I wanted to take a few days before I wrote about the IEP. I think I’ve learned that writing too soon about these meetings…I’m a bit too emotional and so I write what I’m feeling at that moment, more so than what I think through that comes out a couple of days later.
This allowed the emotions to sequence appropriately:
• Initial disappointment/anger about the meeting
• Discussion about how Kim and I are beginning to see things after a night’s sleep
• Discussion about what we aren’t agreeing on post meeting
• Fight due to stress and worry, but ignited from something trivial – in this case, her grandmother’s pillow cases in a linen closet
• Back to work on Monday, a deep breath and onto another day
To recap: we didn’t finalize the IEP in the initial meeting in April, and reconvened a month later after the school district’s autism specialist had a chance to evaluate the boy and we could further discuss the mathematics portion of his education curriculum for next year.
The big takeaway, or new news, in regards to the specialist evaluation was the emphasis on how stressful lunch is for Demetrius. She noticed that he started fidgeting and losing his attention to tasks as lunch approached. Lunch is then just a hard time for him with his sensory overload and then he has to decompress afterwards. Part of this isn’t new info – but I didn’t realize that he had stress about it, even though he loves eating with all the kids.
What to do?
The initial remedy is that we’ll go the headphone route…. but not in terms of noise reduction, rather, we’ll get him an iPod so he can listen to some music. This is also forbidden fruit for the other kids, so I’ll purchase a splitter (gadget that allows two sets of headphones plug into the same jack in the iPod for the music) and another set of headphones so a ‘friend’ can listen with him at lunch. We think this will enable him to stay within his own world during this stressful time, but also allow another child or two to join with him. Then we’ll monitor to see if his pre-and-post lunch stress dissipates.
I did comment that I, of course, would have to purchase two iPods. I got confused looks by some of the educators…why would that happen?
I can’t buy one for him and not Maya. She’ll end up requisitioning it, or breaking it. We’ll also have to explain that he can bring his to school and she can’t bring her’s…but we’ll tackle that when it happens.
We also agreed that the autism specialist would train both his teacher and his aide before school starts next fall. This is big for us. I’m glad to see that this happened.
In terms of math…well, the school district is going to a new curriculum, and there is a concern whether the way it goes is appropriate for him…he’s a bit behind now, and if he’s in the mainstream class and falls back…and even if we react immediately, then he falls further back. So this means he’s got to learn what he didn’t get in resource room and also work on the skills that keep him on course with the other kids. This is a big concern – which he falls further behind in math skills.
One of the instructors, she has a special needs child. She spoke from her experience as a parent and from having set up IEPs for so many children over the course of a number of years…that not only would he fall behind, but he’s a little person, and he’ll feel frustration and more stress, which only factors into making his education a bit harder for him that it has to be…in the end this swayed us; we put him in IRR for math too.
So the majority of his time, just under 70%, is in IRR. This is one of Kim’s absolute worst fears for Super D: that he is that kid that spends his days in IRR…and as all of you that worry about these things too know – the fear of once in IRR, always in IRR…even though they say they want to do everything they can to move him/her back into mainstream. But they don’t have the social/group skills they mainstreamers have…. thus, they fail in social dynamics. This is the autism/school rub – autism is primary a social/communication disorder and educators are focused on academic success. There is spillage… which can lead to ADHD, processing issues, etc…affect/effect schooling…and thus the falling back and IRR issues. Vicious cycle. I will say this is a well-grounded fear, but I think the instructor made her points very well. All I can say is, “well, we’ll see.”
There you have it.
Now, what are we looking for next?
For me, it’s a bit of Jerry McGuire: “Show me the money.” We have taken their recommendations and have agreed to them. Show me that he is making progress in the smaller, more focused IRR environment. If he is, then, well, okay. We’ll consider options from what the other side of this looks like. Let me just say – we are getting excellent results in his language arts since we moved him into that environment about a month ago. So lets see where we go with it next year. Okay, show me that this works.
I have spoken with a number of people I trust deeply, that care about the boy, and us. The analysis is pretty much unanimous from them – and it is sometimes hard for Kim and me to see since we are thick in the morass: school is about education, and since he is high on the spectrum, and he has potential, then he can be more than the token special needs ‘class pet’ for some first grade class…he can be…something in life (path to be followed is yet to revealed, so to speak) and we should at least take the educators recommendations and try this program out and see if it does deliver the results. The point is, we should listen to a lot of experts. One of these folks said to me, “You seem to take what your special needs pediatrician and many of these therapists say seriously, because you pay them directly. You buy in. Maybe you should give these folks, who are as educated as your doctors and therapists – a chance.” I was a bit taken aback from that statement. Truthfully, we are defensive when it comes to the school folk…there’s something hard I need to consider in those wise words.
The second point was that if educators are worried about his education, then it is incumbent on Kim and I to make sure he gets socialization in other ways. Swim practice, baseball, etc…this is true too.
There’s more, and I could go on longer – but you get the drift…am I coming around? That might be too strong at this point…but am I letting my guard down in terms of what will happen next year? Hmmmm…lets just say I should maybe be a bit more open minded, and of course, very exacting – when evaluating how he does in school in first grade.
This is where I stand today, four days later.
Any one want to chime in with thoughts?