Sunday, July 19, 2009

IEP Blues

In the not-too-distant past, I had a chance to attend an IEP in an urban public school in a Midwestern city. The issue at hand was a disagreement between the school and the parent concerning the use of a needed piece of adaptive equipment. The child tended to urinate inappropriately, even in the classroom. The child also had a variety of other sensory and learning deficits, and possibly had limited awareness of her need to urinate. Now, the parent have had some success over a vacation using a modern form of the old Bell and Pad apparatus. Research has shown that about 80% of children with long histories of enuresis learned to hold urine until they are able to go to the bathroom using this technique. One study even showed that 80% of the failures, on reconditioning, gained success with this type of apparatus. Those are pretty good results. Anyway, during the IEP the mother valiantly attempted to persuade the school to use a portable wetness alarm to prompt the child to use the toilet at school. The modern device advocated for by the parent was wearable and fairly inconspicuous. It was designed for both day and night time use. What do you think happened? Of course, the public school people refuse to include use of this device as an IEP goal. They claim to have carried the request up the line institutionally and been told to deny the request. Never mind that it is socially obnoxious to wet your pants in class, it is certainly not designed to win friends and influence teachers, and it is an appropriate adaptive skill goal for any child who lacks it in a school setting. The refusal, however, was flat. Our tax dollars at work!. Alas, this case illustrates the tragic level of ignorance about stimulus control in the teaching profession. The mother had gained a sophisticated understanding of how to manipulate cues to prompt her child to behave more independently, but the school school didn't recognize this kind of teaching as within its purview. The overriding spirit of the approach adopted by the school was studied minimalism. How could it be otherwise? Another day in the life.

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