~"Trouble...trouble trouble trouble trouble...Trouble been dogging my soul since the day I was born."~ Ray Lamontagne
It was a dark and stormy night...well actually it was a lovely afternoon...the sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky..it was a perfect fall day. I was on my way to an I.E.P. meeting..Zoe, my youngest, needed to have services set up for her in the pre-school. She was officially diagnosed with PDD(nos), selective mutism, and tics, roughly about four months ago. For the past year, she has been receiving occupational therapy for weak motor skills. To put it in a nutshell-my girl has needs. I figured that this would be a quick meeting-set up her services, sign a couple of papers, make some small talk and I'd be home in plenty of time to down a gallon or so of coffee before the herd was home for the day. I am not a novice at IEP meetings. After participating in them for ten years, I see myself as sort of a professional. I am to the IEP meeting what the "Lord of the dance" is to...well dancing-only my shoes are way more stylish.
So I sauntered into the meeting, took my seat..made a little chit chat..I was calm..happy even. I believed that my girl was going to get what she needed and life would go on. BIG MISTAKE. Our case worker started by asking how Zoe was doing at school. Her teacher replied that she followed the routine..didn't talk much, but seemed to be settling in. I responded that Zoe loved going to school-and that talking was one of the issues we needed to work on. From this brief exchange, the caseworker decided that perhaps Zoe didn't need intervention..that because she was able to speak, her right to a public education was not being impeded..and that she wouldn't qualify for services. I interjected with "She has a diagnosis of select mutism AND autism!" and was roundly told "Diagnosis doesn't mean anything-and that if she didn't have a diagnosis, she could be seen as just "shy" and shyness didn't qualify for services...that perhaps she had "mental health issues" that could be dealt with in therapy-something the state didn't
Oh good lord! The permanent record ploy? Really? For those of you that don't know-the idea of a "permanent record" is a tactic used by many educational uummm... institutions across the country. From about fifth grade on-everything and anything you may or may not do in the school environment is said to be put on your permanent record. Test scores.."borrowing" the school van and filling it with crumpled newspapers..after school activities..all of them will be jotted down in ink ..and supposedly this record will
I admit...I was a little blown away by this. A little gob-smacked. I got a annoyed...frustrated...a tad bit angry. I strongly suggested she read the DSM..(hell, I even quoted it!) that in doing so she might realize that autism was a neurological disorder. I asked her how mental health therapy could possibly benefit my daughter." She's FOUR YEARS OLD! What in the world would she possibly talk about-My little pony??!!" She then suggested that perhaps I would consider cancelling services for a while to "see how things go.."( As a side note to anyone here new to diagnosis-CANCEL NOTHING! You will have to fight a zillion times harder to get services reinstated)...She then of course assured me that getting services back would be "simple". HA!...sigh.. I am only slightly ashamed to admit that at that point I asked her if she had been "smoking crack".... We were at an impasse. Neither one of us was going to budge. So we agreed to have an educational consultant come in to observe Zoe in the classroom. That we would meet again in thirty days to discuss the results of those findings. In the meantime Zoe would continue to receive services.
Of course as soon as I got home, I began calling every advocacy group that I could think of and was considering consulting an education attorney. If I had to fight, I would. No one messes with my kids and gets away with it! I am an experienced mother!..and I wear great shoes! sigh... Wouldn't you know it... It seems that all of my phone calls turned out to be unnecessary. After spending two days in Zoe's classroom...Guess what? The consultant believes that my girl has issues after all! When our our caseworker called to tell me that perhaps Zoe did indeed qualify-I exclaimed very loudly (in my head) "You mean that I wasn't making it all up! Wasn't in some sort of plot to bilk the state out of money in an effort to get unnecessary services for my daughter! Because really, autism is the "thing" to have these days." The caseworker then
What I failed to consider before our meeting was our recent state budget cuts. The intention of our caseworker was to cut us off from services-thus saving her agency money. In essence, letting her agency off the hook-and in effect, dropping it into the lap of the school system next year. (kids aren't covered by this state agency when they start kindergarten) I also believe that she thought she would be able to walk all over me. Big mistake. I mean, if she had only read my "permanent record" she would have known better.