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The 411 on the 504
The 411 on the 504

The 411 on the 504

Though you’d never know it, I have a hard-earned flute performance degree. Two, actually. I’ve taken my share of auditions, played in front of many other musicians, had to jump through the hoops of juries. I know the strain of being on stage, playing recitals, of being judged. And I think it made me stronger in the long run.

But nothing, nothing, could have prepared me for the Oh-My-God-Please-Shoot-Me-I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-Here stress of walking into a claustrophobic conference room this morning, full of people I barely knew, to be judged. Because even though it’s not about anyone but the child in question, you can’t help but feel judged as you walk into a 504/IEP meeting.

Eight people waited for us as Tom and I walked into the meeting. The principal, one of the school’s Speech-Language Pathologists, the Special Ed liaison, a psychologist intern, A’s 5th grade teacher, an Occupational Therapist, the school’s social worker, and the district psychologist. Raise your hand if you notice who was missing.

I think I may have figured it out. This morning was kinda like surgery. You don’t know what to expect. You’re scared. Overwhelmed. Intimidated. You’re led into a small room where you don’t recognize anyone. Afterwards you don’t remember much, but you know you’re in pain and woozy. And still you have to move forward to the treatment.

I requested this 504 meeting on the very strong advice of my gut, A’s pediatrician, and his new ADHD doc. But it ended up being less of a 504 “here’s what we’re going to do” gathering and instead was a pre-meeting for the Special Ed Evaluation the school is going to do. Again, notice who was missing from the above cast of characters. The school is concerned, and rightly so, about a whole slew of things, including the possibility of dysgraphia. (OOH! New possible diagnosis! I need to see which ones he hasn’t collected yet! He might have a complete set!) So instead of a plan for moving forward, we have no fewer than seven evaluations on the docket. Some for us, some for A, nearly all have done before. ‘Cause, you know, the WISC IV from two years ago isn’t enough, they have to re-administer it to see if his abilities are the same. Hm. Didn’t know ability could decline. And I’m going to let the psychologist’s side comment of seeing if his abilities are the same as they were a few years ago slide. Once.

Not a 504. Not an IEP. But a Special Education Evaluation. Let that sink in a moment.

Sinking in? Or sinking feeling?

I’ll be the first to admit that A has a lot of difficulties in school, mainly with writing. My God, the epic homework battles. What should take 30 minutes takes three hours. But…dammit, despite all that he’s still pulling As and high Bs on his work. Or rather, his completed work. And there’s the rub. He doesn’t do the classwork, oftentimes shuts down when pressed, and tunes out instead of participating in class. I think he’s been “taught” that his needs…ALL of his needs, including intellectual…aren’t going to be met in school, so why bother. And he won’t play the game.

My beautiful sister in law refused to play the game too. She dropped out of high school when she was 16, sick of it. She’s told me that the school bent over backwards to help her; evaluations and interventions and all that. But she wouldn’t play their game. She’s now in Physicians’ Assistant school, pulling straight As in one of the most intense schools in the country.

I am extremely unhappy with how today’s meeting went. Chances are better than average that someone at the school will read this, and I hope that person simply sees the frustration of years of shouting into the wind, only to be smacked by a stick this morning. It’s going to be a tough school year, but I already knew that. It’s just going to be even more so, simply because I don’t think these bureaucratic evaluations are going to tell the committee anything beyond what I’ve already provided them. And we will have wasted three months. Middle school is an oncoming train, and it’s bearing down on us quickly. Dangerously so. I can’t see A in middle school. Not in the slightest. J? I can totally see him being in clubs and having crushes and going to a “boys on one side, girls giggling on the other” dance. I can’t even imagine A walking through the front door.

And somewhere, in the middle of all this, is a little boy whose need for intellectual stimulation just isn’t being met.

We have all failed him.


  1. God I hate IEP meetings. You described the pain, suffering and recovery so well.

    Seems his team made a classic mistake. Look only at the difficulties and not at the strengths. If they were looking at his strengths they would realize his need for intellectual stimulation. Oh well, at least they know what dysgraphia is. Our last school was clueless when my son presented with it and offered nothing to help.

  2. Wow.

    I am so sorry that it went so poorly. I wish that I could offer something here other than a hug.

    Well, on the dysgraphia, I have two of those in my house. If you can get that diagnosis, you will be able to have him use a “keyboard input device” which will help with the writing. Both of my guys do all of their work on laptops and it’s oh so much better. It’s really not a hard accommodation. Except for the part where because of budget cuts, we had to buy the laptops, but at least we got good deals on them.

    Hang in there. It will all work out.

  3. Please don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re right to feel disappointed (no gifted teacher) but you’ve just started out with this group. (Maybe you need to take Mir’s tip and bring home-baked cookies to IEP meetings.) There will be more interactions with these people, and you get the final say on signing anyway. Stick up for him and try to see the long view. But try to not take it personally. Good luck.

  4. cocobean

    apparently, IL is a state with no gifted mandate or funding… I can see it not being a priority for the school meetings because there will be no funding attached to it. But there will be funding attached to seeking out his inabilities. 🙁 I wish you luck finding some support within the community to help you find your way – this isn’t the time when you want to be trailblazing how to get a 2e kid the appropriate services for ALL of his needs.

  5. God I hate IEP meetings. What saved ours, and what I REALLY REALLY REALLY recommend is to have someone, anyone, with you to advocate for you. In our case it was M’s developmental psychologist, but I think in the US it’s more likely to be a professional parent advocate. It is hugely helpful to have someone in there who’s both solidly in your corner and emotionally objective. Ours was able to present M’s case professionally, in the right jargon, was taken seriously as a fellow professional rather than a hysterical parent, and was so much more effective at advocating for M and getting her what she needed than we ever could have been. While I was in a corner curled up in the fetal position she was fighting hard for my girl, knowing their arguments, knowing exactly what to ask for, what was reasonable and realistic, and what needed to be said to counter those arguments and get what we needed.

    Seriously Jen, she would have been worth 10 times her fee just for those very times.

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  6. Ok. I’m not sure if this is going to help, but here is my 10 years out of date recollection of the 504/IEP process from the teacher’s side of the desk. If I am stating things you already know, please pardon me.

    504’s are for medical conditions, as documented by doctors. The school nurse would be at the meeting for a 504, at least here in VT. I have no idea if A has any medical issues that impact his learning.

    IEPs can only be set up after spec ed evaluations, and those evaluations MUST be redone every two years, at least here in VT. Yes, redone *completely*.

    The IEP/eval process *IS* glacially slow, and I completely hear you about the on-rushing train of middle school. That is enormously sucktastic, but there it is.

    You, as the parent, have the right to request to ANYONE you want at those meetings. Principals, old teachers who understood A better, parent-advocates, educators of the gifted (employed by the district or otherwise), etc.

    Breathe. You are doing GREAT. They ARE trying to do right by your son, by exploring dysgraphia. The process is just frustratingly slow, and will NEVER be all that you want for your son. You are working to make his needs heard, and that is your job. Keep being great at it! 🙂

  7. Julie in KC

    Just letting you know we’re behind you and here for you. You know you’re always going to have to be the advocate and fight the good fight. Just some suggestions … see if there is a SENG parent group in your area (that way you can get to know other parents of gifted kids who may have had the same struggles with your school district and have some good advice); try to gain access to the person in charge of the gifted program in the school district (or someone else influential at the district level); perhaps touch base with your old school district’s gifted teacher/leader to see if they have any words of wisdom or advice in dealing with this new school; keep on educating the school, pushing as much information on them as you can. Best of luck and hang in there. They’ll eventually see your wonderful son for the gifted child that he is.

  8. /ei

    When I had a particularly contentious school I had my son’s therapist at every meeting. And I called the TAG Consultant in as she was available and when that got too hard (each of our TAG consultants here serve FIVE schools…nice, huh?) I “made friends with” (demanded the presence of) the district TAG supervisor.

    I thought getting a dysgraphia diagnosis was going to help us. They did literally NOTHING to help my kid with this issue. They still don’t. There was lip service the first year…not much since.

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  10. Liz Behrle

    Its so hard to have these meetings. I have a 2e kid. ADHD, sensory, written expression. He has an IEP, not for academics, but for social emotional stuff. When that gets in his way he can’t do the work. So he gets the help he needs so he can show them what he knows. Our district has been wonderful and he has a SPED teacher that I want to clone she is so amazing.

    A bit of info. 504 is the federal law allowing for accommodations for people with disabilities in schools (can be medical, but not always). IEP is based on the federal IDEA law, but is for kids who need special education. This a three prong thing: academic, social, emotional. You might need all, you might need one, but some how your curriculum needs to be adjusted for your disability. My son needs less amount of work and quiet spaces to do the work and extra support for writing. A kids profile re testing can change. My sons did. Last testing he lost points in everything across the board. What that meant, when coupled with how he was during the testing indicated a child in distress. So he got more help and support. I am happy to say he is having his best year ever and is finally able to show what he knows.

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