school-detail_004An Individualized Education Program, that is. In public schools, every child who receives “special education” and related services must have an IEP. But first, a student must pass snuff based on the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act.) To be labeled/receive services as a “child with disabilities” (never, never a “disabled child’), he must be pigeonholed into one of 13 specific categories.

Because I’ve been privy to public schools’ SOP long enough to know that to get funding, kids need to get put into columns. The Basic Special Education Process Under IDEA goes something like this:

Find. Test. Decide. Label. Schedule. Write. Teach. Track. Review. Reevaluate.

Rinse and repeat every three years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that, absolutely, there are children in public, private or home school with autism, visual/hearing impairments, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities that obviously require special services and could/do benefit from an IEP.

But, according to IDEA, the largest of the 13 disability categories, at almost 50-percent, is “specific learning disabilities.” So what exactly ARE these specific learning disabilities? When does a quirk become a disability? A diagnosis becomes an excuse? A “child with disabilities” a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are these challenges to be overcome or disabilities to be accommodated?

I suspect that my/my son’s notorious habit of not “read(ing) what’s there!” would fall under some reading disability spectrum. Probably not dyslexia, but keep testing, they’d find a cubby for us. And based on M’s first grade “reluctant reader” label, I could see what was coming down the pike. And he WAS reluctant to read, based on public school standards and strategies. Alotta boys are. But he’s reading now. And he did it when he was ready/felt the need, not the pressure. Or the label.

The entire IEP process includes alotta opportunities for parents to challenge, request additional testing, an independent evaluation or mediation. They can even file a complaint with the state education agency.

What I want to know is: Are parents protesting to get their child IN or OUT of the program?

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