Flying without an IEP

May 16, 2011 Kyron No Comments

IMG 0132 150x150 Flying without an IEP Today is his last day of Preschool and my last IEP meeting…

My youngest was getting ready for school this morning in between complaining of a stomach ache. He’s not sick – thank goodness, just a good ole case of the nerves. All the time I was trying to build him up and encourage him about what the future (in specific Kindergarten) brings I couldn’t help but feel like vomiting myself. Today I have his last IEP meeting… at least for now.

My son Donovan was diagnosed with Autism back in 2009. At the time I thought he was just very shy and introverted. He had such a rough time with the preschool we had enrolled him in. Getting him out of the house each morning was a test of wills. He acted like he had just been saved from a torture chamber many days when he was picked up. I knew it was a safe school, a good environment, a wonderful teacher. I just thought he was having a little problem adjusting. For almost a year. You’d think I didn’t have a kid who had special needs already. I was blind, oblivious. The beating I gave myself can be another post…I digress. Then we took a vacation which turned our world upside down. We still refer to it as the vacation from hell. It was the first time we had taken him out of our regular routine, our little corner of the world – and it all came out. Looking back, I thought maybe he was a little off on the drive to Savannah. It was a 3 hour drive from where we lived and we were driving in the evening. I figured it was just that he wasn’t sleeping and that’s why he was “off”. The next morning in the hotel room, I tried to convince myself he was just sleep deprived. By the end of that first day both my husband and I were ready to end the “vacation”. It was feeling more like a medieval torture device than rest and relaxation. It took three hours to calm Donovan down in the hotel room that night during which time I was fairly certain someone who had the room on either side of ours would almost certainly call and complain and insist we be kicked out! The whirling dervish ran out of whatever it was that was powering him and he collapsed but it was another hour or two before he was completely out and it would be months before my nerves would start to heal. Something was wrong. I took him to the pediatrician the day after we got home who sent him for evaluation and one month later the spectre of autism was no longer just something we had by proxy through Katherine. It was something we had in our day to day with Donovan. He was evaluated by the Student Support Team in the public school system and he started in a special education preschool. And now we’re at today.

The IEP has given us the tools to help Donovan thrive

Donovan has made great progress. He’s far more social than he’s ever been. He no longer hates going to school. He has even progressed to the point where he will walk to class with his teacher instead of needing either myself or his dad to take him down to the classroom in the morning. By every reasonable measure he’s succeeding in preschool. Great right? Yea, mixed bag. He’s doing so well he’s losing his IEP today which means he no longer qualifies for services and is being “kicked out” or graduated today.

I’ve racked my brains for a way to keep him under an IEP. It’s not that I’m not thrilled with the progress he’s made. It’s just that I have incredible concerns that those gains are going to be lost when put into a regular class next year with 20 or so of his peers – and no support system, no back up. In this last ditch effort, I’ve been searching WrightsLaw and Google trying to find an answer. I finally found the answer. It just wasn’t necessarily the answer I wanted. A tweet gave me the information I already kind of knew, but had forgotten how to verbalize. It wasn’t that Donovan didn’t have a diagnosis of Autism. It was that his diagnosis didn’t mean he qualified for services. Doug Goldberg wrote a great piece at the Special Education Advisor on Why someone with a medical diagnosis might not qualify for an IEP. If you’re struggling with your child being in what I now refer to as the murky middle, maybe this article can help you too. For now I just hope and pray that the lack of the safety net doesn’t bring us crashing back down. Meantime I’ll keep verbally painting bright, exciting pictures of a phenomenal Kindergarten for Donovan in which he’ll be given the opportunity to thrive and grow and learn. Maybe if I speak it enough we’ll both believe it.

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