It seems like a lot of parents of kids who have IEP's dread their child's IEP meetings. It makes me feel very fortunate to say I usually look forward to ours. Yeah, there were a few hairy meetings for Angela early in the year, but once I received the email saying her case manager had "accepted another position" and a new teacher was put in place, all was good again.
On Monday we had Axel's IEP.
"Wow!" about sums it up.
Axel has done so well this year. The focus of this year was 1) learn to be in school. 2) language 3) academics. Pretty much in that order. He has spent his year in a very sheltered environment, a classroom staffed 1:1 with only three other students. All three are deaf, all three with significant cognitive impairments. His teachers are deaf as well. Axel has thrived in this environment. When we look at where he was 18 months ago or even in September, he has gained an incredible amount of language. He repeats EVERY new sign he sees in school even though he doesn't know their meaning. (kind of like a toddler overhearing their mom on the phone then repeating the words.) Behaviorally he is a different child. Around the first of the year I requested an FBA (functional behavior assessment) to figure out why he was behaving the way he was. Then while we were in Philly in Feb. I was praying for guidance about this issue. God made it very clear to me that Axel just didn't understand WHAT he's not allowed to do in school. I came up with a plan, school followed it, and in one week's time all the naughty behavior stopped. The school behavior specialist finally came to visit and said, "This isn't even the same kid I saw a month ago!" There have been a couple minor instances but they were very developmentally appropriate.
Everyone on Axel's team agrees he's ready for more challenges now, specifically more time around his typical peers so he has role models for school behavior, etc. Next year he will go to music, art, phy ed. and science with the regular ed. students. We had a little bit of concern about phy ed. with 5th grade boys who can get a little rough. It was decided that for certain units he will wear his neck brace not because he needs it, but as a reminder to the other students to take it easy. There were a few things, like the 5th graders learning to play the recorder, that we wondered if Axel would be able to do it. I finally said, "You know, lets let him prove to us that he can't instead of assuming he can't." I may regret this when there's a recorder screeching in the house.
All in all it was nice to hear about all the great progress and discuss plans for next year.
Tuesday was Asher's meeting. He only attended kindergarten 8 weeks this year, and it was really more of a "practice run" than anything else. Next year he'll be going to kindergarten again, we just don't know exactly what his schedule will look like! The kindergarten enrollment is way down (if I can round up 10 more kids they can open another section! Any takers?) so we'll have to play around with the schedule a bit to figure out what fits.
In the few weeks Asher has been in school he's learned a lot about the environment. He's learning what he can/cannot get away with when mom's not around. He's learned the routine, and he's starting to interact with the kids a bit more. Some days he's even vocalizing a little bit!
Without going into all the details, I will say I used the following sentences:
"It doesn't really matter than he's not where the other kids are academically. He will never catch up to them. Now is the best time for a mainstream placement than later on."
"No, I will not send him to a placement two towns away. I want him in our neighborhood school with our neighborhood kids." I might have had to say this a bit firmly, and I should have added, "It isn't the least restrictive environment for him anyway." (Keep in mind that "least restrictive environment" looks different for every child.)
I know that Asher's team wants what's best for Asher. I also know there is a budget that must be managed. It can be hard as the parent to reject what is offered for fear of making waves in the district. (and believe me, I already have a reputation for making waves.) Sometimes in meetings like this I have to remind myself that my job is to advocate for Asher and his educational rights. That's it. I'm not unreasonable and don't ask for things that our out of line, though I might make suggestions for new ways to approach an issue.
Even though there were a couple moments that for me, as the parent, I felt a little stressed, it was still a good meeting. I'm very happy with Asher's team and feel comfortable bringing to the table any concerns I might have. I have to say our district has always been very responsive to my requests as long as they're within reason and within my child's rights.
Axel's IEP is pretty much set for fall, and we'll be meeting with Asher's team again in August when we know more about the school schedule. For now it's time to get on with summer and play, play, play!!!!!