Update - New IEP Meeting Called

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by WearyWoman, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. WearyWoman

    WearyWoman Guest

    I posted here recently about how our son, Bubby, age 9, who has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, ADHD, and apraxia of speech, is struggling significantly with handwriting. We had the annual IEP meeting in December, and we requested that he be permitted to use a keyboard or portable word processing device for assignments where handwriting is not being assessed and for longer written work. We would like him to continue to practice handwriting, but right now, every homework assignment requires writing, and it's a major point of resistance for us and for Bubby's autism behavioral aides who work with him in our home.

    Gosh, is this so unreasonable? I'm a college educator, and I can tell you that I only collect a tiny few assignments that are handwritten. The rest are submitted electronically. It would be so freeing for us to get through homework assignments without tears, frustration, and anxiety. Handwriting is a major issue. When Bubby was in kindergarten, he had not developed hand dominance. Fine motor skills have been behind all along.

    To make a long story a little shorter, only the Special Education teacher, the speech therapist, and the classroom teacher attended the IEP meeting in December. At the time, they agreed that Bubby struggles with handwriting. On Bubby's report card, he received an "N" for "Needs Improvement" in his handwriting, and below it stated "lack of effort". Whatever! Of course, he hates it because it is overwhelmingly difficult for him, and then he refuses to cooperate. The Special Education teacher wrote "check on word processor" in the assistive technology area of the IEP.

    We never received a copy of the IEP after the meeting, and we didn't actually see what was written in the IEP until we requested a copy recently. The school never had checked on a word processor as promised, until we followed up about it recently.

    We were told that the Special Education teacher, classroom teacher, Occupational Therapist (OT), and autism therapist decided amongst themselves that Bubby does not need to use a word processor and that he is writing beautifully now. We have not seen any such thing from his assignments. It is also infuriating to me that the Occupational Therapist (OT) and autism specialist couldn't be bothered to attend the annual IEP meeting this past December, but now have such strong opinions as to what Bubby does/does not need. Never mind the fact that the autism specialist hasn't visited the classroom, classroom teacher, or observed Noah in 1 1/2 years.

    Of course, now that we requested another meeting about this, the autism specialist is busy gathering evidence that Bubby does not need a word processor or keyboard. She spent a short time observing Bubby with his behavioral aide after school, took a few notes, and disappeared, at which point Bubby had a meltdown and refused to do any more writing. The autism specialist did not see that part.

    The Occupational Therapist (OT) doesn't want Bubby to receive any Occupational Therapist (OT) any more. He is only getting 30 minutes per week. We think he should be getting Occupational Therapist (OT) for his sensory and fine motor skill issues.

    The people who are supposed to be our support in the school system are doing the exact opposite.

    I'm dreading the meeting this week. We are bringing our in-home counselor/autism specialist to the meeting with us. She says that Bubby has a lot of anxiety about doing handwriting and that he is easily overwhelmed with is sensitivities. This all causes him to go into vapor lock, during which time he is unable to learn or respond appropriately. I hope that she will benefit our position.

    Bottom line - we just can't keep going through the homework drama. Handwriting is a big part of it. Unfortunately, the school is apathetic about doing anything to help the situation. Our life is exhausting already, and the nightly battles are too much. It's detrimental for our family life, for sure. We would like to ask that Bubby be allowed to use a word processor for his spelling sentences and at home to reduce the frustration and effort required to get through these types of assignments. We support that he continues to work on penmanship for penmanship assessments.

    Do you have any thoughts about how we should approach this upcoming meeting? With four school personnel, and just my hubby and me, with our family counselor, we're outnumbered from the start. How is it possible to "prove" that Bubby needs this - that we need it too? Why is it so hard to get even a minor accommodation? I don't understand. The school's position will certainly be that Bubby doesn't need the assistive technology. I sense that they don't want to bother with the extra effort to provide him with it.
  2. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Have you considered getting an advocate to help you with this process? I think you may need one given the difficulties you are encountering.

    I think that it is always a good idea to ask lots of questions - how this and what about that sort of questions. It is not really your problem to solve - I think I may have said this before. You get to say No if you don't agree to their plan. But it's supposed to be their plan based on the child's needs.

    How about asking for a short term moratorium on homework? None at all. He does it at school and that's it for the rest of the quarter or whatever time frame your school operates on. Everyone sees then if he's able to keep up without the homework. If he is slipping behind then supports can be added as needed preferably at school. IF he doesn't have a one-on-one aide at school then that might be a place to start. If you ask about that you may find them quickly agreeing to the stupid word processor as that is so much less expensive than an aide...

    Bottom line is that it sounds like there needs to be a clearer identification of your son's needs. And you may need to have some testing done outside of the school to support your position on things like Occupational Therapist (OT). You may also want to see if your health insurance (assuming you have some) or developmental services would cover the Occupational Therapist (OT) services you are describing. This would give you something that you could "give in" on without really sacrificing his needs.

    The problem that I have encountered with handwriting (my son had great difficulty with this and still struggles to write by hand at age 15) is that the bar for quality is set pretty low. And many kids struggle to write by hand so the school isn't really going to see this as a problem as long as he can do the bare minimum. Just like you they know that once he gets to HS he will have a limited need to rely on handwriting at school so why should they invest a bunch of money into Occupational Therapist (OT) to teach him to write better?

    If he's doing OK at school then fine he doesn't need the word processor at school. If he's not able to manage handwriting at home then the issue becomes how to minimize the requirement for handwriting at home. Which takes you back to the homework load and whether it is reasonable and appropriate - given his disabilities. You might look over my posts in response to your earlier thread as I believe I outlined a couple different strategies for handling homework.

    I also really do think it would be wise of you to get an advocate. If you are struggling to get him services now it may only get worse as he gets older. My son "grew into" his disabilities to a great extent. So the things that were somewhat manageable when he was younger became really unmanageable as he grew older because his development didn't keep pace with the academic demands. You may be in a similar position and so having an advocate on board sooner rather than later may be really helpful. The more services you can get when they are younger the better the outcome - at least that is generally true.

    Best wishes,

  3. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    I don't believe the Occupational Therapist (OT) can just "decide" he doesn't need Occupational Therapist (OT) any more. I'm kinda chuckling here.... it's just so wrong. Sigh. What objective testing has he/she done to come to this decision? There needs to be data to back it up. Ditto the autism specialist. Observing him briefly on one day doesn't cut it. "Check on word processor" is a pretty lame comment under assistive tech. How 'bout, "assistive tech evaluation will be performed by ABC to evaluate need for word processor use". The Occupational Therapist (OT) folks should be involved, but also the assistive tech folks - if you're in a small school district, they may not even have assistive tech folks, so school district needs to arrange for an outside evaluation. There's a huge difference between "consider" and "evaluate".

    I agree that you may want to get an outside Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation. school district doesn't *have* to follow those recommendations, but they *do* have to consider them.

    Personally, since the school district staff seems to be so keen on unilateral decisions, I'd make one myself. All homework will be completed with a keyboard. If they don't like that, then they need to allow time during the school day, with support, for him to do it there. school district's generally don't like to hear that, but tough. By their own reporting, his handwriting needs improvement. You have enough battles going on right now - it's completely unreasonable for the school district to essentially trigger your son *at home* by refusing to allow him a very reasonable accommodation. I'd also consider taping a homework session at home so that school district can see/hear what you're dealing with-. Another thought is that one of the related services that seems to get overlooked is that the school district must provide "parent counseling and training". I'd let them know that you need parent training on how to effectively get him to do his handwritten homework without having the entire family getting pulled into chaos.

    Keep putting the burden back on the school district and requesting that objective data that backs up their position. I think an advocate would also be a really good idea.
  4. WearyWoman

    WearyWoman Guest

    Just wanted to let you know that we took your advice and brought along (not an official advocate, per se), but our in-home autism specialist/family counselor, and the team agreed to allow Bubby to use a keyboard whenever he feels overwhelmed. It went much better than expected, and I'm quite sure it's because we brought along the autism specialist. Now, it will be formally written into the IEP for future benefit as well. What a relief! Thanks to everyone for your support and wise advice.
  5. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I'm really glad you did that and that it helped Bubby get the help he needs.