There is a lot of great information to read out there about preparing for and participating in your child’s IEP. So far, I have been fairly easy-going about the process, only putting my foot down during kindergarten to demand a functional behavior analysis (FBA), which is required to develop the behavior intervention plan (BIP). This is something they do when you have a child with challenging behaviors, such as aggression or social skills challenges.
Connor’s goals have mainly focused on academics. The teachers and SPED staff have done a fabulous job of pushing him to keep up with his peers, and I give them all the credit in the world for that.
But this year’s IEP has my hackles up and claws out. They did it with one word, compliance.
This year’s IEP has only three goals, and two of them are about doing so many math problems in so many minutes (I could write a whole other post about those goals, as well as the lack of a social skills goal). But the first goal on the list is:
Goal: The student will maintain compliant behaviors.
Mastery Criteria: Given a directive from an adult, Connor complies by mastering the following objectives at the levels indicated below:
Objective 1: Connor voices no refusal and follows through with the request made by an adult with 3 or 4 prompts and/or begins within 5 minutes for 24 out 30 consecutive days.
Objective 2: Connor voices no refusal and follows through with the request made by an adult with 2 prompts and/or begins within 3 minutes for 24 out 30 consecutive days.
Objective 3: Connor follows through with the request made by an adult with 1 prompt and/or begins within 2 minutes for 24 out 30 consecutive days.
Does Connor have problems following directions and doing what he’s told? You betcha. But let me go ahead and throw the flag and call BULLSHIT on this. Here’s why: the goal only focuses on the outcome the school wants, not the tools he will be given to be able to do this.
Let’s examine it more closely:
1. Where’s the baseline data that tells us how often he is currently non-compliant? I don’t see it. How do I know he’s not already half-way mastered this goal?
2. What tells us the reason he is non-compliant, since we all know that behavior is communication? Well we would find that on the functional behavior analysis, which tells us that motivation is either for tangibles, escape, attention seeking, or sensory. But that still doesn’t tell us why he doesn’t comply with an adult’s request. It also doesn’t tell us when. Or where. Is he always non-compliant when asked to read? When doing math? This information is critical in understanding the motivation for the non-compliance.
3. The goal is negative. It tells us what Connor will do, which is to be compliant. That’s it, just compliant. It doesn’t tell us that Connor will learn how to manage anxiety. It doesn’t tell us that he will learn any other skill, only compliance. And compliance is not a skill. The goal is written to make things easier for the school, not easier for Connor.
4. The word “compliance” is better suited for the military. I’m sorry, but the word itself just ignites a fire in me that wants to run out and start a rebellion. These kids are not brainless robots, they are human beings. And while arguing over doing a math worksheet isn’t quite the same as the sentiment to “question authority”, the overall goal is focused on restricting expression, rather than shaping it, honing it into a means of critical thinking.
We spent an hour-and-a-half debating this goal. The reality was that I stated all of the above as objections and it did not sway “the team.” That galls me to no end, to think I’ve been stroked and placated with statements of “you’re part of this team,” when the reality is that they will not budge on a goal that I have valid reasons to disagree with.
Five people at the table, all representing the school district. One person at the table representing Connor…me. Even though it was an unequal balance of power, I somehow stood my ground and managed not to cry. Still, they did not budge.
Until I said, “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
See, the team does not want a parent signing off as “disagree” on the IEP acknowledgement page. This is a bad thing. So now we are keeping the current IEP in place so that the school social worker can finish up her 3-year re-evaluation, and then myself, the SPED teacher, and the district autism specialist will meet and try to hammer out some goals.
If a student has a BIP in place, then the school is required to have a behavior goal in the plan. Since I’ve got a whole folder filled with samples of appropriate behavior goals, this should be no problem, right?
This is not an indictment of all schools everywhere, or even of our own district. My hope is that this will serve as a guide for other parents that are navigating the school system and IEP regulations, and will show you how to advocate for your child, and how to become an active player in the drafting of the IEP.
Follow ups to come in the next month, after our planning and follow-up IEP meetings.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7815007@N07/7249830848/”>Ken Whytock</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>