An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is what identifies the resources and accommodations to which your child is entitled. It’s a legal document that must be abided by. Many parents don’t know or understand the full extent of their rights according to the IEP and laws to protect those with special needs. After testing and evaluations, they can determine where they want their child. The choices available for my own son were 12-1-1 (12 children, 1 para, 1 teacher) or mainstream (a regular classroom with a regular amount of kids and no IEP students). I chose 12-1-1 but am I isolating my son because I made this choice?
At times I question my choice and think, “Maybe I didn’t give him a chance?" In reality, I gave him a chance in elementary school. He was in a CTT (collaborative team teaching) class with one general education and special education teacher. The classroom was too overwhelming for him. There were way too many kids and he was extremely unfocused as per his para professional. This is when I decided to think about 12-1-1 as he entered into middle school. Mainstream can be a distraction for children with special accommodations and they really need that structure and focus in order to produce in the classroom what is needed of them.
When I wondered if I was isolating him I also asked myself, “Did I give him a choice?" I absolutely didn’t give him a choice. By my observations, I didn’t think that he was ready to know what was best for him at this time and it was my choice to make on his behalf. He would be entering a new school, he would have to change classrooms and be alone in the hallways and I just didn’t think it would be productive for him. Mainstreaming would have created an opportunity for him to easily slip through the cracks and fall into trouble. As he gets older and more mature, I might allow for him to have some input but in my opinion, I feel as though right now I know what he needs and what will benefit his education. As parents we have to evaluate what we see and what is reported to us by the professionals who work with our kids to make those decisions based on what we feel as parents is best for our children. Right now my son doesn’t see what I see, and that’s okay but this is why I am making the choice and NOT him!
Regardless which classroom setting you choose for your child, remind them to go into school, stay focused and have fun learning. I remind myself as a parent that I don’t want my child to feel isolated, different and nor should he. His classroom is smaller but he’s receiving the same curriculum as others at his own pace. It’s differentiated so that he receives the information how he best understands it. Now that I think about it and have written this article, as parents we are always going to question our judgement and the decisions we make but in the end we know what is best for our children and we know how to support them so that they will succeed best. With me, you will always get honesty... I want all parents to remember we aren’t perfect and we question ourselves but the end results (like our children thriving in the appropriate setting) will be the light at the end of the tunnel for us!