The answer is yes ... and no.
The longer answer is that I failed as an advocate.
When we had our IEP meeting with the middle school team we were hoping it would be a somewhat quick meeting to discuss her placement. We had a previous meeting the middle school team wasn't available for when we discussed Kayla's progress, present level of performance, & suggested goals for next year. I didn't think we were going to go over all that again, but since the middle school team wasn't there for that the meeting started off with that information.
Our kids were with us in the meeting. I brought snacks and other things to keep them busy, but let's face it - after spending all day at school the last thing they wanted to do is sit in a conference room. They were very well-behaved though and quiet throughout the meeting.
By the time we got to what I think of as the nitty-gritty of the meeting, we were about an hour and a half into the meeting. I had a feeling this could become a long discussion.
As the discussion progressed we realized we were up against another brick wall. We realized we were up against all the same arguments and resistance we were met with throughout the elementary years.
When someone from the middle school team was looking over the example of modified science materials Kayla's gen ed teacher brought and said, "What is the benefit ...?" and trailed off speechless with a look of disbelief on her face, I have to admit I mentally checked out. In my mind the meeting was over. I was done.
I was absolutely done with all of it. I was done with the last few years of meetings consisting of eye rolls, sighs, facial expressions, and side whispers. I was done with feeling like we were crazy for suggesting our child could be educated in the general education setting. I was done with the animosity. I was done with the tension. I was done with the negativity.
I knew it would be fruitless to again present so much evidence - so much! - to show best practice, to show research, to show successful inclusion, all for naught.
I was done with trying to explain how this can work. I was done with hoping that one person on her team would finally say "Let's figure out how we can make inclusion successful."
With that comment of "What is the benefit?" I knew what kind of walls we would be facing because we heard a similar comment of "What's the point of even teaching her about the Civil War?" from someone at the district level at a previous IEP meeting. I knew this disbelief of an inclusive education for students with disabilities is from the district level on down to the school level.
We were tired of hearing she didn't belong in a ged ed room because it wasn't beneficial to her - because she would be like "a one-person classroom within the classroom", "in her own bubble in the back of the classroom", that "the aide would become her teacher and she would be getting most of her instruction from the aide instead of the highly qualified special ed teacher." Yes that's how 'inclusion' looked because that's how they did inclusion, because that's the way they made it happen.
The district does not have an inclusion plan in place; they do not regularly, or routinely, make it a practice to educate students with intellectual disabilities in the ged ed setting, unless they are near grade-level. IDEA does not say a student has to be close to grade level or that they need to earn their way in to a ged ed classroom.
How do I know this? Statistics paint the picture.
In 2013 there were a total of 82 students with Mild Intellectual Disability as their primary diagnosis in Elementary (27), Middle (22), and High School (33).
Out of those total 82 students ONE was included in gen ed for 80% or more of the day. (I don't know if that student was elementary, middle, or high.)
Out of those 82 students only 17 were in gen ed 79-40% of their day. I wish I had the breakdown of how many of those 17 were in gen ed near the 79% and how many were included near the 40%.
Out of those 82 students SIXTY were in gen ed for less than 40% of their day. (The remaining 4 were homebound/residential facility).
So 73% of students with mild intellectual disabilities are in gen ed for less than 40% of their day.
That's how inclusive education looks like in this district - virtually non-existent.
So it's not just that Kayla's needs are too great to be met in a ged ed classroom, but it appears the vast majority of students with mild intellectual disability can't be educated in the gen ed classroom for their core academic classes. Because less than 40% of their day really means they're only being included in fine arts, lunch, and recess... and I hardly consider that time to be 'general education' time.
Their placement recommendation would have Kayla fall in the less than 40% of her day category; a more restrictive placement than what she had this year.
Why is the percentage of time included in gen ed so important to me?
In a coincidence of timing I read a blog post after I got home from that meeting about suggestions to parents of children with intellectual disabilities to prepare them for college.
Among the several tips from Daivd L. Westling, Ed.D and Kelly R. Kelley, Ph.D. from the University Participant Program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC was one a tip on inclusion. In part, the tip said, "Even though it might take extra effort on your part and on the school's and teacher's part, inclusion is the best education for someone who wants to go to college."
We did let the team know that our goal and vision for Kayla is to attend college if she so chooses and she needs to be included to help make that a successful transition.
Because I was done mentally and emotionally, I was done fighting with the district, and in my mind she wouldn't be going to that school next year anyway (more on our options in another post), we caved.
We wanted the meeting to be over. We didn't want to drag it on any longer in a futile effort to maybe get our daughter reluctantly included at a minimum in science and/or social studies.
We should have called an end to the meeting and reconvened at a later date, but we basically said "fine" with their recommended placement because I didn't care anymore and we wanted to get out of the meeting.
I know that was absolutely not the right thing to do in an IEP meeting; believe me I know. I just can't emphasize enough how much I was done with the whole thing.
I reacted irrationally based on emotions - again - not the best way to handle an IEP meeting.
I figured that if other options didn't work out and we had to continue with her going to this school that we would request an IEP before school started, and we would ask Protection and Advocacy to represent Kayla; again. P&A represented Kayla a couple of years ago and while it ended up being a moot point, she initially took the case because they were suggesting a more restrictive placement. We would have another case against the more restrictive setting so we should not have agreed to that IEP and instead just requested another meeting.
Truthfully I was not mentally prepared to have to go through yet another stressful meeting with more of the same.
So I failed as an advocate by saying "fine" to be done with it, because I knew we had other options and I didn't want to discuss this middle school placement anymore.
I know that if she does end up at that middle school that they will have to follow that IEP as written and that was our mistake to leave it like that. We will have to request another meeting and start the process all over again. To prepare for that possibility we shouldn't have agreed to that placement, but we will cross that bridge if we need to.
For now we are hopeful that she will be attending another middle school.