Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Raising Special Kids--or IEP Week is Hell

One of the most stressful weeks I have as a parent has arrived. IEP week. That stands for Individualized Educational Plan. It is supposed to be the contract between parent and school for a special needs child. In an ideal world, every child would have one. Ours isn't an ideal world, but both my boys qualify for an IEP. We had Alex's first IEP meeting of the year yesterday. We have Joseph's on Thurs. Tentatively, Alex's second meeting is scheduled for Friday. We have big decisions as parents ahead.

Alex is severely ADHD and LD. He struggles with writing and math and is a little behind in reading. He is in second grade. For the past two years he has been mainstreamed into a regular ed class and has worked with a tutor one hour each day, with an OT once a week at school and twice a week privately. He has also worked with the optometry clinic at OSU to address eye-tracking problems, which may be at the root of some of the LD issues he faces.

The tutor, as a representative for the school, suggests we move Alex to a "resource room." A classroom with 16 children and one teacher. The children vary in age, and are all LD. The school is worried that Alex is falling further and further behind. In actual fact, Alex would spend about half the day in the resource room and half the day in reading and gym, art, music, etc. with his peers. The reading classes are all tracked to ability, and he is reading at a “mid–to-late-first-grade level” so I think he is right with a lot of other beginning second graders at his school…

We suggest that whatever happens Alex begin counseling with the school counselor to deal with anger issues and self-esteem issues. (I’m starting to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t…)

The biggest drawback to the resource room, in my view, is it will be at a different school. Alex was adopted when he was three years old. He is still very insecure, he has always just gone along with what ever happened to him, but we see flashes of anger—mostly directed at him self. He has been happy, for the most part, at his current school. He walks to school with his friends. He walks home with his friends and goes to latchkey with a neighbor boy. There is a resource room at his school, but for third to fifth grades. My current thought is that we should keep him in his regular ed room for now, with the plan that we will move him to the 3-5 resource room next year. I’m thinking that self-esteem and mental health are much more valuable right now than being able to write a grade level story. I worry that he will lose self-esteem if he is faced with too much work that is too hard, but I also worry that he will lose a sense of community if he has to watch all the other neighborhood children walk one direction while he walks or drives the other way to school…

I’m anxious for your input, any ideas out there??? One friend has already told me she will yell at me if I move him…and I can’t imagine telling him that he has to go to a different school without his friends, but I’m willing to listen if anyone thinks I’m wrong.

7 comments:

meowmama said...

If there is one thing I've learned in life thus far, it is to trust my intuition. It sounds like you have a gut feeling about what is right for your child and after reading through your thoughts I think I agree with you. I don't see the harm in trying to do one more year like he did last year and staying at the same school - especially because the resource room is an option next year if things don't improve with one more year of "the same". Of course because I am a social worker I look at things from an emotional/social perspective. Sarah will have to pitch in on the reading level things.

It is my personal opinion that a great gift we can (and should) give our children is stability - especially a child such as Alex who has had the misfortune of great instability as an infant and toddler. I would say these instabilities early on are what have caused much of his angry outbursts and insecurities now (I know you know this). Moving schools and losing the connection with the neighbor, etc. may make him feel really bad and result in more anger and low self-esteem. Either way yes, I agree that for sure he meet with the school counselor.

I cannot tell you how impressed I am with both you and Dave for taking on the huge responsibilities of a child like Alex (in addition to sweet precious Joseph) and I can tell from reading your post today that you are genuinely concerned about his best interest.

I hope you all make it through the week. Maybe you'll have to have chocolate in both your pockets to make it through!

Aunt Lora said...

Thank you Hillary--- It is wonderful to have support in the family. I love Alex so much, and it is so important to make the right decisions for him. Love, Auntie L

Anonymous said...

I really agree with Hillary's comments and your gut feeling. My "educational" question is, what kind of services will Alex receive if he stays at his current school?

Aunt Lora said...

He will keep the tutor for 1 hour a day. I think she sees him 1-1 or in a group of 2 or 3 every day.

Anonymous said...

Can more service be written into his IEP? I know, in my (limited) experience, when parents fought for more services they often got them. It may be worth a shot...

Jerry Grasso said...

We laid out a short-term two year plan for our special needs child, Demetrius, which was to start him out in special needs kindergarten, move him more and more into mainstream kindergarten with an aide, and then repeat the following year with mainstream kindergarten (with aide)...with the plan that by the middle to end of the second year he would have limited aide support and be on his way academically to mainstream first grade (we are sure with some allowances). So far, we've kept to plan...but this means he has had to transfer schools from the one he has spent pre-K through last year at...with all of his friends and stability. While this is hard, it isn't the point - the point is to give him the best opportunities to achieve in life long-term. Is our son making progress towad being a functioning, stable, contributing member of society that can have a 'good life' from child to adolescent to adulthood? He had to leave his friends, but we can still do playdates, play on those sports teams, and get together for pizza.

Now that's our story, and of course is much more complicated than the run on paragraph above. But boiled down, that's what we've got to go on. Our guts, the plan, and if we think it is best for him long term. Everyone has to make choices on the complications of their child, his/her condition, and their history...but in the end, what is best for him and her long-term?

By the way, communicating why and how over and over and seeking his input on how he can help make the decisions will help. Don't let him feel like he has no say in his life. SEEK HIS COUNSEL and it will all go down, hopefully, a bit better.

Aunt Lora said...

Thanks for the input! It is hard to trust our guts, but it really is the best thing we can do...