I like to post about Charlie's IEP's for a couple reasons(that's Individual Education Plan, for the folks who are scratching their heads. It's a special education thing, as you shall presently find out.): One is it helps me to look back and remember all his milestones without having to raid my file cabinet. And two, it sure is helpful to read about others experiences with IEP's and special education on the web when you feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants with all this stuff. Well, I am definitely flying by the seat of my pants, but none-the-less, here is our experience, and the tale of a family trying to figure out... dun, dun, dun... Kindergarten Placement.
The IEP was actually back in November. It was our first Triennial Review. Every three years children who are receiving special education services have to have a big review with a battery of tests to basically re-qualify them for services. The test results were kind of stage one of our IEP meeting. In a nutshell--Charlie is very, very slow academically (still learning colors, letters, numbers, counting, etc. at almost age 6), he is about age 3 or 4 for language comprehension, about age 2 for expressive language, with some additional speech issues to sort through in regard to intelligibility. He is about age 3 with fine motor skills, and about half his age with other developmental skills. He far excels in social skills, and was particularly complimented on his compassion for other students, and ability to think of others needs. This area was rated to be about age 5 or higher. He is healthy. His vision is perfect. Hearing is perfect. He is the star student in P.E. He is good natured, compliant most of the time, though starting to participate in some "age appropriate" mischief with his buddies (which is secretly pleasing, as it shows developmental appropriateness). All in all, he is about half his age in development. In some areas a little more, some less. It places him in the category of Intellectually Disabled (as opposed to a more mild assessment of Developmentally Delayed). Because of the multifaceted nature of his disability (it includes all areas of his development), his disability is considered Sever. Beyond these results and labels, it was noted that Charlie "has all the pieces in place" for his development to unfold in a more or less normal way--just a lot more slowly. This is a big deal for him. There are no big behavior issues, nothing that is just not coming along at all. He is quite delayed, but moving forward in more a less a "normal" fashion, if we were all to take two years to move forward one year in development.
This, to me, is a stellar report. Really. And we are very proud of him. Beyond that, we are excited for the years to come as all this developing and learning emerges.
The second part of the meeting was spent setting academic, speech, OT, social, and self care goals for the next year. Stuff like, "Charlie will learn to cut a thick piece of paper, staying within the lines of a half inch defined area, with little to no assistance, using regular scissors, four out of five trials." These goals crack me up, because they have to be written in a way that they can later me measured. What if we wrote our own goals for our children like this... "Calvin will void in the toilet, standing up, keeping the urine within half in of the toilet seat edge, four out of five times." Really. It's just kind of amusing to me. Anyway...
The last part of the meeting was spent discussing Kindergarten placements. So...
Everyone agreed that even though Charlie could stay in his current preschool level class for another year, he is just beyond it. Academically Charlie is not catching on very quickly. He can recite the ABC's, and can identify some letters. He can read his name. He can count, but does not know what it means. He knows the color blue, and sometimes others. He is finally picking up shapes. But all these things we've been working on since before he started preschool at age 3. So it is just going slowly. (I'm fine with this, by the way. My feeling is Charlie will get it eventually. We just keep plugging along.) For this reason he needs a class that is able to accommodate this slow rate of learning, and his need for a hands on approach.
Socially Charlie is doing wonderfully. He is a compliant student who can follow directions. He understands most everything that is going on around him. For this reason he needs a class environment where there are "typical" children who will challenge him to further develop his social strengths, and his ability to be part of the greater non-disabled community.
The biggest issue with all this is the "perfect" public school environment with these two main needs are, well, non-existent.
At his current preschool class, which we are so happy with, there are no "typically developing" children. No chances to interact with children who could demonstrate "normal" behavior for children to emulate, or to demonstrate "normal" speech for children to hear and try out for themselves. We have been creative over the last three years to create our own "inclusion" for this reason. At first we had him half time in a normal Children's Center where he did wonderfully, though he was quite behind in skills. This year we have joined a homeschool field trip group and we are able to take him out of school (because we wrote it into his IEP ;) for field trips.
But this leaves next year as a big question mark. Our choices as of now:
Moderate-Severe classroom at a school that is very far away where there may or may not be a minimal chance of "inclusion" in a regular classroom. We may or may not be able to write into his IEP that he will continue to field trips with the homeschool group as kind of an "independent study inclusion".
Mild-Moderate classroom at a school closer to home where there would be lots of inclusion, but less of a supported environment for a very slow learner.
Homeschool with a Charter school that has all the therapies Charlie needs and a stipend for supplies and extracurricular activities. A supported education comes from one to one instruction from me (Mommy) and also weekly visits with a resource teacher. Inclusion is accomplished through being with his family for instruction time, on campus enrichment courses, continuing our field trips, and after school activities such as music lessons, or swimming clubs, etc, and the vast homeschool community.
Straight-up Homeschooling with no Charter, and a big question mark on where/how therapy could happen. Inclusion would be through the homeschool community and home education with his ever-so-typical brothers. Supported learning environment comes from his mom.
I am realizing this is really a two part (or many part) story, so I will stop here and visit our pros and cons list. Meantime, if you've experience with this kind of stuff, well, feel free to comment and tell me your opinions and share your stories or thoughts. We are sort of in "paralyzed about this huge decision, and praying tons, and waiting mode" at this point. But you'll hear more about all this next time.