Last Wednesday (the 16th of May), we went to Mia's IEP meeting. An IEP meeting, for those of you fortunate enough to not have children who need one, is an Individualized Education Program
, and it's for kids with special needs. Every year we need to meet with her educators and therapists to determine her goals for the year ahead and if she's met her goals for the year just completed. We can also meet any time during the school year if we have concerns about her goals and whether she's meeting them or not.
It was a pretty productive meeting, and we got to hear from the various people who have been working with her over the past year. We hashed out some goals for her, and we brought the document home to run it by her home therapists. Her speech therapist has already suggested a few changes. We chose a school for her, too, which was probably the most important thing.The last time I talked about this
, I mentioned that we were going to visit some schools to see what kind of classrooms they have. I went alone to a school with two programs, and Krys and I went to a different school with two different programs. We decided to send her to the first school and the first program I looked at. It's the program they call "orthotically impaired," and it appears to be as close to a regular kindergarten program as she can get right now. The class is very small with plenty of aides, and they emphasize the academic aspects of school. They also have plenty of devices in the classroom to assist the kids. Mia would spend a lot of (non-)academic time in the regular classroom, also with an aide, so she would spend time with kids her own age, but she would also get the attention she needs. The facility at the school was very nice, and it seemed like a good atmosphere. At the same site was the class for the multiply disabled, which was also an option for her. I wasn't as keen on this class, because it focused more on basic functional stuff, and the kids seemed worse off than Mia, to the point where I wasn't sure how much external stimulation she would get. Mia is largely not self-motivated, so we don't want her in a class where she's not going to see kids who are further ahead than she is. She needs to be pushed, and I didn't think she would get that in the MD class. We're also hoping to do more of the functional stuff at home, while at school we want her to be doing more academic stuff. That's not to say that they don't do academic stuff in the MD class or no functional stuff in the OI class, but the focus in the latter is more on academics, and that's what we'd like Mia to do. The nice thing about it is that she can shift relatively easily between the two, so if it turns out that the OI class isn't working, she doesn't need to stay there. But we think she'll be fine.
The other classes we looked at were for mildly disabled and moderately disabled. We didn't choose those because the kids in those classes were ambulatory, so that takes away a lot of the assistance that Mia would get. That's not to say she wouldn't get it, and if her only problem were a physical disability, that's probably where we would go, but the kids seemed to be further ahead and they definitely went more quickly, so we feared that Mia would be left behind quickly. We don't know how well she's going to do in class, but we want to make sure she's learning and not just sitting there. In those classes, we had a feeling she would fall behind too quickly.
We hashed this all out at the IEP meeting, as well as going over her goals. The biggest problem is that the OI class is at a school that is probably 45 minutes away by bus (it took me about 20 minutes to drive there). The school day is 8.30-2.30, so she'll probably be gone from 7.30 to 3.30. I will probably drive her at least once if not twice a week, because I like to talk to her teachers, but I might end up driving her every day. Coming home, she'll have to take the bus, because Norah is sleeping at that time, but I think she'll like the bus a lot. I just don't want her to spend so much time on the bus. But perhaps she'll love it so much she'll want to ride.
I wasn't exactly apprehensive going into the meeting, but in the support group I've been going to, the fathers have been telling horror stories about IEP meetings. We had no problem whatsoever with the district people. We understand that they aren't completely concerned with Mia and we are (they, of course, want to help Mia, but that's not their only focus, and it is for us), but they were very helpful with all our questions and were willing to work with us. They were a bit obsessed with the fact that Mia once had trouble swallowing, even though we told them over and over that she never really had trouble, just some aspirating, and that hasn't been seen for three years or more. We get that they're worried about her eating lunch without parents around and the possibility of her choking and us suing them, but she has no trouble eating or drinking anything - she doesn't eat much, but that's more her being a pain in the ass than anything. So that was kind of an annoying side note to the meeting, because we were trying to tell them that she has no problem with food and they kept coming back to it. Oh well. The guys at my support group were talking about the school districts butting heads with them over the direction of their kids' education, but so far, we haven't had any problems. We know what Mia is capable of, and the fact that they claim it's easy to switch between the two programs (we have no evidence that it's true, but they do claim it) means that we can keep evaluating her and seeing how she's doing. We didn't have any problems, which was nice.
She starts school on 13 August. The nice thing about Mia is that she doesn't turn 5 until 30 August, so if she needs to, she can repeat kindergarten and not be too far behind. We are very confident that she will do well in school, and we're hoping she can keep up and not get frustrated. We know that's a big issue, because when kids who don't have any problems get frustrated, they give up. Mia does have problems, so we're hoping we can keep helping her and that she won't get frustrated. She can learn very well, she's just very slow at it. So we'll see how her school career progresses. It should be fun!