I’m writing this multi-part blog because, on Thursday, I had the best IEP I’ve ever had. In the first grade! If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a year, you may know that last year, we had a terrible IEP for Amelia’s first year of kindergarten.
This year, we sent her, as mentioned, to a brand new charter school, and it took a while for them to catch up with all the administrative functions to figure out that Amelia needed a new IEP, because the kindergarten one had recommended her placement in an “autism classroom” and they did not have one. Seven Gen only supports full inclusion at present.
So into the fray, we jumped. I admit, jumping first, thinking later is pretty much my M.O. so I didn’t mind at first. Unfortunately, the teacher and I had already miscommunicated while we set up the IEP meeting and I was still burned by two equally unsuccessful IEPs I had for Zoe in the past.
I panicked, but I picked up the phone. Would the behavioral specialist make it? Could I get a hold of the advocate I used last year? What was full inclusion anyway?
I did my homework and spent 5 minutes – that turned into 10 thoughtful, planned minutes – thinking about what I wanted for Amelia for this year, for school, and for her future.
I’m glad I did, because as the 2 co-directors, the 2 teachers, my 2 associates and myself sat around the table last Thursday, I was up first.
“Ms. Badalaty, did you want to start?” Oh, yea! I told them that I had 3 major concerns:
- Reading was a top priority (I believe it opens the door to all other kinds of education)
- Math was going to be difficult, as it traditionally is for people with Down syndrome. Here they leaned forward – most didn’t know this. I recommended some literature, and the advocate piped in to say her organization had a library. They were PSYCHED to hear that!
- Strengths-based education is a BIG interest of mine, so given that she is so taken with nature, can we integrate that even more for her?
This was a pretty long discussion, maybe 30 minutes. They were actually thrilled that I was a hands-on parent (later, I even asked for tips on how I can help more with her education since I’m not good at teaching). Then we went through the boring paperwork with all the details and I chimed in where I could, as did the Behavioral Specialist and the Advocate.
It was a TWO-hour meeting, but I shouldn’t be surprised. We covered a lot of ground, including oral fixations, getting Amelia comfortable when she’s sitting at the table (she doesn’t have to – at this school, you can stand or sit on the floor too), and putting her closer to the teacher.
The best part? I asked for some advice on toys/games because of Christmas and her birthday approaching. The special ed teacher gave me good ideas, and then I told her that Amelia loved taking photos and was good at it too. After a while, I literally saw the lightbulb go off above her head and she said, “She can be the class photographer! No one takes photos on the hikes unless a parent is there, and then she is dying to look at the photos!”
Wouldn’t that be fantastic? She’s trying to work it in, I assume I’ll hear something when she does!
I’ll be doing 2 more IEP posts, so watch for my discussion of a bad IEP, and how you can protect yourself and your child before stepping into that meeting.