Monday, May 14, 2012

Placement meetings and IEPs

Nothing makes a parent of a special needs child panic and sweat like getting home the annual meeting notices.  It is May and for us, it is THAT time of year again.

So at the beginning of May, I got home the notice for Amanda's placement meeting where I would meet with a room full of professionals, all of whom had already decided Amanda's placement for next year should be.  All this prior to writing her IEP.  Amanda's IEP expires at the end of June, technically.  And placement for 2nd grade needed to be made.

Oh God....oh God.....the nerves.  This year has been so difficult for her.  And the last few weeks, she has had to be removed from the classroom for tantrums.  Even with a one-to-one aide, she has struggled.

Where would they ship my baby off to?  She was so excited to be able to attend the same school as her sister this year.  She had to attend a different school for Kindergarten.  She would be heartbroken to have to move.  But honestly, if the school did recommend it, I would have to go with it.  This school has been incredible in trying to understand Amanda and teach her. 

What if they recommended retention?  Would I be able to hold back Amanda?  Her handwriting is difficult.  The thought of her handling the Math Minute quizzes and other things Tessa has done this year is something I could not even imagine her doing.  The anxiety of doing as many math problems as possible in a minute would put her over the edge.  But she is smart.  She knows her stuff.  But again, if the school recommended it, I would go with their recommendations.

So this morning, I head off to the school after a not so lovely night of sleeping....Wait in the office with butterflies doing mach 1 flight testing in my stomach.  I head down with Mrs M, Amanda's teacher, to a room filled with people.  There is the school psychologist, Speech therapist, school Social worker, school's special educator, the principal and Mrs M.

So Mrs M started talking about Amanda's year and how even with everything that they have done, with in itself is impressive, Amanda still requires more support.  That she has made great improvement and belongs in 2nd grade and that she feels that she does belong in a regular classroom, she just needs that much more support.

Drum roll please.....Here is comes.....

Ms D, the principal, says that she has created a classroom that is a partial self-contained.  It will have a special education teacher and an aide.  It is like a home room set-up.  That the goal is to have Amanda in the regular classroom as much as possible.  But this room would be there if she needed pullouts to help with academics or breaks, rather than a desk in the hall for one-to-one work if the aide was at lunch.  A safe room when she cannot control herself or needs self-regulating time with a weighted blanket or beanbag chair.  A place to present new materials and give her time to learn it such as with the Math Minutes etc.  This way, she will maintain the relationships that she has built in the school and still be safe and meet her educational needs.

I started to tear up.  I cried in the meeting.  Here is a school doing everything in its power to keep my baby there.  Most schools would have welcomed the opportunity to say "She needs these accommodations and it is available at THIS district school."  Not this school.  The principal went toe to toe and pushed for this classroom so that the students who needed more support did not have to be placed elsewhere.  A school that in only its second year of inclusion is doing EVERY in their power to keep THEIR students there.  This is a principal who cares deeply about her students.

I remember when I wanted Amanda to attend Kindergarten there.  This team strongly suggested where she ended up.  Ms D walked me to the office and I will never forget these words, "No matter what Kindergarten she attends, she comes back here.  She is OUR student."  Imagine what those words mean to a parent?  Someone WANTS your child.  Not something we experience often.

So Amanda will be placed in a classroom created for her and a handful of other students that this school wants to keep there but need more support.  Right now, there are about three 2nd graders, one 1st grader and one third grader.  No one older than 3rd grade.   Mrs M said that the group of 1st graders that Amanda and the other two have been with have been compassionate and learning themselves.  They also do not want the typical children to lose that by taking those who need more support away.

I was blown away today by my daughter's school, teachers and principal.  I walked away wanting to have flowers delivered to the school.

Not every day will be easy.  But today was a good day and I walked outside and set those butterflies free to fly where ever their hearts desired.............

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