I’m completely gobsmacked after Gabriel’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting this afternoon. Ostensibly, it’s a chance to review a child’s educational goals, dispense with those that were achieved, and set new ones. Any parent with a special needs child will tell you that these meetings can require a lot of restraint and diplomacy. Often they’re a giant waste of time, regurgitating old information and setting goals that won’t be looked at again until the next IEP meeting.
Working in the disability community and being a pretty active parent advocate makes it all the worse because I KNOW what a child’s rights to an education are and I KNOW how they are being trampled by our public education system which is terribly broken. I KNOW how the system is failing Gabriel (and so many others in this district and this province).
I could enumerate the ways that today’s meeting when sideways but for brevity’s sake I’ll just share one exchange from the “Functional Academics” goal area (heavily paraphrased):
Me to aide: What are you doing for reading comprehension?
Aide: We read the same book over and over again and I ask the same questions over and over again and eventually he learns the answers by rote.
Me: So you don’t set goals and keep track of what’s working, then try things differently until you find what’s working and he ‘gets’ it?
Aide: He just can’t comprehend what he’s reading, he’s shown us that, it’s just memorization.
Me: But the goal is to teach “reading comprehension”.
Teacher: But he can’t do it.
Me: Kids with autism have trouble with reading comprehension, we know that’s one of the hallmarks of autism. We know he learns differently than typical kids, that’s why we need to teach him differently. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, there are systems to teach this stuff. There are resources you can get.
Aide: Okay, but, well, we don’t have time to look on the internet for these resources but…
Me: You’re aides, your job is to implement the curriculum that you’re given. It isn’t your job to find this stuff, you need to be given the resources to teach him. There’s POPARD, there’s <district’s autism support teacher name>, there’s… <meaningful look at the Skills For Life classroom’s teacher, a special education teacher, a teacher who specializes in special education>
Teacher: Okay, I’ll try calling <district’s autism support teacher name>
Thing is, it just didn’t even occur to them to try. They didn’t even fucking try.
I don’t know how many pennies I dropped in the jar. It was a handful.