Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Team Daniel

Don't you love it? It sounds so positive and upbeat! A few years ago Daniel's resource room teacher at his old school started calling our monthly meetings Team Daniel meetings. The team is the rather large group of people who get together to basically, get Daniel through his education. A long time ago I requested that we have monthly meetings to keep in touch. This is written in my IEP. I found that while a lot of these people were in the same building, getting together for 30-40 minutes once a month helped keep everyone on the same page and we could share strategies with each other. I'm sure the school district isn't thrilled with the fact that we request these meetings, but I've never had any complaints. . . to my face anyway! Our team consists of my husband Todd and I, the resource room teacher, the general ed teachers, para pro, speech teacher, AI (autistic impaired)consultant and social worker. (it used to be OT also, but he "graduated" from her last year) Depending on what's going on the principal may be there, or a "specials"teacher like art or music. I find the meetings to be very helpful. They keep me updated. We can make decisions about where Daniel's education is headed. It's all good right? Well most of the time.

There have been times when I've left these meetings feeling very frustrated. Times like when I get the feeling that the majority of the people there don't understand Daniel at all. This is how I felt most of last year. I just never felt that anyone could understand his learning style. Or that they could figure out how to retrieve that information he has hidden under lock and key in that head of his. I don't know if it's true but I always had that "feeling". If you are the parent of a child with special needs you know that feeling. The one when people look at you with the sad smile one their faces and they are thinking, "she just doesn't understand his disability, she wants too much" maybe even, "she's in denial". Whatever. I know different. I know that we push. We don't push to frustration, but we push because Daniel always always seems to rise to the occasion. It never fails to surprise me. As soon as you get together to talk about a problem he seems to solve it himself. It's like he's messing with you!

Yesterday we had our first meeting of the year. We gave ourselves some time for the new teachers to get to know him and see where he is academically. Now I need to say this. . . he has AMAZING general ed teachers this year. They are general ed, yet they understand autism. They have had lots of training. It's unbelievable. I am so going to be spoiled after this year. Most of what we have been talking about is academic for him. He sort of floats on the edge of everything. He learns, but slowly. It's all just catching up with us. He is in 6th grade now. The work comes hard and fast. He learns at school and we have to sit through all of his homework and reteach a lot of it to him. We have to "model" some things. Especially writing. But we have been fighting switching to modified work. Modified means the child is not meeting all expectations of the curriculum. They will not learn all of the points laid out that a 6th grader (or whatever) has to meet. Accommodated means they are learning the same things, just in a different way. It may be presented differently, they may be given more time, have someone write the answers the child gives them. Lots of things. Social Studies went to modified in 4th grade. The higher level thinking that is required, he hasn't been able to do. The vocab is tough. He has significant speech and language impairment. I gave up beating my head against the wall in social studies a long time ago. It's not that he doesn't do it. He does, on a level he can do. Some of it is modeled. Meaning we show him how to do it. He learns from that too. He takes in a lot.

Spelling is accommodated. He is a great speller. It's sort of amazing. He loves words. Always has. Writing was modified last year. Then there is math. Math has been the great divide. We got through last year with it being accommodated. But all year, as they sped up and sped up and the grades started dropping, I knew it was slipping away. Oh, I put up a great fight, but I knew it was gone. We have been trying to keep him on the graduation path. It may be unrealistic, but who knows. He tends to surprise everyone like I said.

So back to our first team Daniel. I finally let it go. We all agreed. He IS learning the math. He just needs more time with each unit. Maybe twice as much time. That's an accommodation. But if you do it on each unit you'll never get through all of the curriculum. It's tough. Todd and I decided that we would rather he learn all of half of it, not none of all of it. Understand? If we keep working on a unit and he really learns it. He'll learn it forever. That's how he is. It is something I've been fighting but I could see the writing on the wall. It was time. It was out of his grasp. So everyone else is moving on and he is reviewing the new information he's been working on the past few weeks. And you know what? He's doing it on his own. Independent (that's a big buzz word) He's confident, he's proud. And I have to say. I'm sort of relieved. I thought I'd be upset that we had to let that go. But I'm not. I will keep on things and make sure he is always learning up to his highest potential. Team Daniel all agreed.

The teachers commented on how productive our 30 minute meeting was (we also agreed on how to go about his new English Language Arts lesson). It's amazing that when you are comfortable with the people you are working with, when you are confident in their understanding of your child's abilities how much you can let go and how high you can soar.


Mama Mara said...

I was skulking around the blogosphere tonight and stumbled upon your wonderful post. Bravo, Team Daniel. Very inspirational. I'll be linking a post to you as soon as tomorrow, as a gift to my bloggy friends!

Amy said...

I left something for you on my blog. You need to scroll down to find it.