I was very pleased by the IEP team, the meeting itself, and the plan for Miss Emma. A few things that aren't wonderful, but you take the bad with the good. And overall it is very good. This is going to be long, don't worry, no test at the end :)
First off, we met at a school that is about 25 minutes from our house. It wasn't a fun drive. It's not one I'd like to do every day. But according to Emma's scores on the paperwork from her evaluation, it's the only school that would have an appropriate facility and classroom to deal with Emma's needs. This classroom is also called the Profoundly Mentally Handicapped room.
When I first was told this, I thought, ok, I guess I'll have my work cut out for me! After all, I really didn't (don't) feel like this is Emma's status. In Florida, though they're trying to change the terminology, they have three "classifications" of special ed students. The 'top' level is EMH or Educable Mentally Handicapped. Then in the middle is TMH or Trainable Mentally Handicapped. Last is PMH or Profoundly Mentally Handicapped. These terms seem to be on their way out from some articles I've read, but they are still used none-the-less as they're commonly used and are something that's been in place for many years.
I went into the meeting with two, maybe three goals. The first was to have her set up as a pre-k status so that if she does go to the classroom in the winter (right now we're looking at January or March) then she'd be with 3-4 yr olds, not 5-7 yr olds. She's tiny, she's young, she needs to be with kids a little younger than herself that are doing just a little more than she is doing. The second goal I had was to make sure that she did NOT have the label PMH attached to her IEP. I feel like she's made such HUGE gains in less than 6 months along with 3 surgeries and I don't want her to have to get rid of a label later on. The third was to find out if there was any way possible to get her appropriate schooling done at a closer school.
I do believe all three were accomplished, to some extent, and I am pleased with the end result!
First off, as a little piece of advice to any parents coming up behind me, if at all possible, bring your child with you to the IEP! It's so much easier for the people that are sitting around the table to help you make a plan for your child if they can see him or her, hear the child, watch them play, etc. As long as you can still function and do the IEP with your child there of course. Mike was the baby-tamer and I was the one with a goal in mind :)
It just so happened that one of the important people, um... well, the one that CALLED the meeting, had written down the wrong time and was about 40 minutes late. Though this might have been a bad thing sitting around waiting with a table full of people and a small child, it ended up being perfect. In the silence of the room after introductions I asked if I could share a little about Emma while we waited. PERFECT.
I shared her history, a little about her medical side of things, and a little more about the difference in her in the past 6 months. I also had the perfect opening to say this: "Although a child that's 5 yrs old and comes into this room like Emma might be said to be "this way" their entire life, Emma has never had any opportunities. It's not the usual situation where every therapy possible has been given and she hasn't improved. It's just the opposite and I think we'll all be surprised at what changes she makes once in a school and therapy environment."
One of the people that sat in on the meeting introduced herself as the school psychologist and said she doesn't generally sit in on the younger kids' meetings, but she was there from the last meeting, and everyone else sat down, and, well, she didn't get up LOL. So though she was quiet a lot of the meeting, she's the one that voiced very clearly that Emma would NOT be considered PMH. The PMH teacher also chimed in and said that the major drawback to her classroom as placement is she seems that Emma needs to be surrounded with language and she wouldn't be in her room. There's very little language and little or no interaction between the different kids in that room. She didn't feel that would be a good placement for Emma.
So, the current status is that Emma is considered Pre-K, homebound, and we'll hear from her teacher within a week or so and she'll get 2 hours/week of home teaching.
The down side is that that's ALL she'll get. No therapies. She doesn't qualify for speech right now which is a post in and of itself, but I am happy to hear that they had an SLP write up language goals for her that will be worked on with the teacher. Also, she needs a release for a PT and OT eval and those will happen in 6-9 weeks. Then after that she can start receiving those services if she qualifies. We hope that at that time she'll be qualified for speech as well and will start all three along with the 2 hours of teaching each week. Not bad... in the long run :)
In the mean time, they stressed over and over again that we need to get some medical therapies going- private ST, OT, and PT because she'll really benefit from those immediately, even tho she can't get them through school and even when she does, school won't be able to work on everything that the private therapies do. The downside to that... I believe private therapies charge me a copay per session and if we don't get Medicaid to kick in, I'm not sure how that'll work. Regardless, it's a path to pursue and see what we can do.
Wow, this is really long! I'll be amazed if anyone actually read this far... you'll have to leave me a comment and tell me how awesome you are!!! :)
Ok, so we got pre-k instead of kindy, we got no PMH label, and... the last thing was schools. Right now this school is the ONLY one with openings. This is what we were told anyway. So regardless of which school is closest and has services that will serve Emma (and in January Brianna too), this school is where they should go because the class sizes are reasonable and they won't be in overcrouded rooms as their first school experiences. I kindof get this, though I'm not really excited about the distance. The good thing is that next year they'll be automatically placed at the school closest to us because they're already "in the system" and have a priority for our closest school. This means that we likely can also get Kristopher in that school even though it's out of area for us (our 'home school' doesn't offer ex ed services). And... Micah will be turning 3 just a month after school starts next year and all FOUR kids should be in the same school. Two in the 3 yr old PreK, two in Kindy :) :)
Ok, I think that's all for now. I'm pleased at Emma's probable placement scenario for the winter and I'm ok with the steps to get her therapies through the school system right now. And I'm very pleased that it sounds like though this will be a bit of a rough year, next year will likely prove much easier and I REALLY LIKE the school they will be at... that's right down the road from the church... and where I did my student teaching... A LOT :)