The Daughter Chronicles

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Time for an IEP meeting!

This past Tuesday (6 May), we headed off to Mia's school for her Individualized Education Program meeting. These things are usually well over an hour, but we were in luck, as our regular babysitter is back from college and was able to come over, so Mia could come home on the bus and wouldn't have to hang out in the room with a bunch of adults talking about her education (even though last year, she was fine doing that).

I was a bit curious to see how this IEP meeting would differ from last year's, mainly because she is in a different school and it's "real school" as opposed to pre-school. It went fine, though, which makes the horror stories I hear about other IEP meetings strange. My theory is that Mia is so obviously impaired that there's not much to argue over. We know exactly what's "wrong" with her and what services she needs, and the school knows it too. Some parents, I've heard, don't want to admit their kids are special ed., so they argue over services. Some parents think their kids need far more help than they actually do. Many of the stories the fathers I know tell are about their autistic kids, and maybe autism is so difficult to figure out in terms of what the kids are capable of. I don't know, but this was Mia's third IEP meeting, and we've never had a problem.

The teacher and therapists basically discussed what they've been doing with Mia over the course of the year and made suggestions about what they're going to do next year. One thing her teacher suggested is keeping her back a year. She doesn't really attend kindergarten much, but her teacher thought it would be a good idea to keep her in the kindergarten classes because she seems to be getting into it a bit more late in the year, and it seems like she spent a long time getting used to it. She thinks that next year, Mia will be more ready to participate. We have never really worried about this, because she won't even be 6 years old by the time the school year starts, so it's not like she'll be so much older than everyone else.

We didn't learn too much that was new, but it's always nice hearing what the therapists have to say. Her speech therapist is reading many different kinds of books to her, because Mia memorizes things relatively easily and then falls into a rote pattern of repeating things, so her therapist wants to keep her on her toes. We all do that, because we want her to actively think about things when we're reading to her instead of just repeating what she already knows. Rote memorization is fine, and she still does stuff like that, but we also want her to try to think creatively. On her IEP, there are fewer goals than last year, and her speech therapist mentioned that many goals are incorporated as part of the special education curriculum. Her home speech therapist was concerned about the lack of a vocabulary goal, but her school therapist told me that it was part of the functional curriculum, so that both she and her special ed. teacher will work on it. We all want Mia to be able to use vocabulary instead of just memorizing words without any context, so they're going to be working on that.

We talked about some of the problems she faces during the day. Her Adaptive PE teacher mentioned that she was doing well earlier in the year, but recently she's been doing worse with throwing a ball. She clutches it, makes the throwing motion, but doesn't let go. She can throw a ball, but she hasn't been. That's a fine motor skill, so I'm going to talk to her OT about it this week (she comes on Monday, so I haven't seen her since the meeting). Mia, of course, is easily distracted, so we discussed ways to help with that as well. Her physical therapist is helping her stand up from a sitting position, which is neat, and making her stand against the wall with no support, which he says she's very good at. Her muscle tone is always a problem, of course, and we talked about the difficulties she has with her hips and the flexion in her legs and ankles. I've mentioned this problem before, when I wrote about her therapists and the differences of opinions they have, and her school PT, who thinks putting her right foot in an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) would work well, admitted that the issue is complicated, and he respects our decision to not put her in a device. But he's been very good with her, and it was good to hear from him.

The IEP was shorter than last year, mainly because of that functional curriculum I mentioned above. Many goals are not spelled out, because, as her speech therapist told me, they need to be graded, and the therapists would be collecting data most of the time rather than working with her. The goals she does have are somewhat broad, and of course we'll monitor what they're doing next year, but overall, it was a productive meeting. Her speech therapist made the point that she doesn't want Mia to be just the cute special ed. kid, she wants her to be well integrated into the school. Everyone loves Mia (who wouldn't?), but the teachers and therapists want her to be able to form friendships and understand what's going on around her. So do we, of course! So that's what they're working toward.

The fact that everyone loves Mia brings up a strange point. Not only does everyone love her, everyone knows her. Many kids always say hi to her, and this morning, when I went to sign her up for summer school, the woman running the show said, "Oh, it's Mia. I know Mia!" It's funny, because she's very popular. It's not surprising, because she's so darned lovable!

We're looking forward to her second year of school. We think she enjoyed this one, and although she still gets tired too easily and hasn't adjusted well to the all-day every-day schedule, we think she's gotten a lot better at working at school. She seems more engaged with her therapy, too, which is very nice. School has had a positive effect on her, so we hope that continues.


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