We’re finally getting the IEP process underway. This week, we’re in the middle of tests and evaluations from multiple different school personnel. The diagnostician (I’m still unclear why we’re meeting her?) the speech/language pathologist, the psychologist, the school social worker – all of them. It’s a fun, exciting time in our lives. (is the sarcasm thick enough?)
In case you don’t have my whole life memorized, my 6-year-old son needs speech therapy. In our state, homeschoolers are eligible for some services, and they are required by state law to evaluate him just like they would a public school student. Nothing in the law says they have to be happy about it. They’re not.
The hostile staff
During the initial IEP meeting, the school psych accused me of cheating on the standardized test for my son. Because his language scores were fairly on level, but I told them he couldn’t read. I politely explained that the test was taken online, and the questions were voice-over except for the reading comprehension section. Which he failed. His vocabulary is great, his language comprehension is good, but he can’t read. Zilch.
So guess who we had our first session with yesterday? Yup, the hostile psych. Now, I’m trying to be super gracious and forgiving because I know she cares about the students she works with. She knows the damage that abuse and neglect can do, especially given the recent abuse cases involving homeschoolers in the news. So I get it. She doesn’t know me, she knows nothing about our family except that we homeschool, and that we’re asking the school to provide services when they’re already stretched thin.
Funnily enough, the psych is the person who oversees the educational evaluation. What does that mean?
She observes the child in their standard teaching environment. Normally, that would be in the classroom. We’re homeschoolers, so she wanted to observe at home. I requested the legal justification for that in writing, and they changed it to the school instead.
What do I do?
Now, to be honest, I panicked a bit. If they were hostile towards homeschooling, I KNEW they would go ballistic if I told them we didn’t use curriculum. Because that’s educational neglect in the eyes of most school officials, right? So I couldn’t go in there for the observation and do what we normally do, which is talk about things, watch videos, do hands-on stuff, and so on.
I asked advice from a homeschool group and they were super helpful, as always. They suggested that I pick a strength area to demonstrate, a weakness area (reading, in this case) and teach him a new concept. So that’s what I did.
I also set out to prove that he didn’t cheat. I didn’t cheat. Whatever.
Math – his strength
His most visible strength is math. So I combined that with the new concept idea and taught him how to solve for an unknown variable using multiplication. I also included a review of the fractions and regrouping problems that I talked about in an earlier post.
Right about the time that he correctly told me how to zero out a number in the equation, she leaned forward. She stopped me, wiggled her pencil a bit and asked “he’s in first grade, right?” I smiled brightly and said “yes!” He went on to finish out the math problems, demonstrating verbal mastery but difficulty in writing it correctly (a language issue.)
Along the way we discussed the meanings of a few big words and he demonstrated his vocabulary skills. I had him simplify his fractions, asked him to redo his reversed number 3 about four times, and brought him back to task about 10 times.
He needed wiggle breaks every 3 minutes. He couldn’t control himself because of her tempting toy shelf. He couldn’t focus, and I had to keep getting him to look at me so that he could lip read as I talked and understand me. And that was all for his strength portion!
Then, reading. I had a short worksheet about a science topic that I knew he would be interested in. Didn’t help.
1 short sentence – he couldn’t tell me what it said after he read it. Second short sentence – he was frustrated and struggling. Third short sentence – he gave up. Complete refusal, “you do it!” with attitude, and frustration. I knew he would struggle but I didn’t think he would give up.
That’s when she stopped me, having observed enough. I didn’t even get to do our sight word game! Oh well.
I wanted to laugh. Instead of being anxious or worried about the evaluation we managed to work fairly normally. Kiddo demonstrated his abilities, but also his inabilities in a very real way. I’m sure she hasn’t changed her opinion of homeschoolers just because we came in, but I’m sure she’s breathing a sigh of relief that the school doesn’t need to deal with him in a classroom setting. They would have to turn my kid into a medicated zombie to get him to function in a school environment. (Medication has its place. We don’t think the Engineer needs it for now.)
Next up – diagnostician. What fun!
[…] I’ve written about this earlier: we think the Engineer has auditory processing disorder (APD) and it’s hindering his reading abilities, among other things. We think he needs speech therapy. So we started the IEP evaluation process again (denied the first time too) armed with a list of official diagnoses and ready to advocate. I didn’t even get the chance. […]
I enjoy reading your posts, and am in a very similar situation to you with my homeschooled 2e son. Thank you for sharing your experiences! The one thing I am a bit surprised about, however, is your “medicated zombie” assessment of kids who are on ADHD medications. I was also anti-medication for many years (BEFORE I had a son with intense ADHD), and spoke ill of it. However, we now have walked the medication route, and my son is *not* a zombie. He is still intense, creative, imaginative, and smart as a whip, even though we have him on medication — AND able to sit through lessons. I know you don’t mean that we are all medicating our children into glassy-eyed zombies, but that sort of comment can keep people from seeking out needed help.
Hi Sarah, thanks for reading! I’m sorry that you read my comment as applying to all children, because that certainly wasn’t my intent. In fact, I wasn’t even referring to ADHD meds, even though they would probably recommend those too. I was actually referring to anti-anxiety medication, among others, to help him tolerate the sensory issues and the anxiety issues he would experience in a school setting. And having been on anti-anxiety meds myself, I can attest to feeling like a zombie 😉 My son’s bouncy, wiggling attention problems stem more from SPD than ADHD, even though it can appear to be the same thing at times.
As the article says, medication has its place. For many people it’s extremely helpful – for my son, it’s not, as long as we’re homeschooling. For now, that is – we know that can change quickly.