"Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts". ~ William Shakespeare ~
When my son was "officially" diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, we were living in the Carmel School District. We had to meet with the CPSE to discuss an appropriate placement for Aren. I was told good things about the St. Francis special education program so we started there. Aren was there the first 2 years of pre-school but thought he wasn't coming along as well as we hoped. At the end of his 2nd year, we met for the end of year meeting. We advocated for a different placement in a school that would require Aren to travel approximately one hour away from home. It was the Hawthorne Country Day School and they use ABA - applied behavioral analysis approach to learning. As Aren's parents, the commute for our son was well worth it if he meant his educational needs would be met. That is what an FAPE is intended for - an appropriate education that addresses a child's individual needs. I emphasize this because special education is not intended as a one size, fits all approach. We were not looking for the best education because 'best' isn't intended under the law. We wanted an appropriate placement to help Aren's disability.
After much discussion and negotiation explaining why an ABA program would address Aren's needs, the CPSE chair was in agreement to the placement. It wasn't difficult although every special education meeting tends to be stressful for parents. The decisions made in the meeting influences the resources our children will receive or not. In this district, we didn't have to write dozens of letters, recite the law or bring in an parent advocate. It was clear Aren needed more then what the St Francis placement was able to provide. The CPSE chair showed consideration to my son's indiviudal needs. He recognized, our son's needs would have a better chance of being met in another placement. This is what we call "teamwork".
Each child's individual needs must be addressed as according to the law. An IEP team as defined puts parents at the top of the list. Our concerns must be given respectful consideration - not an illusion of consideration. The difference is obvious when the committee chair says to a parent, "we have to agree to disagree". That statement doesn't show respect for a parent's concern. That statement says, I heard your concerns but I'm not listening. The district's agenda is premeditated regardless of what the parent brings to the meeting. A premeditated agenda doesn't consider the individual, educational needs of a child. The district is thinking only about their own needs, IE. cost of out of district placement, large egos who arrogantly dismiss parents concerns as some form of hysteria and refuse to acknowledge the fact the child's performance might improve elsewhere if only given a chance. This is the thing I'm facing now in the Webutuck School District where I live with my family.