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Sophie’s IEP is Mildly Retarded

posted Wednesday September 10th, 2008

Tomorrow’s a big day. Or not.

Sophie’s IEP team is meeting, to review her first month of kindergarten.

When we were putting the finishing touches on Sophie’s IEP (Individualized Education Program, the document that prescribes her school situation, from what therapies she gets to where she pees) I insisted we reassemble the team (everyone from principal to teacher to therapists to parents) a month into kindergarten, to see how Sophie was doing.

I could feel some internal eye rolling; IEP’s are a huge pain in the butt, if only for how hard it is to get all those people in the room at the same time. But at the time I signed the IEP, I had real doubts — mainly about Sophie’s safety at a “big kids” school. Why not get together to see how things are going, and make changes if necessary?

OK. It was agreed. When the speech therapist — a lovely woman who’s new to the school, if not the profession — suggested we meet September 11, I bristled. School started August 4th. That’s NOT a month. It’s five weeks. But I kept my mouth shut. I have learned to do that, in such situations. The ballbuster me (gee, wonder where Sophie gets THAT?) has learned to make way for the sweet-as-pie-mother-of-a-special-needs-kid me. Well, sometimes the ballbuster gets in the way. We’ll see tomorrow. But for now, I’ve been fairly sweet, if I do say so myself.

I didn’t say anything about the date, but when the speech therapist then emailed to confirm this would just be a “get to know each other” session, I freaked a little. Um, no, I replied. This is an IEP meeting. There might be changes necessary.

I hear the speech therapist is freaked, too. Apparently she IS rather new, and she’s used to dealing with kids with speech delays, rather than global disabilities. And here it gets a little confusing: Sophie has the “mild retardation” label but her IQ is so high (and yes, I know, IQ tests are bullshit, but hey, better high than low, I always say, to paraphrase Shrek) she doesn’t qualify for services from the special education teacher, who would typically lead the team.

In any case, I am approaching this meeting with trepidation. I already know that I won’t get what I want, which is a parttime aide to keep Sophie safe on the playground and at lunch. And I know (after a conversation with the school psychologist yesterday) that I better brace myself for the advice (yet again) that really, Sophie might be better off in a “pull out” program, the one where the other “special” kids go.

But because of her aforementioned IQ, she doesn’t qualify for that “special” program. She belongs where she is. But she needs to be safe. Between this and Sarah Palin, I really do wonder — AM I ON AN EPISODE OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE???

Part of my coping mechanism — when faced with tough kid challenges and fear of the future of America — is to organize. Well, to try. I’ve already shown you pictures of my playroom, so I can’t pretend. I’ve had the stamp pad out a lot. I figure anything that can go in a Rubbermaid from Target is, somehow, containable and doable. I made a new bin for Sophie’s paperwork — and that’s just the stuff from the last couple months that needs to be filed.

So we’ll have this meeting tomorrow (which will generate even more paper for the SOPHIE PAPER bin) and we’ll talk about a lot of things and I’ll bring  up the aide and I’ll get shot down and that will pretty much be that, unless I decide to go all ball buster on them and I really don’t want to do that. I wish I believed in God so I could pray for Sophie’s safety, because at this point that’s my best bet.

And here’s the kicker: My ace in the hole did not pan out. A few weeks ago, I talked to a rather zealous but well-meaning former state legislator, who was horrified Sophie doesn’t get an aide. She insisted that Sophie’s got state dollars attached directly to her, because of her diagnosis, and that I simply need to play that card in the IEP meeting, to tell the group that I know how much extra money they’re getting for Sophie, and that they better spend it on her.

So I made the calls and the preliminary figures are in. I’m double checking, since this sounds so ridiculous even for the painfully backward state of Arizona, but if I’m right, here’s the extra amount of money dedicated to a kid like Sophie (a kid who qualifies as “mildly retarded,” boy I hate that term, I think I hate the word mild even more than the word retarded!), each year of public school:

Nine dollars.

That won’t even buy my Starbucks for a week.

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Tags: Filed under: Sophie Goes to Kindergarten by Amysilverman

5 Responses to “Sophie’s IEP is Mildly Retarded”

  1. You should check into how much $ the schools are receiving for illegal immigrants who don’t speak English. In Oregon I hear the schools receive double the per child allotment.

  2. I’m curious where Linda “heard” this, but it’s definitely not true.

    There is no extra allotment given to schools in Oregon for kids who don’t speak English — legal or otherwise. The only schools that get extra cash are Title 1 schools which are entitled to money from the federal government. (Now, there is a higher Spanish/Russian speaking population at these schools, but the federal allotment has nothing to do with language or race, and everything to do with socioeconomic status.)

    (Sorry Amy, I just can’t let wrong information about the Oregon public school system float around the Internet uncorrected.)

    Also, 9 dollars?!?! Shameful.

  3. I heard the statistics on the Lars Larson show. Regardless, it doesn’t take much logic to figure out that a lot of educational dollars are spent on English as a second language. Probably more than $9!

  4. Megan, I called the Chief Financial Officer of our school district (Susan Fahey – 541-687-3333). She said that the ESL students in our district are counted as one and a half students. For our district the legislature pays $6,000./year per English speaking student but pays $9,000./year for an ESL student. On top of the $9,000., ESL money also comes from various other sources such as local Bonds and interest revenue, which brings the total amount of money provided per ESL student to close to double of that which is provided for an English speaking student (As I stated earlier). I don’t know how Arizona works. My point is that a child who has special education needs, should have those needs met. I think we all would benefit by looking into how our tax dollar is being spent, and to figure out if that is how we want it!!!

  5. Ok, don’t want to threadjack Amy’s blog but really quick:

    School districts are eligible for extra state money to hire ELL teachers, they also receive ESL money from the federal government to meet No Child Left Behind standards. Finally, many ELL students live in low income districts and attend Title 1 schools where they receive even more federal money. So the amount of money a district receives is somewhat proportional to the needs of the students — in some districts it might be double, in others it might be almost nothing.

    While there is certainly room for differences of opinion when it comes to immigration, it’s important to note that not all of Oregon’s ELL kids are undocumented, and blaming ELL programs for a lack of services for other populations does all kids a disservice.

    From the area code, I am guessing you are in 4J? I tried to look up the percentage of ELL students in the district, but their Web site didn’t list it — I bet you guys are one with a high percentage.

    Anyway, this probably comes down to some fundamental difference of opinion, but instead of taking away from one population to fund another, Oregon needs to change its school funding structure to take care of ALL kids I love talking about this stuff, so feel free to e-mail me privately to keep talking…. I hope I didn’t sound snooty in my first comment…

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