This past Thursday, we had a big--as in, "must meet in the library because there is no room for everyone in the conference room" big--IEP meeting. It was also a long IEP meeting--nearly 3 hours--the crowd got thinner and thinner as it drug on, and one after another excused themselves to leave for other appointments.
However, I felt like we FINALLY made some appropriate progress for Katya in terms of services and goals. In addition to Katya's Social Worker coming at our request, we also took a friend from our local needs support group who is starting her own business as an advocate for special needs kids and their families with IEP matters. Having her involved was VERY helpful, and it seemed from the time the school realized we had invited M, the usual struggles just started easing away . . . I'm very grateful for that!
In positive news: Katya's speech has been increased from a measly 20 minutes a week to 40 minutes a week. Her OT has increased by a "whopping" 10 minutes a month. Yes, I know, I know. But seriously, I never ever had the issues with her OT time to begin with that I did with the speech, so having ANY additional is nice, but nothing spectacular. In the good news column, I do really like the two OT's she has worked with this year. They seem really awesome. And in the "this is why I always flap my jaw about Katya's needs" column--the current OT did NOT know that both of her elbows are dislocated (!) permanently limiting her range of motion and was setting goals to try to address some issues that are almost certainly from her elbow dislocation and can't be improved really, just compensated for! Why her dislocation issues are not in RED at the top of her file I do not know. Good thing I decided to just reiterate every thing again in the meeting whenever I thought it appropriate.
Also, you will be VERY happy to know that they are going to try to find an aide for Katya for the times of day when she seems to need a one-on-one aide. Since they are going to try to find one within their existing employees I have some mixed feelings about the matter. However, you do realize this is what should have been available to her from the start, and it is finally happening . . . so we will try to be thankful, right?!
They also told us that she is doing great in art, music and gym class and they don't feel she needs any one-on-one there. They said in the mornings when they are focusing on letters in the classroom and other activities, she usually does well. In the afternoons, when they work on numbers, Katya gets easily frustrated and her behaviors escalate. After discussion, it was agreed that Katya probably understands letters and their importance more than she does numbers currently, and thus, her motivation for the letters is probably greater than the numbers. She also is probably more tired in the afternoons, leading to more behavioral issues.
So the plan is to try to provide a one-on-one aid or pull her for individualized instruction during those times. I am hopeful that it will beneficial to Katya.
New goals for her include some exciting ones! One that I am excited about is that they are going to try to teach Katya her numbers 10 to 20 now, as she has fairly well mastered 1 to 9! They are also going to see if they can teach her to recognize 10 short noun words. ;-)
Overall, the tone of the meeting was much more respectful, we were definitely listened to more, and I felt like things were taken more seriously overall. There is still a level of frustration about the school wanting to assess Katya using ASL and yet not providing her with a certified ASL instructor. Their idea is "we can learn with her".
However, it was clear that if we stood on that hill and tried to battle that erroneous view point, we would be there all day so we dropped the issue for now, after making sure it was raised clearly.
I am glad that the intervention specialist who is going to be more involved with Katya has a hearing impaired husband who now has cochlear implants, and so she had a fair bit of ASL instruction some years ago and feels she can quickly pick back up what she knew. She will be working with Katya a good bit it sounded like going forward, so hopefully this works well for now. I am convinced we need a different system for next year, but I am ACCEPTING finishing out the school year for now with this current system. I am not liking it, but I'm accepting it since I feel it is in Katya's best interests to finish out the year in the same classroom so she gets a sense of how a school year/summer vacation works. That was interrupted last year when she was pulled for her surgery and not able to go back due to her weakened emotional and physical state post-op.
Good news statements were: "She's definitely understanding and following along better than she did at first. She continues to make progress. Her aggression has reduced from what it was last year." And the one that tickled my funny bone the most was the comment from the school official who administered her tests 4 months ago and direly predicted that Katya had "maxed out at her academic performance" (and left me almost spitting with disgust . . . ). "It may be that those tests were not entirely accurate since it appears that she continues to make progress." Um, yeah? You think so?!
While I totally "get" that Katya's situation is very unusual and new for the local school district, I'm glad that they are seeing that their standard tests just might NOT be that accurate when it comes to Katya . . . it's way too early to make solid assumptions about where she is going to go in life or not go in life.
What I can tell you is that the last few weeks we have been seeing some exciting things happening with Katya's speech! Including her saying "DaDa" now when she wants her Daddy! ;-) How funny it is to hear "DaDa" coming out of an 8 year old's mouth, but also how extremely wonderful. We are so excited!