Monday, April 11, 2011

ARD/IEP meeting for Pumpkin

Oh. My. Goodness.

I don't even know where to start.

The meeting had all parties in attendance: special ed teacher, regular ed teacher, diagnostician, principal, GAL, CASA worker, CPS worker, bio mom and me.

The diagnostician led the meeting. She started off by going over the documentation that proved Pumpkin met the standards for special ed. As quickly as she could, she rattled off what Pumpkin's neurologist wrote, and then what each of the therapists for the district (physical, occupational and speech) had to say. And I do mean she went fast!

None of it was a surprise to me though. I've been a part of most all the testing. I interviewed with the speech therapist at the school. And, though I didn't work with the other two therapists at the school, I observed separate evaluations at private therapy.

And here is where I've got it a bit easier than most parents. I can listen to everything the professionals have to say about my child and I don't grieve. Pumpkin came to me "as is" and I've never expected more from her than what she is. (OK - well, maybe I have hoped for some things... like potty training. But I'm learning to lower my expectations even further.) I can hear that she's moderately to severely mentally retarded and my hopes and dreams for her aren't shattered.

Then the meeting got interesting.

Pumpkin's special ed teacher started going over the goals for Pumpkin for the rest of this year and all of next year. I'm trying not to be too negative...but there wasn't a SINGLE goal that woman read off that I think Pumpkin will be able to do.

I don't remember them all. My mind started swirling as soon as she started talking. Learn the water cycle?! Sort events by how long they take to do?! Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?!

I want this child to understand "turn around" when it's time for me to brush her hair. To "lay down" when it's time for me to change her diaper. Or even to not call everyone else "Pumpkin". Or not to say "good morning" when it's 7:30PM. I'm pretty sure that being able to separate words into syllables isn't a top priority!!

The diagnostician did say that many of the goals probably seemed a bit lofty. But they are required to make all of Pumpkin's goals align with the goals of her same aged peers. (Stupid stupid stupid No Child Left Behind at its finest!!) They just have to modify them down to Pumpkin's level. She probably only said that because as the teacher went on and on with the ridiculous goals she's put into place, my eyes got bigger and bigger and my mouth probably dropped open. I couldn't help myself.

I advocate as much as I can whenever it's appropriate. I did verbally agree with the diagnostician that the goals seemed lofty. I did say that my ONLY goal for Pumpkin is to improve her communication! But my hands were tied. I'm just the foster mom. No one else had anything to say at the meeting. (That's probably why it only lasted for 42 minutes.) And, honestly, I was so dumbfounded that I didn't know what to say. I'm not really in a position to take on an established school system. Especially not as a foster mom. And really, the things they are proposing won't "hurt" Pumpkin. If the diagnostician is correct, they will be modifying these goals down so much that they might even help Pumpkin learn how to make choices and communicate better.

Nevertheless, I signed all the paperwork and was thankful that it didn't drag on for hours and hours. (I was under the impression that most ARD meetings take much, much longer than 42 minutes.) I have already spoken with Pumpkin's CPS worker about the realities of Pumpkin's developmental level. I have expressed my concern that bio mom isn't aware of the severity of Pumpkin's delays. I met with the CASA workers to let them know the same things. And I spoke in great detail with Pumpkin's GAL last week about all of this as well. It is up to these people to deal with Pumpkin's mom and to let her know that the goals the school is setting for her daughter are completely unrealistic. I've done my part the best that I can.

What a joke!


MamaFoster said...

it is amazing what people come up with. does your agency acknowledge how delayed she is? as in, do they have her classified as the correct "level" in their paper work?

CherubMamma said...

My agency doesn't get to set the "level" for Pumpkin. It's done by some independent group in a totally different state. However, our CPS worker originally thought that Pumpkin was only "moderate" so that is what she included in her report. (We have three levels: basic, moderate and specialized.)

When Pumpkin had her psychological evaluation, the psychologist said that while it is ultimately up to the independent group that decides these things, he determines Pumpkin to be "specialized". His opinion didn't get submitted with the original paperwork that set Pumpkin's level because her psych eval hadn't been done yet.

In order to request a level change, I have to keep a daily log on Pumpkin for 30 days. I just finished that last week. These new daily logs, along with any new documentation (ie. her psych eval) will be sent back to the independent agency for review. Hopefully my agency will submit the paperwork soon and we'll get her bumped up to a more appropriate level. Then, CPS will have to acknowledge her level of delay.

I did speak with her GAL in great detail. She understands where Pumpkin is at developmentally. This is a bit of a relief. She's the one that is helping in the search for a relative to care for Pumpkin. She acknowledges that it will take a special commitment from a relative before she will ask for a transfer for Pumpkin out of our home.

jendoop said...

Which means this could turn into a very long placement? (commmenting on your comment)

This meeting seems to be bureaucracy at its finest - we had this meeting because we have to have this meeting, and everything we'd determined here will be changed.

You're doing a great job for Pumpkin!

Anonymous said...

As a former educator who worked very closely with the special education program... well, this is one of the many reasons I left. It's all really absurd. Not that you asked, but here's a tip. Do with it what you will:

Get a binder. A big one. With colored tabs. In them keep P's medical, educational, psychological, etc. information. Everything! Have a place for notes. When you go to meetings for her, pull out this big binder. You don't even have to open it. Just pull it out and put your pen on top.

You will look like business. People will treat you like business. Then you can be heard. (I got this tip from elsewhere, I forget who. If I think of it, I'll post you a link). If the people you're meeting with need a copy of a psych eval, or iep, or 501, you'll have it right there. Won't they be amazed. You'll appear informed and concerned. And it will be obvious.

As a foster parent, it works. I got myself one for Simeon and now, no matter where I go, I'm ready and organized. I've got a place to take notes and the people I meet with can see that I'm not just "some" foster parent, I'm here to advocate for and if need be, fight for, this child.

As a teacher, I know it works. There was nothing more assuring and sometimes more frightening than working with someone who clearly had it all together. It made my job easier, but also made me feel more accountable. I knew I couldn't slip up because this parent was watching.

You're doing great, mama! Keep it up :)

CherubMamma said...

That binder idea is an awesome one! It just happens to be how I do things naturally. I too saw that blog post somewhere about making and using a binder. (I think I saw the link on Corey Water's site because she does binders too.) What you described above matches up with the 2" binder I call Pumpkin's Bible. I go NO WHERE with Pumpkin without it.

I obsessed about the whole meeting all day yesterday. I'm going to try and just box it up for now as there is so little I can do. I'm sure I'll obsess like crazy when I actually get copies of what I signed yesterday.

Then, depending on how much of a stink I want to be, I might start writing my own goals for Pumpkin that I want to see in her IEP the next time we sit down to evaluate her educational status. My mom is in the early childhood education field and will be a great resource for me to tap in to. I'm thinking about bringing some reports to the school about how to write developmentally appropriate goals for children.

I have a feeling Pumpkin is going to be with me for quite a long time so this fight isn't over yet.