Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

An Education

with 8 comments

We had Pudding’s IEP meeting on Tuesday.  IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan.  All U.S. children are eligible for special education services have an IEP that sets out measurable goals for them to attain.  Generally an IEP lasts for a year, but if you…erm…pull your child out of a placement and put them in a completely different program with a different teacher in a different school, it is necessary to do a new one.  Oh, how we like to be different!

Pudding’s first IEP was written in December right after she turned 3.  We’d been a long time without any services, so we were ready.  I’d read a lot about how I’d need to be her advocate, but I honestly didn’t think that would be necessary.  We were all on the same side, surely, in wanting what was best for Pudding.  Having deliberately moved to the area specifically for the quality Preschool Autism Class (PAC) we were initially discouraged to find that the IEP meeting was taking place at an elementary school offering only special education classes which were not autism specific.  My concerns were shot-down by the teacher asserting that the PAC classes were only for “low-functioning” children with behavioural problems.  And so proceeded a meeting where almost everything had been predetermined.  A lot was made of using a visual schedule for transitions, something I knew to be neither effective nor necessary for Pudding, who transitions well (most of the time).  When I said this, I was reminded that the teacher had vast experience with lots of children, including those with the same diagnoses.  Feeling like a “helicopter parent” I backed down.  How I wish I’d spoken up!  But I’d lost my voice back then, and it took me a while to find it.

I started to find it when we watched Pudding become more and more anxious and withdrawn.  Then we saw more regression than progress.  When I spoke to the teacher, she just kept telling me to give it time.  One time in a meeting the teacher casually referred to Pudding crying every Wednesday when it was the group OT session.  It was the first time I’d heard of her crying, and apparently it had been happening every week.  I suggested that there may be sensory issues in the gym, but the teacher did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Now I was on edge, and debating whether the social aspects of preschool were worth the cost.  I suggested she call me, or send a note home when she had a bad day, but this never happened.  Instead we got photos of Pudding looking everything from sullen to miserable.  I had to carry her in tears to the bus- the one she’d once been so excited to ride.

The culmination of our fears was when I talked to the teacher about how Pudding was possibly over-stimulated, and that was causing her to shut herself off in school.  Rather than admit this was a possibility, the teacher replied that perhaps we should “lower our expectations” when it came to Pudding.  Every professional who has come into contact with Pudding has said the opposite of this, but even had they not, how dare a teacher ever say this to a parent?  Rather than choose to lower our expectations with Pudding, we decided to raise them with regards to her education.  All children deserve to be taught by someone who will help them reach their full potential.  That potential can’t possibly be determined at 3 years of age.

One day, another child was being observed by a PAC teacher, who voiced concerns about the way Pudding seemed so withdrawn and isolated.  She felt her program would be beneficial for Pudding.  The teacher asked myself and Spectrummy Daddy to meet with her.  We took Pudding along, and watched her hug Ms. S and saw our happy, silly girl return.  Less than a week later, she was at the new school, and we haven’t looked back.

This IEP meeting was entirely different.  A negotiation where every person around the table had the sole interest in helping our child.  Ms. S talked about the special relationship she has with Pudding, and joked about coming overseas with us next year.  We agreed, and laughed, but we weren’t joking!  If it weren’t for the pesky business of her being about to be married, we would have made her sign a contract on the spot.

A good teacher looks for a way to connect with a pupil no matter how hard that might be.  They communicate whenever necessary with the parent, looking for ways to help both in and out of school.  Both giving and taking advice from those who know the child best.  They look beyond the diagnosis to see all their strengths and weaknesses, playing the strengths to their advantage and finding ways to work on the weaknesses.  A good teacher can make a world of difference to a child, whether they have special needs or not.

I lost my voice for six months this year, by keeping quiet when I needed to speak out.  I let Pudding down when she needed me, and I’m so sorry for that.  I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen again.  Now I can use my voice to say what really matters: Ms. S, you are amazing- thank you for being the teacher Pudding needs, the kind that every child deserves.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 2, 2010 at 7:17 am

8 Responses

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  1. It warms my heart to know that your child has found such a loving and dedicated teacher. All children deserve that. And this issue of knowing when to speak up is an incredibly difficult one for all parents, I think. My personal philosophy regarding being a “helicopter parent” is that only the parents can be true judges of that…. in the end, I know my child best. Educators and doctors may be the subject matter expert on the diagnosis, but I’m the subject matter expert on *my child*.


    August 2, 2010 at 9:06 am

  2. I am so glad that you spoke up for your child, as a teacher who works with students with disabilities and as a parent of a child with a language delay I do find that the parents that are involved see their students get more of what they need. Your daughter is very blessed to have you fighting for her. You had a bad experience, and that can make or break you but you kept up and now you see the benifits of your fight.

    Your child will not remember what you did for her, but you will see the improvement and remember that this fight was good for you and for her. I hope that you continue to see the improvement, and will look forward to seeing you again soon. Tell the kids we love them!


    August 2, 2010 at 5:10 pm

  3. Reading about your first experience with an IEP broke my heart. We try so hard to make the experience a positive one and guide parents in becoming an advocate for their children. It pains me to hear that you and Pudding had a rough start. Always remember that YOU are her first teacher and listen to your “gut instinct.” I love that you have let Ms. S know how much you appreciate her. Be sure everyone knows-especially the admin.at P’s school. Pudding is so lucky to have you as a mom!


    August 2, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  4. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!! Your words are so kind and have made my evening!!! You are doing a fantastic job being her advocate and don’t think otherwise. You know her really well and are open to learning. I am so very happy that I have been lucky to have her in my class and to meet your family!

    Ms. S

    August 3, 2010 at 2:16 am

  5. Hi 🙂
    I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you for being such a wonderful advocate for your daughter.
    We had a nasty situation earlier this year where my son was actually being victimised and singled out by his awful teacher because she couldn’t handle him and refused to change her ways for only one child.
    She still believes that he just needs a good smacking. She doesn’t understand aspergers AT ALL and refused to be taught.

    We made a little bit of noise to those in charge but got no action so we had to eventually step it up a notch and give an ultimatum and dig our heels in until we got him moved classes.

    And amazingly – he stopped coming home angry, beligerent and sad.


    August 3, 2010 at 3:09 am

    • So sorry to hear about this teacher. It makes me so sad that there are people like this out there, who actually choose to work with children. I’m pleased that the change in classes was successful, but this is the kind of thing that scares me about the future.

      Shame on the teacher, and shame on the school for employing her.


      August 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

  6. […] shouting about.  I lost my voice for a while after Pudding’s diagnosis.  At times I was silent when I should have spoken out.  I’ll make every effort to be part of this ongoing dialogue, even if I can’t always […]

  7. […] writing, forging new friendships, and discovering a community even at my most isolated.  Finding my voice, helping Pudding to use hers.  Sometimes pictures spoke louder than […]

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