We had our end-of-quarter Parent/Teacher Conference yesterday, and we all celebrated how great the J-Man is doing in school.
Since IEPs are all about annual, specific, measurable goals, these four-times-yearly conferences with the teacher are about seeing how he’s meeting the measurements established by those goals. This allows you to make mid-course corrections as needed, argue for more services if your child is way behind on meeting their goals, etc.
It also allows you dedicated time with the teacher to learn all the ways you can supplement your kid’s learning at home. Of course, we’re always working on that with the teacher, but since these meetings occur at the end of the quarter and in year-round school the end of the quarter means three weeks out of school, this is about coming up with strategies to keep the learning going during the break. Combined with the holiday, we actually have 5 1/2 weeks off starting Monday. Yikes!
The classroom he’s in is about way, way more than just the goals on the page, of course, but the IEP is both a good instrument for measuring progress and one of the most important ways of showing what sorts of services and classroom your child needs from year-to-year.
At least around here – and maybe everywhere, I don’t know – students with IEPs are assigned a numerical ‘grade’ (officially called an ‘evaluation code’ here) each quarter for each set of written goals to show their progress toward those goals. They are:
1 – Insufficient progress to meet IEP goal by end of year; below expected mastery of goal at this point in the year
2- Skills are emerging; mastery of goal is still inconsistent; student needs support to meet goals
3 – Consistent progress toward goals; on track to meet annual goal.
3* – Consistent progress toward goals + some evidence of application and independence. (Not sure why they need another 3 score here, but whatever. “Application and independence” are definitely two words we like.)
4 – Annual goal has been mastered; able to generalize the skill independent in multiple settings.
Last quarter he got three 2s and one 1. Since he had only been in school for three weeks when the last quarter ended, this didn’t really concern anyone. This quarter, he was all about rocking on up the ladder toward those 4s. His numbers increased in 3 of the 4 IEP categories and in the other he still made progress even though his number remained the same.
Here’s a rundown for those who like detail:
Early learning and play skills, participating in educational environment – 3! He’s really come out of his shell, is much more willing to participate both upon request and some on his own initiative. He’s matching up to 8 colors and 8 shapes at a time, and he can label colors outside of matching too!
As we mentioned before, he’s reading sight words cards and counting to 10, though not independently. You have to acknowledge you heard him say the number by saying it back to him before he’ll keep going. He’s identifying more body parts. He’s more into play activities, participating in things like music and story time, and generally being more social than before. Yay!
As the goal notes, he continues to need ‘maximum structure’. Outside the structure, many of these skills decrease rapidly.
Fine motor and self-help skills – 2. This was expected, but he’s still improving, albeit slowly. He still has a lot of trouble coordinating hands, muscles, body, etc. in most all activities. Certain aspects of his muscle strength are very weak (hands, abdominals) while others are ridiculously strong (arms and legs), so this probably doesn’t help him figure things out. So fine motor remains a real struggle for him. The good news is that he keeps trying hard, gets less frustrated, and sticks with it. His OT has given a number of pointers on how to improve some of these coordination skills, so we’re definitely going to work on that.
Instructional behavior skills – 3*!! (Yeah, baby!) The structured learning environment of the classroom has been a revelation to him. We tried making our home structured, but there’s only so much you can do at home, especially since there’s no way to duplicate the elaborate, structured wonderland of his classroom.
He’s transitioning much, much better between activities, and we’re seeing this at home consistently too. (Thank God!) He stays in groups and other centers in the classroom without getting up, wandering around when he gets disinterested, or otherwise being forced to stay in one place, namely his seat. He’s blowing through his ‘work’ activities (matching, sorting, etc.) and transitioning independently between them and ‘play’.
His biggest weakness right now is being in group and being asked to do things that are really hard for him like coordinating movements or going to get things. This goes back to motor planning and how frustrating this is for him, but he’s keeping at it. He’s still much better one-on-one at doing harder things than in group, but that’s OK. He’s getting the hang of the group thing steadily.
If you had seen him several months ago not sit still to do even one basic, 30-second activity because he was so frustrated and upset and overloaded, you would look at him now and think this was a completely new child. We are so proud of how hard he’s worked at this!!
Social skills – 2. This was expected, too, but he’s starting to really make some good progress here of late. His interest in sharing things with you has increased a lot lately. He’s much more interactive now during activities like reading and doing flash cards. He’s often very intent on making sure we’ve heard him or seen what he’s done. Lots of good eye contact in these situations, and we loves us the joint attention that’s developing!
With prompts, he’s starting to say “Hi, ____” (with some names!) and give high-fives. Still not really any ‘bye-bye’. He’s trying more and more to get your attention and then use a wider variety of words and word approximations to communicate what he wants. He’s getting very silly and mischievous, too, which we totally love. He’s learning the names of his classmates and interacting with them a little bit more each day.
His biggest challenge here is that during unstructured play time, he doesn’t really choose to do anything functional and just kind of aimlessly does his thing. Structure is the beginning and the end of everything we do, but boy what a difference that has made. Slowly he’ll learn to generalize all these skills into more and more unstructured settings, but it’s OK that this will take some time. We know he’ll get there.
We’re only 1/3 of the way through this IEP year, but it’s astonishing the progress he has made over these four months. We cannot say enough wonderful things about his teachers!
We are so proud of our little wonder!! Go J-Man!!!