Thursday, March 26, 2009

IEP or IWA? (I Want it ALL)

Our IEP is complete. Well, not totally because I haven't signed it. And as usual it is sitting on my desk, face down, and hasn't been looked at since I walked out of there yesterday afternoon. I never ever sign at the meeting. I'm usually feeling very overwhelmed and need to process. I have, of course, been thinking about it and discussing it with those close to me. But I haven't picked it up physically and looked at it. Avoidance? Maybe. Last year it sat for over 10 days, for those of you who don't know, after 10 days it just goes into effect whether you sign it or not. I received an email asking if I had questions or issues I needed to discuss, when in fact, I just wasn't looking at the damn thing. Such is the way it goes. Probably this time too. I'll "do it next week".

We had lengthy discussions about class scheduling for Daniel yesterday. None of that is even written in the IEP but was the focus of our meeting trying to figure out where he fits and what would benefit him the most. I don't know of anyone else who is quite like Daniel. He is a bit of an anomaly. The options are vast at the middle school, which I appreciate. They have basic classrooms, co - taught classrooms (with gen ed teachers and special ed teachers) as well as resource rooms that don't really look like what I'm used to in a resource room. Daniel is doing accommodated math, so same curriculum as his peers and is hovering around the C to C- range right now. I can't believe it. 6th grade math is really the old 7th grade math and prealgebra. He's hanging in there. For a child with his level of impairment, I find that amazing and if you'd have told me that he'd be doing that 2 years ago I'd have said you were smoking something really good. But here he is. That is why I can't compartmentalize him. There is no compartment that he fits in. On the flip side his science and social studies is modified. It is not even close to the same curriculum but core ideas are pulled out and simplified and he gets that.

The main portion of the discussion was that we had had a premeeting to discuss academics. We decided to try to throw caution to the wind and we proposed that he not even take 7th grade social studies. This seemed to be sort of a wild notion to the middle school staff, but I have blazed our own path before and I'm SURE I'll do it again. Our reasoning is this. Right now his language is so impaired that the higher level concepts in social studies are incomprehensible to him. But math is something he CAN achieve and make progress in. So why not drop social studies and give him 2 count them 2 math classes. What will help him more in the long run? Social studies or math? My answer is math. It may be something we pick up again next year. We aren't shutting the door forever. With social studies you can miss a year, with math you cannot.

One of the math classes will be the co-taught slower paced class. (there are 3 levels all the same curriculum just paced differently, this would be the slowest of the 3). The other is resource room math. We aren't sure, logistically, if it can quite happen this way , but the plan is to have him do resource math as sort of preteach to the math in the co teaching regular ed. class. He won't necessarily feel like he is repeating because they are in different rooms and would be presented a bit different, so it wouldn't be like sitting in the same room twice in a row. We'll see how it goes.

English Language arts (ELA). Boy did I struggle with this. It ties into social studies in that, Daniel's reading level is way below his peers. His word recognition is at at 6th grade level but comprehension is now at 3rd. Last year it was at 2nd. So he has made a year of progress without any real intervention. I have always pushed for him to stay with his peers which is sort of the rub here. More on that in a minute. So we are putting him in a resource room ELA to see how he responds to more intense learning in this area. If he can respond by increasing a year without any push, what will he do if he gets the push? Time will tell.

He will have a para again. It was made clear from the get go that he needs one, desperately. When the middle school asked how much of the day he needs one the answer was the "whole day". Apparently they (the current staff) need to fill out a para pro "need" form and they are confident he would fly through the needs on this. I would think so? If they said he didn't need one, I could walk through schools and go around tapping kids on the head duck duck goose style and every single one would need a para less than Daniel. That's not the mom in me talking either. BUT he may not have one single para. There are paras that may be in the co taught math room that sort of specialize in that subject and would be with him then. It will all be so so so very different. Sometimes different is good. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you have to hold your breath and hope the decisions are the right ones. Sometimes you have to have faith. Sometimes you need to stand back and see what happens.

Daniel asked me for 2 things. 1. he wants to ride the bus. The last two years he has walked (with me) or I drive. We are a stones throw from our school but you have to cross the busiest road in our city (there is a pedestrian overpass, but I would never have him do it alone. He probably could but I don't feel it's safe for him) and 2. he said he "wants to be with 'his kids'" meaning his peers who he has come to love. That is where my heart is breaking a bit because the resource classes that won't be the case. And now that I think about it, they probably won't be in the slow moving math class either. So where will they be? Some will be in band. I am so torn. At one point yesterday we were discussing having two ELA classes too. One in resource and one in co taught. We then decided that they are totally different cirriculums and that didn't really make sense. So it came to a choice, which would we go with? Everyone was looking at me and said, "What do you want to do?" I had the last word. It wasn't even directed at my husband because usually he defaults to me. I am the one more involved with school and he trusts me. It was quiet and all eyes were on me. Not to be dramatic but it was one of those moments, where you are chosing a direction. I welled up with tears a bit (as I am right now) and said, "I want it all." I want him to be with his friends and I want specialized attention. I want him to be in two places at once. Unfortunately most of his friends are probably in the advanced classes, or at least the middle of the road classes. So far I've at least made myself feel like we had it all. We are successful in that one of his two requests was "to be with his kids". Isn't that a success itself? I think it is. But I want it all. I want more.

I am trying to figure out if we can have it all. If we take this year and focus, can he rejoin some of the others next year? Maybe. The resource room is like a classroom, it's not like it's one on one or even five kids. The one I looked in on probably had 15 kids in it. Could this be his chance to bond with new kids? Maybe. I don't know, and unfortunately, I won't know until we are in it. I've been assured things can change if needed. I truly feel we are a team working for his best interest. Why then am I feeling like it's not enough? Something is missing for me right now. I have to sort through it and figure out what it is. I have nine more days. . . .


kristi said...

I have a meeting with TC's principal tomorrow in regards to his behavior.

I have another IEP next month.

I am scared and nervous and sort of sick over the whole thing.

Laura Grace said...

Prediction: you are going to write a book. Really. And it will be very helpful to many people.

You write clearly and carefully, you are open and honest (as anyone can be) and your experiences are a mixture -- neither a nightmare nor a "triumph"...

I have a friend who has been through lawsuits against the school district, etc etc, and I'm so thankful that your experiences have been full of support.

Keep in mind that all parents want it all, and want to protect their children. And that some of the bumps are important for growth. (His and yours) You know that already, I know.

Keep writing!

Mama Mara said...

I think you're coming up with a IEPTHIA (IEP that has it all).

(BTW: I fretted so much about the big transition to middle school, and it turns out my worry was all for naught. Both of my boys really enjoyed the novelty of the middle school environment and adjusted relatively quickly.)

Anonymous said...

Just signed the IEP today. I understand that "avoidance" thing all too well. (We don't have the 10 day rule in Rhema's school - the IEP does not go into effect until it's signed). I think if I just let the IEP sit unsigned long enough I'll eventually feel better about signing it. The IEP *looks* really good... but I always have that feeling of doubt... but I cannot always put my finger on what's wrong. Oh well.

As Mara said, I suspect Daniel will do just fine with the transition.

Michelle S. said...

Kristi- hang in there!
Laura- you are too sweet! Thanks for the nice words.
Mara-I'm sure it will work out but not without me fretting and tweaking as much as possible
rhemashope-it is a state law the 10 days. I know your feelings well! We just have to do the best we can!

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Our kids try so hard. When Nigel started middle school he told me the same thing - he wanted to ride the bus so that he could be like everybody else. I still cry over that one.

Thinking of you and wishing all the best.