Thursday, November 10, 2011

Annual Meetings

Well, the second Annual IEP Meeting is behind us now....Simon's is done. So, we're done with these for a while, right? Nope.

As I was packing Rachel's bag this morning, there was a note. "This looks familiar", I thought, and read it. It's an invitation to another IEP Meeting in early December. At the moment I'm not sure what this is about -- is it the start of the placement process or planning the transition? Is there a problem? Is it just to discuss the evaluations that need to be done? I really don't know. I sent an email to her teacher this morning to ask and still have not received a response. I will give her until Monday and then will contact the Autism Office to find out what this is about. But I have to leave it alone for right now, because Simon's meeting was about to happen and I needed to have my head on straight.

Simon has been in this program since he turned 3. But unlike Rachel, the program hasn't really changed around him. It has remained the same and he has been made to acclimate to what they do. Don't get me wrong. He has done really really well there. And, even though I wasn't seeing it for a long time, is truly thriving. But the don't have the same flexibility that Rachel's program does, being in a full elementary school. He isn't eating lunch in the cafeteria with typical children. He isn't playing on the playground with his typical schoolmates. He isn't able to be incorporated into a typical pre-K setting. All of his exposure to the students there has been with kids with special needs, just like him. I have worked to give him some exposure to typical kids so that when he's NOT in school, he can handle himself and succeed. Perhaps even to thrive.

But the program itself really suits him. It's small enough that they are able to address his specific needs and he is happy to go. Since his last meeting he has learned to read and manipulate numbers. He has learned to take turns. He has learned to try new things, both in his activity choices and with his foods. He's even learning to void in the toilet. These are all steps in the right direction. And he is doing well. Prior to his meeting, I reviewed the draft document (minus one page) in pretty thorough detail, even more than I did for Rachel's. It had quite a few aggressive goals. They are really focusing in language development and comprehension for this last year of preschool. And these skills are being applied not only for reading, but for mathematics and even self-help type skills.

Happily we are all on the same page of what we need to work on. We all agree that he has made tremendous progress. We all agree that he is a very special little boy with a lot of issues that he has to learn to overcome. However, we don't seem to agree on where we should go from here.

There are several programs offered by our area's public schools for children on the spectrum. Some are more intense then others and then there are students who, even with an IEP have been fully incorporated into the mainstream educational classrooms. This is what I hope will happen for both Rachel and Simon, and something that I would like to see happen sooner rather than later. But we aren't there yet. And for Simon, we are considerably further away than for Rachel. Simon tends to "wander". I don't mean in a dangerous sense, but when he decides he's done, he will walk over to the book corner and grab a book and read it quietly. There are much worse things he could be doing, but this is something that will not be tolerated in a typical classroom. He also prefers a solitary existence. He doesn't want to interact with his peers. We are starting to notice an improvement in the way he interacts with adults or with his siblings, but in general, he would rather find an activity and be by himself. Again, these are behaviors that we need to work on so that he would "fit in" a more typical classroom setting.

Overall, the meeting did go well. But a few realities were made clear to me that I'm not sure I'm ready to take in. His learning continues to be "splintered" rather than "sequential", which has been true from the beginning. He has skills that make him appear advanced, but he doesn't have the precursors to those same skills that most children seem to have. He doesn't understand greater or less than, but he can add 2 numbers without thinking. He can look at a stack of objects and know how many there are, but he can't tell you that the book he's holding is the shape of a rectangle. When we asked him at dinner tonight to show us the "longer" french fry (there were 2 in front of him), he didn't understand and picked up the (considerably) shorter one. He can read pages of text, but he demonstrates practically zero comprehension of what has been said to him or in what he has just read.

These are the skills we are working on. We will continue to address where he should be placed as the school year continues and I do believe we will make the correct decision. My desire as to what program I would like to see him attend has been made perfectly clear and was put on the record during this meeting. And it is one of the 3 probable options. I just don't know if that's going to be the right decision when the time comes.

And I thought it was difficult making these decisions for preschool. UGH!!!!!!

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