I’m so glad I participated in the Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort because once I was in the first IEP meeting I realized how unprepared I would have been without it.
I’d met with our school district Special Services Manager and conveyed to her how important inclusion was to our family.
The draft she sent me was 76% inclusion. After a 2-hour meeting and lots of back and forth, we ended up at 84%.
I wasn’t prepared for how hard they clung to their goals. As we worked through each goal, I stated why I thought certain ones were unnecessary. They politely listened and then stated why they wanted it included. And then I countered with my suggestions and concerns, and they countered again. It seemed like they were listening to what I was saying but it wasn’t their language. I felt that to get more goals removed I would have to be irate, and I erred on the side of preserving relationships.
The general feeling from the team was positive. When I asked them to change or add wording on a goal, they were quick to accept it. We had collaborated a lot, and they were visibly proud of the IEP we wrote. It was obvious that they didn’t normally write inclusive, strength-based IEPs like this.
At an hour-and-a-half in, we went around and asked the service providers one-by-one if some of the services could be push-in instead of pull-out.
Service settings were negotiated for more push-in, but everyone was very slow to do so.
The principal took a pause to say, “I think we all can agree that this student needs a 1:1 all day.” Immediately, the two kindergarten general education teachers piped up and said, “Yes, we do, too.” I let the talking die down and said, “I don’t feel comfortable agreeing to full time para support unless we have a fade out plan.”
The option presented was to increase inclusion time by declining some of the related services. I was on the fence because it is important for rapport to be built with my daughter, so we decided to see how the first few weeks of school go. I asked to schedule a meeting in November to adjust the IEP if needed after parent/teacher conferences.
I’m proud of the tone I set—checking every detail, speaking my mind, and building working relationships. I do wish the percentage of inclusion for my child was higher. I wasn’t prepared for feeling so mixed, but truly it is a preview of the next 15 years. The biggest takeaway is that my foremost challenge will be educating each team member individually, and in their own “language” about how and why inclusion is truly best practice. They are absolutely still operating in the old paradigm of “special services in a separate setting is where special kids learn best.”
There’s a saying I heard that really rings true with advocacy: “Brave, not perfect.” I’ve been trying to take it to heart. We’ve started the journey and that’s the hardest part. We have to keep going and not worry about being perfect at it.