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The Decision I Don't Want to Make About Special Education for My Son


January 11, 2016 is a day I had been dreading for months. This was the day of Dominic’s third grade IEP meeting. In the past I have never really been fond of these meetings but I knew this one would be especially hard because it was going to be time to talk about his future and about those decisions I don’t want to make.

young boy in grey gap shirt
Ashley’s son, Dominic.

Over the last few months, Dominic has gone through multiple evaluations and testing to get a feel for where he is at. While he is making progress, he is still not at the level of his peers in general education class. It has always been this way, but thus far we have kept him in general ed for about 80 percent of the time because socially this has benefited him greatly. He is definitely a child who is eager to learn and really loves school, but he processes more slowly than others, which is causing him to fall farther and farther behind. We are extremely lucky to have such a wonderful teacher this year who takes the time to give him extra help and accommodate his extra needs. We are also lucky the rest of his team is equally great and truly cares for him. Unfortunately, we are getting to a point where this will no longer be enough.

“Low,” “low,” “very low,” “very low,” and some more “very lows” are written on the results page that is given to me. While this isn’t a surprise, for some reason seeing it on paper is still like being punched in the gut. He did score average in math, which made me so proud, but the rest broke my heart for him. I have no doubt in my mind that he is a brilliant kid who is going to continue to progress and go farther than anyone ever thought — after all, they said he would never even talk — but now I am faced with a big decision in terms of his future.

Do I keep him where he is and let him finish in the school he has been in since kindergarten? Where his friends and teachers are? By doing this I may be hurting his future academically. My other choice is to apply to have him placed in an ERC classroom. It looks like a typical classroom, however there are fewer students and more teachers. They are also more likely to incorporate his IEP into the class so that he does not have to leave for extra help. This part of it would be fantastic, as would the extra one on one time; the bad part is taking him from his school he’s been in for four years.

After talking with his team and a long conversation with his teacher I have decided to apply for the program. It is a long process and there is no guarantee that he will get in, and even then I can always change my mind if I feel it’s not really what’s best for him. This is a decision I have been dreading for a couple years now and I don’t think I will ever feel 100 percent confident that I am making the right one, no matter which way I chose to go. In the end I just hope he is happy and able to continue to go farther than anyone ever thought he could go.