Sunday, December 27, 2009

Meetings

In Jess' first year, I participated in many meetings. Meetings with school staff, meetings with psychologists, hospital speech therapists, hospital physical therapists, and the Administration of the District. Beth and I kept a 'Communication Book' that we kept information in about how Jessica did in school and home. This is a most valuable tool. It helped us track the direction her mood took and when to expect visits to the bathroom or how the lack of visits could influence her day. We were able to identify environmental issues that impacted Jessica's day. Beth also kept me informed of meetings and who had come to observe Jessica.
When it came time for Jessica's IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting in May, I felt I was prepared for whatever may happen. I arrived at the school about 20 minutes early, checked in with Beth (who wasn't invited to the meeting?) and was directed to sit on this chair that was placed in the hall outside the meeting door. I watched as teachers and students walked by and participants of the meeting went in. When everyone who was part of this meeting had been shown to their seat, I was allowed to join them, at the end of the table.
The usual introductions were made and then one by one the teacher, psychologist, principal, superintendent, and Special Education Director made their point as to why they felt Jessica would progress in a different setting, in another school, in another town. I patiently listened and took notes. The language that would have confused me a year ago became so much more important to me because I could now use it right back. My ECE training was kicking in.
When it came my turn to speak, I took my time. Slowly I took each participants argument and debated the points they had made. I took particular exception to the fact that Jessica had gotten through the year without having any of the supports offered her that should have been. How could they possibly recommend another placement when this placement had not even supported her with the services she needed? No speech therapy? No behavior management? In my conclusion, I firmly stated that Jessica deserved another year in her community school with the supports that she needed. There was no argument.
Afterwards, the Superintendent came over to me and said "I don't ever want to be in that position again. You are a remarkable advocate for your daughter." He also mentioned that it was his goal to have parents and the school community work as a team to make sure Jessica is successful in her placement. I thanked him and said that if he truly wanted the parents to feel welcome at these proceedings, he would let parents enter the room when they arrive and choose their own seat. Immediately he understood where I was coming from. I never waited in the hall again and to my knowledge, noone else did either. Terry and I became very good friends and we have never lost respect for each other since that day.

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