When you first get into the special needs world, the school district gives you a brochure about the IEP process. It stressed that the parents are an equal partner in the process. I remember picturing a room full of people amicably discussing what the child's needs are and laying out the best plan of action to address the needs. The way I imagined it, everyone one was supportive and helpful.
The reality can be quite different, especially in these tight economic times. Last year, we had to endure two IEP meetings at the school where my daughter attended public preschool. This school was not our home school, and my daughter was only attending their preschool for less than one academic year. The first IEP meeting we went to really caught me off-guard. We had already had our initial IEP meeting at the district level and that meeting went fairly well. Everyone was pretty congenial, and the meeting went fairly close to how I imagined it would. It still was a horribly painful meeting. At its best, it's awful to talk about how your child is falling short in areas and needs extra help.
Now, the IEP meetings at my daughter's public preschool were pretty awful. At the first meeting, we were trying to get speech services and occupational therapy (OT) for our daughter. The school had done assessments in these two areas and were arguing that the assessments showed that our daughter didn't need services in these areas. Her speech assessment did show above age-level vocabulary and sentence construction, but horrible conversation skills. Nevertheless, they told us services weren't provided for conversational skills and denied her services. We did get these services through an appeal process called Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR). I'm still confused why we just weren't granted the services to begin with and were essentially lied to.
The OT assessment didn't show any shortcomings period, so no services were granted. The school personnel first attacked the independent psychologist's assessment that we paid for which recommended some OT. They argued that the psychologist couldn't possibly know our daughter better than they did. Next, they implied that we should get our daughter to a medical doctor to address our concerns. This implied that they were suggesting medicating our daughter so she could attend to classroom instruction better. It was just an awful experience.
So, we're having an IEP meeting at my daughter's home school this coming Monday. This meeting will be to determine what services she'll need for the first grade. We love this school and have been actively involved with the school, but it will be the first time we'll have an IEP meeting here. We know, and are on good terms with, the teachers and professionals who will be at the meeting. I think they really "get" and appreciate both my daughter's strengths and weaknesses. So, I'm very hopeful the meeting will be constructive and successful and hopefully more respectful than it was at the other school.
Nevertheless, I'm a nervous wreck about it! Send good thoughts!