Why I Fought For an IEP v. a 504 (Part 1)

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We live in Texas.  As much of the nation knows by now, at least those monitoring the pulse of dyslexia education in this country, my home state is in quite a bit of trouble with the Federal Department of Education for violating the law in relation to the educational rights of our dyslexic community.

Before that happened though, let me take you back in time through a bit of our journey….

We moved our son from private school to public school for his 2nd grade year which stated in August, 2016.  Since our son hit the dyslexia wall in March / April of that year, we had invested a great deal of time, effort and money on a fast path of remediation via Lindamood-Bell.  From April through August we engaged in 180 hours of reading intervention via the Lindamood-Bell methodology and we were very blessed that it was highly effective.  You see, on April 1st, our son could not read at all.  By August 15th, he could read at grade level.

During that time I had located and contracted for a private dyslexia evaluation for our son, and received the results.  Low and behold, he was dyslexic and dysgraphic.  Lucky for me, I got the results just a few days prior to school registration.

I walked into the district’s main center where my brand new elementary school as well as one other were holding registration for all new students.  Since my area was completely new, you can imagine the number of people there.  I walked from station to station with my son in tow, completing each form, signing up for the PTA, meeting the nurse, etc.  The last station I was to visit with was the guidance counselor.  This lovely little woman sat behind the table with a big smile on her face and greeted me warmly as I sat down.  She promptly asked, “Do you have any concerns coming into the new school year?”

I’d like to call that a loaded question, but honestly she was expecting me to say “No, I’m not concerned about anything.”  Unfortunately for her, quite the opposite happened.

I dropped a rather large file onto her desk at that moment and said, “My son is dyslexic and we will require a 504 plan.”

Now, this is where I wish I could turn back time and do the right thing.  Unfortunately for me, all of the advice I had been given was that a 504 plan was THE DYSLEXIA PLAN in Texas and that it was the most amazing thing since sliced bread.  For those parents out there who just spit your coffee all over your phone / iPad / computer screen as you read that last statement, remember the mantra, we can only do the best we can do with the information we have at the time, and I truly did not know any better.

Little sidebar as I extrapolate on the mantra for a moment.  We are highly susceptible to the influences of those around us when we begin this journey.  We do not have a basis of knowledge with which to call bologna on anyone that offers advice early on, and we must admit that all of the advice is heartfelt.  We must trust the information we have at the time and go with our gut.  My information was 504 was King and I went with it.  Remember here too that I had known my son was dyslexic for less than 5 days.

Anyhoo, the counselor was highly responsive and pulled out a notepad and starting taking detailed notes as she spoke to me for quite a long time.  She promised to try to fast track getting him what he needed, but couldn’t guarantee any timelines.  I think it was two weeks after school started that the Vice Principal called me rather late one evening to discuss a 504 plan and rapidly typed out paperwork while we spoke.  The next day she sent me the forms I needed to complete in order to get the 504.  Nine weeks to the day after the start of school, we held our first 504 meeting.  This was fairly unprecedented and I was very grateful for the quick response.  If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I did ask at this very first meeting why we were doing a 504 instead of an IEP (I was beginning to learn a great deal), and was told that IEP’s were only for our most severely physically and mentally handicapped children and that in Texas, 504 was how we handled dyslexia.

For those of you that know better, I’ll pause here for a beat while you pick yourself up off the floor, and, yes, that’s truly what I was told, and, no, I did not record it.  Lessons learned all the way around.

So the fall of 2nd grade progressed with ups and downs under the 504.  I would ask questions about his progress and only received vague answers if anything at all.  Nothing was ever quantified.  I never saw lesson plans and the progress reports were (and continue to be) fairly meaningless to me.

The night prior to Thanksgiving break, he was dropped down to an F in reading.

I was apoplectic with rage.  We were 3 months post Lindamood-Bell and he was given an F in reading?  And she did it the night before leaving on a week long holiday vacation?

After I tried and failed to calm down, I had 7 people read that email before I hit send.  My husband asked me that night (he was copied on the email) why I didn’t just write **** YOU and **** YOU and **** YOU, and, oh by the way, **** YOU!  I challenged him to read it again and see that I was drawing a line in the sand, that I was standing up for our son and that I had done both in a very professional yet very direct way.  I had demanded a meeting and provided a timeline for compliance.  I did not cross any lines.  I did not name call.  I did not curse.

I did learn.

He didn’t get an F, and his teacher stopped acting like my adversary and started acting like my best friend in the whole entire world, but nothing else changed.  I had to ask myself since this happened within the first 3.5 months of 2nd grade then what was in front of us?  What other blows were coming our way?  If this was 504 then this sucked and I wasn’t putting up with any of it.  I couldn’t continue to reach apoplectic states and more importantly, my son deserved far better.

So I started diving in even deeper.  I asked 1000+ questions of a wide variety of people, read articles and absorbed as much information as possible.  I learned the difference between a 504 and an IEP and the rules and rights under both.  I learned how I could better protect my son.  I developed a strategy.  I hired an advocate.  I dug the trench, then I lobbed the first volley across No Man’s Land.

I’ll explore more in Part 2 of this thread.  If this journey sounds anything like yours, please let me know.

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