This week we had JT's IEP meeting. It went just as well as I thought it would as far as our plan and his services - his team has put together the best goals he could possibly have, and I believe he will have a stellar year next year with them. I really cannot say enough good things about the awesome people that work with JT every day at school. I'll just say I believe the big man put us here in Huntersville for a reason.
There was a disagreement between myself and the principal. Being the principal, she doesn't want to retain kids regardless because it looks bad on her reports. I want what's best for my child, not what's best for her ego. She's never spent a minute with JT, yet she wants to dictate whether or not he should be retained, even though his whole team agrees he should be. It made me a little upset that someone who only knows my son in passing can veto an entire team who knows and loves my son. The worst part is it appears she does indeed have the last say in this matter. Luckily, JT's teacher spoke with her after our meeting and she does appear to be coming around. I'll cross my fingers, but for now we have no idea whether JT will be in K or 1st next year. It's one of the very few negative IEP experiences I've had, and was probably the worst overall. I was not happy.
For anyone who isn't aware, the IEP is a legally binding document that lays out a plan for a student with a disability in regard to accommodations and services they will receive. We have these meetings once a year, or however often we need to rewrite goals or adjust his services or accommodations. Our meetings are usually around an hour, which is blissfully short compared to many others' experiences.
I realize that JT has an IEP because he has a disability, which means he has deficits. These deficits require accommodations to level the playing field, so that he can perform to his potential.
But speckled throughout the 3-page document are phrases like these, that support the need for specific goals:
- JT is not always able to blend sounds and identify beginning and ending sounds in words.
- JT also is not able to determine the number of syllables in a word, nor can he identify rhyming words.
- JT cannot always answer reading comprehension questions based on a story read to him, nor can he answer reading comprehension questions based on a short story he read.
- JT also cannot use pictures to complete a graphic organizer to summarize a story read (ie who, what, where, when, why).
- JT cannot always compare and order numbers and number sets, nor can he use ordinal numbers (first-tenth).
- JT cannot compare geometric shapes or use directional and positional vocabulary. Also, JT cannot use data to create simple graphs and answer questions.
- JT is not able to create a sentence when given a picture to describe.
- JT also is not able to apply correct grammar and language conventions.
- He does not capitalize the beginning words in a sentence, nor does he provide ending punctuation marks.
- He follows classroom directions well, but has difficulty when directions are more complex or contain temporal/spatial concepts.
- He needs visual cues to answer other simple wh-questions.
- JT continues to need some prompting to request consistently.
- He has good vocabulary but has difficulty sorting items into categories.
- He cannot produce /f/ or /l/ sounds, which are typically developed by JT's age.
- He does not remain on the writing line.
- He cannot appropriately turn the paper and use small snips when cutting out circles.
It's so hard to read how much your child cannot do. Even when an IEP meeting goes well, it is draining, and this is why. I never had to hear about all the things Audrey could not do, or how she compared on a percentile or age based difference to her peers. It sucker punches you and takes away your breath to read the *can't's*. Trying to keep a level head and smile through a meeting when you're reading off your child's shortcomings is torture.
Onto the positives (because it's always a rollercoaster of emotions)... the teacher believes JT will be entirely mainstreamed with no need for supports within the next year or two. He has entirely appropriate peer relationships. Other kids are really his friends, and their friendships are as equals. That was the most positive part for me, honestly. I worry so much about him having friends, it feels awesome to know that he really does have friends. His social interactions, expressions, greetings and such are age and grade appropriate. He contributes to the classroom regularly. He is capable of doing all the work. All that is amazingly wonderful stuff. The speech therapist is leaving (BOO) and told us how much she would miss our ornery little man. He messes with EVERYONE, he has a crazy wicked sense of humor. He gets them all laughing pretty hard.
In short, next year JT will be in the autism classroom only at the beginning of school. He will be in the resource room for math, reading and writing, and in the regular classroom for everything else. He will be getting extra reading instruction from the resource teacher as well. He doesn't need an aide, as evidenced by his success this year without one.
For now, it's over. Until next school year at least. I'll file this paper along with all the other IEP's he's had for reference. Then I'll hang out with the cutest, sweetest, smartest, funniest little man in the world - the one that you can't see perfectly on the 24 pages of that document, but that obviously his team knows and appreciates and loves.