Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our five kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IEP meeting

A lot of parents, when preparing for their first IEP meeting, get themselves all worked up and prepared for battle to get the things they know their child needs in school. I'm very fortunate, that my "battles" have not only been rare, but could hardly qualify as a "battle".

I had requested an IEP meeting because I want to lengthen Angela's school day. For the past 4 years she's only gone 1/2 days because she just gets too tired. (actually, her day is shorter right now than it was at the end of last school year!) Once she gets tired the behavioral issues are non-stop, and it's pointless to have her in school because all they're doing is try go get her (and the other kids) safely to the end of the school day! Not much "productivity" happening on Angela's part at all. Right now, she doesn't go to school until 10:00, and comes home with the other kids at 3:15.

This year, since we've dropped one of her meds that adds to the fatigue factor, she's much less tired, and I've decided it's time to bump her up to 3/4 day. My thinking is if we add to her day, and the behavioral problems stay at the same time of day (the last hour or so of school) then we know the issues she's having are with what's happening at that time. If we start her earlier, and the behaviors start happening earlier, then we know it's the fatigue factor.

For now everyone is agreeable to to adding 1/2 hour to her day, then, assuming all goes well, the beginning of December we'll add another 1/2 hour. I'm hopeful we can get her back to a full day by spring.

The other issue I wanted to discuss was lunch. Angela hasn't eaten lunch in the lunch room with the other students since she was in 2nd grade! Almost every year we've tried, and every year it proves to be too much for her, ending with students getting milk dumped over their head, or trays thrown at them, or other lovely little things like that! Last year we didn't even attempt the lunch room. Instead she was perfectly content to eat in the special ed. room all by herself, but I KNOW she really wants to be with the other kids. It's just to noisy and chaotic for her in that environment.

Since it's been well over a year since we've tried, we're all willing to try it again. Her Homebase teacher is going to come up with a sign-up list for students who might like to get out of her English class a few minutes early to go eat with Angela. They'd all get down there and go through the line together BEFORE the entire 7th grade arrives and the mayhem begins. They'll have a table off to the side, a little bit away from what I like to call the "visual noise" (all the movement) that is part of the lunch room. Angela's special ed. teacher is going to give a little presentation to the other 7th grade class, explaining to them WHY the lunch room is hard for Angela, but that she really wants to be by THEM, and how they could help her get back to hanging out with the other 7th graders at lunch.

Getting Angela back to the lunch room has an added benefit. Right now the other 7th graders only know her from Home Base, which is much more of a controlled, structured environment. They see Angela in the hallways, but they only see her in one other class. That means her social opportunities with typical kids outside of school is quite limited. Who would invite someone to hang out if they don't know her? Well, that and there might be a kid or two from her previous elementary school who remembers getting milk dumped on them and may not want anything to do with her!

Her adaptive PE teacher was also at the meeting and I was able to hear from his perspective how she's doing. For some reason I have this picture of her just being a total pill in PE all the time, and apparently I'm very wrong! One day they were playing football with her Home Base group, and her teacher said to me, "Did you KNOW she can play football? She LOVES it!" And I was like, "Oh great, teach her to tackle people." We all laughed, but it was fun to hear the things she's doing that I thought were beyond her. I've never been one to coddle her, but you know, when you're not there to see, you just don't know! Anyway, Angela r.e.a.l.l.y wants to play floor hockey on the adaptive rec. league, but to be honest, I'm very leery about giving her a WEAPON in the form of a hockey stick! I can just see somebody taking the puck from her, and her turning around whacking away at them. But her PE teacher didn't think this would be an issue. So we'll give it a try I guess! I know she'll love it, because she's been wanting to play forever. I'm just very big on protecting the other kids too!

Our home behavior specialist attended the meeting as well, and afterward she and I had a few minutes to chat. She was very impressed with how flexible the staff was, and how willing they were to try new things, and do some brainstorming, and subsequent juggling of schedules to find a way to make Angela's school day work. She said it IS hard to find school staff that is so willing to try everything, especially when it means going out of their way to make it happen. I'm so thrilled with the staff we have, and feel blessed to have them!

1 comment:

Qadoshyah said...

Hey Leah! Thanks for the comment on my blog :). Life's been busy for us the last year with moving to another state, but I'm still around :), just not on quite as many boards as I used to be. My little brother's 4 1/2 now and doing wonderful!

I was *just* thinking of you the other day, since another family I know just got the diagnosis of Moya Moya Syndrome with their daughter (who has DS) and she's about 3 yrs old. I couldn't remember your blog addy, so I'll have to bookmark your blog now :).

Qadoshyah