Monday, November 25, 2013

The 5 things I learned from my sons IEP

I have sat on both sides of the table.

When I attended my son's initial IEP meeting, I thought that the fact that I was a teacher myself, would help me to be easy to work with, able to speak rationally about my son's needs and help the entire process would go smoothly.

I was wrong on all counts.

During the first year, I focused on being "One of the staff" at my son's school and my requests for service for my son were semi-dismissed, my concerns were minimalized, and I spent the year feeling confused, frustrated and angry that I had somehow failed my child.

The second year, I came in with a vengeance.  I was determined to win the war.   Using my experience as a teacher to brush away the confusing educational jargon that only serves to confuse parents and consistently cut through the school's vague generalizations, erroneous reports and lack of relevant data about my son. I took no prisoners, and forced my agenda.

I won the battle but I lost the war, so to speak.

That year, teachers that might have been supporters of my son were afraid to get involved due to their concerns that they might be criticized or attacked at one of my son's IEP meetings.  The administration grew guarded, tired and defensive about my constant barrage and the machinations to help my son moved a lot slower due to the fact that everyone was very concerned about covering their "educational rear ends".

So I went back to the drawing board.

The most important thing for any parent - and educator to realize - and respect - is that the wants, needs and perspectives for both sides of the IEP meeting can be vastly different.  On the parents side, there is only one concern:  What can you do to help my child?  On the educator's side, their are many concerns must be responsive to child, parent, school, district and state expectations, concerns and guidelines.

Where these two meet will determine the services and support your child receives.

Over the course of that year, I gained some practical insight on how to prepare, approach and conduct myself at my son's IEP Meeting to best serve him.


Everything works better when people get along but don't ever forget that creating your child's IEP is a negotiation where your wants and needs will often be in direct conflict with your child's school.  They are concerned with the many, you are concerned with the one - your child.

Keeping a friendly but businesslike approach will help to remind both you and them that you are all here for important matters.


My son's school wanted to exit him out of his IEP, they stated he had met his IEP goals until I provided my notes from school nurses reports that clearly contradicted what the special education teacher reported.  Eventually, his IEP continued with more expansive services and an apology from the school principal.


You can't determine what services you want for your child until you create a clear picture of your child's strengths and weaknesses as a student.  Although it is not imperative that both you and the school completely agree on the same picture, and a child can behave differently at school than at home, know that ultimately, you know your child best and the more the two pictures of your child overlap, the more effective their plan will be.


The simple truth is that the school's interests are dictated by policy, budget and personnel concerns,   yours are not.  You may not get every service you want for your child but your requests should not be dictated by the same concerns as the schools.  Know that they are legally mandated to provide services that allow your child to access the educational experience.


Unfortunately, social, organization, and other "non-academic" skills are less likely to necessitate support services from your child's school.  Make sure to frame each and every request as to how it will better address your child's academic needs.   One example:  my son was getting lost on the yard and not returning to class with the rest of his classroom.  My concerns were for his safety but the school consistently pointed out that he was safe and returning to class eventually.  When I talked about loss of instructional time, I was able to get my son the yard assistance he needed to help him return to class with the rest of his classroom.

Remember, you are your child's advocate and like all advocates, you must be prepared to argue, fight and plead for your cause ( your child).  Being prepared, friendly and having a clear picture of what you want will help your cause immensely.

Alan Aymie is a nationally produced, award-winning playwright, performer and educational activist.  His most current play, A CHILD LEFT BEHIND was seen in theaters in Los Angeles, Manhattan and various health and educational centers across the country.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Open Letter to John Deasy...

I wrote this blog last night and wanted to edit it before publishing it but in the light of Mr. Deasy's upcoming resignation, I felt I should go ahead and publish it as is...

Dear Mr. Deasy,

We met last summer at the EnvisionTechnology Conference in Palm Springs.  We shared our Boston roots, frustration with the Red Sox and my admiration for your stand for public education.  I still stand firm in my admiration of what you are attempting to do with the LAUSD but I hope you will respect a fellow Bostonian and LAUSD teacher's greatly differing opinion on your proposal of iPads for every student.

To state it in native Bostonian-ese, "What'ya freakin' retahded?!"

Ipads for every kid in the LAUSD?!?!   Really??!!!!  The same district that can't get kids to return library books, parents to come to school for an IEP meeting for their own child, or find it in their budget to give teachers a cost-of-living raise over the past five years is now flush enough with money to hand out iPads to each child like their #2 pencils?!!

Recently, the LA Times reported that you have agreed to delay the district-wide rollout of iPads until December 2015.  In the article, the Times states that you believe that access to these tablets are a civil rights imperative. Somehow, I think the brave young children who marched for their civil rights would not agree with you.

It all started here...
Growing up in West Roxbury, MA (Beethoven Elementary School on Washington Street) and then later on in Westwood, I am very proud of my Massachusetts education but it had nothing to do with materials or equipment - it  had to do with people; the teachers who taught me, the great principals who led them and whatever material goods we had - they were never the focal point.

I think as a district we need to start cutting back not giving more away.  It's not appreciated:  free lunches are thrown away uneaten, supplies wasted, reading books ruined and yet we keep giving more and more away.  Prizes for good attendance, trophies, badges and any little toy, treat or technological treasure to somehow add to the value of education when we should be standing firmly in the belief that EDUCATION IN OF ITSELF IS THE VALUE.

One student of mine went without glasses for nine months while his mother chastised me for constantly reminding her that he needed glasses to see the board because I didn't "understand how real people have to get by..."  which I found funny being a teacher and making less than a Starbucks manager.  But what I didn't find funny was that same child who went without glasses for nine months did show up on Talent Night with brand new Air Jordan sneakers and matching pants and shirt.  What values does this parent have?

Do we really need a billion dollars worth of iPads?  Really?  Is it really going to make or break our troubled educational system?

Although you were not in the district at the time, several years back, there was a similar large technological purchase.  The LAUSD spent over $50 million dollars for the Waterford Early Reading Program.    The joke was that they called it Waterford - after the Crystal because it was just as expensive and just as fragile. The district superintendent at the time, called this system, "The Cadillac of all reading programs..".  It ended up becoming one of the most expensive mistakes (and impromptu coat racks) the LAUSD had ever made at the time.

Waterford Reading program... Cadillac or DeSoto?

But maybe the answer isn't better or more technology, maybe the answer is more and better leaders - More specifically, better principals, better union leaders, better superintendents, better leaders.

In the case of principals, I know that every teacher goes through a strict and detailed program - with mentors, counsel and numerous trainings before they can officially call themselves a teacher.  What do we do to prepare our principals and what is our criteria to decide who we should place in charge of an ENTIRE school?

Maybe we should take this money and put it towards better training for principals instead of more electronics.  Educating Los Angeles is a big hill to climb and the lack of iPads is NOT the reason we've failed to do so so far.  Leadership, accountability and honest talk will get us a lot further than a new bundle of technology....

So, Mr. Deasy, please reconsider and put that money somewhere other than a pile of iPads.  Like Nick Nolte in the Thin Red Line learned, just because we want  to "Take that hill" doesn't mean we will and I think the same applies to iPads...

Alan Aymie is a critically acclaimed writer, performer and educational activist, living in LA with his wife and three children.  He is currently performing his critically-acclaimed, "A CHILD LEFT BEHIND' in Los Angeles and New York.  For more information, you can visit

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Child Left Behind Comes to New York ... and so does public grading of their teachers.

In baseball, it's called "The Little Things"...  You can't see them on a scorecard but all of baseball agrees success is impossible without them.  This is the reason why players why players like Nick Punto (.245 batting average with no power) is a cherished and welcomed player on any MLB team.

Unfortunately, public education has become obsessed with stats...

Click on this link:  punch in a name of a New York elementary public school teacher and you will get an evaluation of their work as perceived by a computer.  You won't know whether they smile at their children, spend their recesses helping a particular student with a school project, bully or other troubles, you won't see them share their lunch, give a compliment that brightens a day, or any one of a number of a myriad of things an elementary school teacher does that can't be scored.

It seems to be that the purpose of elementary school should be to:  teach core subjects, introduce a sense of civic and social responsibility and learn about their environment and society.  I don't think hard care test scores should be the fundamental judgement of success for a teacher of nine-year old children.

That's why I wrote this....

To, hopefully, show the challenges a public school teacher faces and the absurdity of trying to compute a score for it...

The play ran for eight months in LA and I'm proud to be performing it this month in New York.  You can see it on July 15th at the BSP Theater in Kingston, NY (near Woodstock) and in Manhattan on July 16th at the 45th Street Theatre (45th between 8th and 9th Ave.)

The performances are serving as a fundraiser for G.R.A.S.P. (Global and Regional Aspergers Syndrome Partnership). You can learn more about their organization through their website:

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A CHILD LEFT BEHIND comes to New York!

Okay.... And eight days to go - no problem!!  

First a big THANK YOU for your generous support!!   I'm really looking forward to making this happen and am so appreciative that you decided to join me on the road to NYC!!
For those who have supported me previously and are wondering why I'm doing the show again, it's because of nights like this past April 16th where I performed the show for a large group of parents, educators and mental health professionals.  The show was a community service event where, in addition to seeing my show, a panel of experts was set up to answer questions, and provide support to those people seeking help in regards to working with young people on the Autistic Spectrum.
I've always believed that Art has the power to enlighten, entertain & educate - it is my hope that this play can do all three.  Every time, a parent, teacher or child comes up to me after the show to share that they don't feel as alone, helpless or misunderstood, I can't describe how great I feel....
It is my ultimate goal to perform this show across the country and performing it in NYC is a big step towards that goal.  If you want to help, please visit my KICKSTARTER PAGE!!
Thanks for your support and I hope to see you in New  York!!