I've been in this special ed gig for 8 years now. I've gone to good meetings, nasty meetings, confusing meetings. I've spent weeks putting together presentations, binders, handouts, and data graphs. I've sifted through evals in techspeak, observation reports that have some or no observations, and IEP goals that are measurable and unmeasurable. I have fought, planned, co-operated, held my ground, given ground, compromised, and even thrown a hissy fit.
I am not an OT, a PT, an SLP, a neurologist, a developmental specialist, or a special educator. I am an art historian. And educated person, but not an expert at this.
Our back-up plan, like so many other special ed parents wrestling with an uncooperative and ill-funded system, is that great mantra, "Call the lawyer!" There lies the secret weapon, the person who can come in, look over all the mistakes you have made, and tell you to do next- or if the next step involves, say, the lawyer.
This is such an ingrained mantra that we have taken up Wrightslaw as a banner, reading the books, going to the workshops, making sure we were ready, making sure we had done all we could do before... well, calling the lawyer.
This morning, I called the lawyer.
When your back-up mantra is "call the lawyer", you also recognize that calling the lawyer is an admission of defeat. That despite trying to be an expert at the system, trying to keep the ducks in a row, trying to advocate for your child as best you can, something is terribly wrong. The question is, "what am I doing wrong? And how do I fix it?"
And so you call to make an appointment with a lawyer.
Sounds idyllic, yes? Well, what no one tells you is what happens when you make that call.
See, when you call, apparently you have to be ready, like a lawyer yourself. You have to know exactly what is wrong and exactly why you want to speak to the lawyer. "Something is wrong" won't even get you past the receptionist. Even, "this meeting went badly and I don't think what they gave me is appropriate" isn't enough.
Seriously, I never got past the receptionist, who kept interrupting me to say, "I don't understand why you want to see a lawyer."
We've had a blow, folks. The back-up plan just told us they don't know why they should help us or have our back.