluations that ranged from the lowest 15% to up to 39% of the average test taker in our daughter’s age range. Something they had never shared with us during any meeting we had had for our daughter’s ILP.

Immediately we demanded that our daughter be tested for an IEP (Individual Educational Plan). If our daughter was doing extra homework at home, being taken out of classes for a pullout program and still showing such low test scores, we wanted to know why.

Simultaneously we had heard about a developmental diagnostic program at our local Children’s Hospital, so we signed up to get her tested hoping that these findings, in conjunction with the school findings would help our daughter.

When we finally met as a team, 45 days later, the school refused to even look at the diagnostic paperwork. They casually explained that an “educational” diagnosis and a “medical” diagnosis were different. That it did not matter what the doctors wrote – if our daughter was responding in some way to intervention, then the school did not have to take those records into consideration. Even if our daughter forgot the intervention (something we already knew to be true) – she was still passing on Friday and this was important to the school.

When our daughters state exams were brought into the discussion, the same was stated – she was very behind but responding to intervention. Yes, she did have a great discrepancy between what she produced and what she could do. This did not matter in the grand scheme of things.

After a 4 –hour meeting, in snowy weather, it was finally concluded that my daughter would receive an IEP. This IEP was not based on the diagnostic evaluation created by our local Children’s Hospital, but rather, it was on the Optometrist results, showing that in addition to a lazy eye our daughter’s eyes were making it difficult for her to read. In my opinion an Optometrist is a medical doctor, but this is what happened.

The conclusion for the school was to place my daughter BACK on the rote-memory program that she had been using and that this was all the intervention that they could provide to my daughter and our family.

I now understand that I have a right to push the school to accept a medical diagnosis from a specialist. I did not have to sit by and have them refuse to look at the evaluation. At the time, I was scared. I was not an expert. I had limited understanding of what I was supposed to say. I had requested an advocate and learned, during this meeting, that the person I had requested was friends with my daughters Principal, that individual went quickly from standing firm with our family, to pushing us to take what the could said they had to offer.

I was livid at the time. I wanted to slam doors, and scream and yell. Those things, while cleansing, were not going to help me help my daughter. It was clear that my family did not have a partner – educationally. The school was going to do what was best for them and not what was best for our daughter. We agreed to let them use that ONE tool they said that they could use for our daughter and I started volunteering at the school and working with my daughter after school let out.

If you are an individual or parent and you are facing this issue, I encourage you to get educated on what your rights are and to stand firm.

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2 comments on “Things I wish I would have known: The battle of the Experts in the writing of an IEP

  1. I had a very similar situation with my daughter entering public school. She has ASD, GAD diagnosed by our local children’s hospital and in a renown program since 5th grade. I learned that because it was a nuero-psych eval., it was no good, we needed psyco-edu evalu and had to start all over! It was painful and really degrading. For another daughter, profoundly dyslexic, I had the opposite experience (lesson learned!) started with the psycho-ed eval. and copious classroom documentation. Her IEP came very easily, pleasantly–even. I found that the public school system wants things documented in one way and there is little flexibility to interpret a diagnosis or behavior in any other way. But as you imply, children are complex and how they learn adds another complexity! It seem ridiculous to not mix medical and psychological issues to create an individual’s learning plan.

    • Dear Transparent999, When my son was diagnosed dyslexic it was after his 2nd grade teacher and i listened to him reading. He literally read from the period at the end of the sentence to the capital letter at the beginning backwards – phonetically correctly – but backwards. I had collected writing samples that were illegible and and I asked the doctor for a referral to a specialist. He took a look at the pieces of paper I had handed to him and then held it up to a mirror. This was something I never thought to do. It was legible in the mirror. He then asked his wife, a physiologist to review my sons case and he sent us to the development center. My sons school accused him of faking. They told us that we should accept the fact that our son was unable to learn because the “special educators” daughter was unable to learn. They refused the paperwork from the diagnostic center and though he scored high in his IQ and low in his performance they determined that he is ineligible for help because he did not finish the IQ test. He averaged out at about 120 and stopped the test because he was tired. In their opinion that meant that he was faking reading backwards, writing backwards, and being slow to think or respond. He was 8 years old at the time. I plan to post about this soon. The only way we are going to solve issues for our community is when we stop putting parents and children through hoops and begin addressing the problems they face. I believe this school could not have helped my son, so I moved him. Not every parent has that option. Thanks so much for your post!

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