We weren’t expecting much at yesterday’s I.E.P. meeting but for most of the meeting, things seemed to be going pretty well. I think we had almost been convinced that kindergarten might be okay for Porter this fall, if only we could work out some individual instruction for Porter to help with his pragmatics and social skills so he might be able to finally catch up to his peers. The school district representative was talking in glowing terms about his kindergarten programs and almost sold us on it.
But then in the last reel, as he was putting things down on paper, he offered us two-20 minute individual sessions of speech therapy per week. When you consider how things work in the real world, that’s maybe 10 minutes of actual instruction out of a total week’s class-time of just over 26 hours, or 2.5% of his weekly time in school (1.25% in real world terms). Sarah said afterward that she felt like an overworked waitress who’d just gotten a ten-cent tip. It was insulting. Especially because we really thought we’d made some progress. To have the rug pulled out from under us like that was infuriating.
Porter’s old teacher offered to come in and observe Porter regularly because she says she feels so strongly that Porter should not remain in the class he was in last year. And while we agree, we’re not entirely convinced that kindergarten is the right step either, especially since they’re so damnably unwilling to offer him any individualized instruction. We want to believe her and we will try to meet with her alone next week to discuss it. The fact that there’s only her old class or kindergarten — and nothing in between — is likewise frustrating, especially when you consider that federal law mandates “appropriate education.” I can’t believe that Porter is the first kid ever caught between these two worlds. But to the school district “appropriate care” appears to mean whatever they already have in place and don’t have to spend additional money on. It seems odd that every single time, both for us and other parents we’ve spoken to, whatever classes they already had in place were in their “expert opinion” just perfect for every kid in the school district. How convenient.
But as to our school district rep., he was obviously perfectly cast in the bad cop role. It’s very obvious that they’ve all been trained in negotiating techniques designed to manipulate parents. We know for a fact that Marin Country offers such classes for their teachers and administrators because we’ve come across the course titles online. That fact that they are unwilling to admit that their real concern — and perhaps their only concern — is money and their budget makes the entire process dishonest. Our agenda is obvious and out in the open. We don’t want to break their bank, we don’t want anything unreasonable, we simply want what’s best for Porter. Their agenda, on the other hand is couched in mystery as they pretend to care so deeply for Porter’s welfare and then insult us by denying him anything we ever ask for. They take a very “take-it-or-leave-it” approach. Throughout the meeting, Sarah had been talking about one-hour sessions three times a week. They remarked that they only had a speech therapist there two times a day. So then when they offered us a mere 20 minutes twice a week, I thought Sarah was going to come unglued. I was the calm one, if you can believe that. When Sarah used the “L” word — legal — you would have thought she’d attacked him with a knife he recoiled so fast with mock anger and indignation. It’s so frustrating that they’re playing a game with Porter’s future. All the techniques Sarah sees in her daily work are there on display in these meetings. But instead of a few million dollars here and there being at stake, it’s a child. It’s our child. It’s Porter. They’re using negotiating techniques to play a game with his future. I don’t believe in hell, but if I did I hope there’s a separate wing for people who mess with kids.
Perhaps some might say because it’s our child that we are incapable of perspective, but I honestly believe that what we were asking for was not unreasonable. We asked for three hours of individual instruction a week (about 11.4% of his class time), they offered us 40 minutes (2.5%) and then said “that’s what it is” in effect saying take or leave it fully expecting, I presume, that we’d cave in and jeopardize our son’s future. Obviously this is an emotional issue for a parent, but you want to believe that your child’s school cares about his future, too. When their actions so starkly show that they really don’t, it’s very disheartening and depressing.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. But I think we’ll be using the “L” word a bit more now that they’ve essentially left us no choice.