Lies, damned lies, and IEPs

We thought we were past the lunacy of IEPs. We were wrong.

A long time ago, we sent Namine to a public preschool. In order to do that, we had to put together, with the help of the school, an IEP. Having heard about the horrors of IEPs from other special needs parents, I was determined to avoid such pitfalls for Namine’s sake. Surely, I thought, any educator who desires the best learning experience for his or her student will help the parents and child out in any way possible.

Despite all my perfect plans and good intentions, I failed. We failed – but most importantly, the educators failed. Because frankly, my dear, some of them just don’t give a damn. Some of them just care about their own plans, and some children get left behind in the process.

We ended up taking Namine out of that messed up school, ultimately because Namine was being verbally and physically bullied and the educators – from the teacher in charge all the way up to the superintendent – would do nothing about it. “Kids will be kids,” they said.

Well, we got Namine out of that situation toot sweet. We definitely wanted to send Namine to a school, more for the social interaction than anything else. Jessica, being a teacher, can handle the lessons. Playdates can only take you so far. We even got so far as taking a tour of the school where we intended on sending Namine.

We’d planned on taking this year off, since Namine was no longer in preschool, in the interest of having the Fontan done. Namine did not need it yet, but she was a good, healthy candidate for it and we didn’t want to wait until she did need it. Her cardiologist agreed.

Even though Namine is pretty much recovered from the Fontan, she still has a crazier schedule than any normy kid. Aside from getting sick easier – her immune system is still weaker than those of her peers’ – she has therapy at least twice a week (ideally, more; but our troubles with therapy and prior authorization is worthy of a whole other post, and way too much to cover here) and all manner of checkups with cardiology, pulmonology, ENT, and orthopedics. And that’s just the short list. So we can easily see Namine still missing a ton of school.

So after some discussion, Jessica and I decided to enroll Namine in an online virtual school. The enrollment process itself is similar enough to a traditional school. In many of these programs, materials – from textbooks and workbooks to art supplies and science materials – are sent to you, the parent. Class work must still be completed on time, and assignments may by submitted electronically or by mail. Most assessments and tests can be taken from home, although in later grades there are scheduled testings at specific locations.

“But Paul,” I hear you say. “What about social interaction? That was the whole reason for wanting to send Namine to school in the first place, remember?” I remember. An additional advantage of online virtual school is the field trips – optional, but a good way for us to interact with other parents and for Namine to make some friends.

Well, all of this is well and good, but before you can enroll your child, you have to apply for enrollment. And Namine was denied, because she still has an IEP. And that’s really strange, because Namine’s IEP expired in either June or July. I don’t remember which, but either way, it’s no longer valid. But the funny thing about IEPs – weird and screwed up funny, not ha-ha funny – is that they can be expired but still considered active. They’re not inactive until they’re revoked, which is something we need to request to have done.

None of this would have been a problem, except that Namine’s IEP states that she requires physical therapy to be provided by the school. This was done because HealthReach, her current third-party therapy provider, couldn’t come to the school. So we either needed to drive Namine to HealthReach during school hours or have a employee of the school provide therapy there. We opted for the least driving, so no time would be wasted. But since the virtual school cannot provide physical therapy, they had to refuse Namine’s application for enrollment because her IEP requires it.

The next step is to revoke Namine’s IEP. She will no longer be considered a student with a disability, and therefore should qualify for enrollment in the virtual school. (We have learned many new things.) An important point to keep in mind through all of this is the fact that revoking Namine’s IEP does not mean that she will no longer be able to have an IEP. Should she need a new one (she likely will), we simply need to reinitiate the review process with whatever school she’s attending.

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