IEP: The good, the bad and the ugly (transferred from

For you, Christine!

Yesterday, a mother expressed her frustration over her son’s treatment in school. An autistic child, he was referred to as “unfocused” and the mother added one more brick to the wall of heartbreak we experience at the hands of others.

I want to express the need for parents to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities as parents. The following websites provide crucial information for understanding the process of the IEP and special needs children.

You all know what I mean when I say that the first time you are seated at a table full of school district professionals, being unprepared is like standing before a firing squad. There is nothing more painful than listening to others pick-apart your child.

I had a nightmarish experience until I found Dr. Kathleen Van Antwerp, a friend who is also a professor at Cal State Northridge and founder of Kathy and her husband, Dorn, have dedicated their lives to advocating for and protecting abused and neglected children. Her book, “I can’t come to school today… My mom’s in prison and I don’t have a ride”, is filled with short-stories about at-risk children living horrific lives. In addition, Kathy had written the K-12 curriculum for Casa Pacifica, a school for abused, neglected and severely emotionally disturbed children.

As my friend and the mother of my son’s friend, I turned to her for advice. Kathy armed me with Katie’s best advocate… me. She guided me through the process of the IEP, possible Due Process hearings and taught me how to manage the school district professionals.

I will give you the basic tools which I used during my daughter’s IEP.

1. I placed an 8×10, framed photo of Katie on the table in front of me. This made her a real, living, breathing child and not just a name and file among hundreds of others.

2. I had a copy of the U.S. Department of Education, Individuals with disabilities Education Act IDEA, placed prominently in front of me. This is very important, parents! I can promise you that most parents are not aware of their rights, and therefore vulnerable to taking what the school district offers for your child.

3. Highlight areas of IDEA that apply to your child. Be prepared to remind the professionals that this is your child and that no one knows your child better than you do.

4. Never stop fighting for your child! You are the one who will have an ongoing relationship with them for the rest of your life. Don’t forget this, ever! There will be many times in the future that you have to confront someone and stand your ground. Having an active IEP in place does not completely smooth the path. I have found that we have to be willing to continue forging ahead for our child and advocating forever.

These websites will help you:

I want you to know that I fought long and hard for Katie. I reached a point where I decided to take her education into my own hands and homeschool. I became a member of California Homeschooler and utilize Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf method through Live Education! Katie has been doing very well and continues to move forward in her education.

I hear the head of the school district’s special education department is retiring.

I never forget to laugh.

© Cassie M. Ferguson and Autism Funhouse, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cassie M. Ferguson and Autism Funhouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wonderful IEP meeting tips Cassie, thanks!!!

I will have to ask you for tips about homeschooling and Waldorf education too :)!
You go girl!

Yeah like two pit bulls!!

Yeah like two pit bulls!!


Ok, your idea seems much more proactive. List so far: 2 pit bulls, 1-support person, and a set of waterwings. This should cover it all. Maybe adding a narrator who can translate what they are saying could be helpful. I didn’t know what in the world was going on. God forbid I ask them for the English version or if they can you dumb-it-down.

Great post!

To all those who are going into an IEP meeting: I advise you to know what you’re talking about and bring a support person with you. Please do not try to tread the sea of unknown with only a set of Water-wings to keep you afloat like I did.