After all the stress, frustration, and general drama around last year’s IEP process (our first), this year’s was the complete polar opposite. It is beyond description to have a team of caring, creative, smart teachers and therapists who have the best interests of your child at heart working with you.
I’m not saying last year’s team – compiled by the county school system with no one on the team from the J-man’s current school – weren’t good people. Far from it. Some we liked quite well, but with a couple of people, we did have some adversarial relationships, and it was clear that it wasn’t exactly a cohesive unit of people used to working together. We got off on the wrong foot with our case manager – and never really got back on the right one – and we so totally distrusted the process at one point that we never really quite got over it.
The end result last year was that we completed the process knowing that without all the work we put into it and without all the pushing and standing firm we did, we very likely wouldn’t have gotten what was appropriate for where the J-man was then.
What we didn’t know back then was that we had gotten the IEP Powerball as an added bonus, almost by sheer luck (albeit with a system we admittedly gamed a bit). We got a school and a set of teachers and therapists beyond our wildest dreams.
To say this has been an amazing first year of preschool for the J-man would be a serious understatement. He continues to grow and thrive and learn and do things that astound us. He has worked so hard, and he has had the best teaching and support we could have ever dreamed of.
Around the table the other evening for IEP 2009 were Mary and I, his lead teacher, the teaching assistant, his speech therapist, his occupational therapist, and the school principal. We talked about the J-man’s many great accomplishments and the areas that still remain a challenge for him. In my mind, we were remembering and celebrating the great year he had and diving in with hope and enthusiasm to plan for the future.
We then firmed up all of his learning goals for the coming year. We had talked with his teacher about a month ago and started brainstorming areas that we wanted to most focus on this next school year. She took all those notes and specific suggestions, wrote up drafts of his various learning goals in IEP-ese, and sent them to us to review at home and discuss with her before the actual IEP meeting.
She did an amazing job with the draft, and frankly it was challenging to find anything we wanted to add or modify. We sent her some things we thought about while on our long car trip last weekend. She took those and wrote up a few more things to add to the IEP. We looked at that and, again, were so impressed by how well she hit everything spot on.
The IEP meeting was really more about just going over everything with the entire team of people who work with the J-man and us and making little changes here and there if something new came up in our conversation together. Largely it was a confirmation of the draft and then making it official. It was completely laid back, like a good conversation among friends about something important to us.
The one pleasant surprise is that he’ll be getting a second weekly speech therapy session. We asked about it, but we could understand the reasoning behind going either way with that. He gets so much great speech work in the classroom already that we weren’t emotionally invested in getting two per week or not. But his teacher and the speech therapist made a very good point.
Not surprisingly, the J-man’s receptivity to doing various things is strongly a function of how well he knows the person he’s working with. He doesn’t have a long history with this speech therapist yet, and there’s a clear disconnect between the kinds of communication he’s doing in a familiar room with familiar people and what he’s doing with a speech therapist who’s still a relative stranger to him. No matter how much I tell him that she’s awesome, he’s not going to believe it until he arrives at that conclusion himself. 🙂
So, we all decided it was a good idea to add a second session so she could build that long-term familiarity with him and work on his speech from the same level of skills he shows in the classroom. Once they get that going, we may drop back to once a week with her somewhere down the road. But everyone is going to take that as it goes and make that decision one way or the other when it’s right for the J-man.
This is what having a great IEP team can result in – smart, caring people working together to find creative and helpful solutions to address your child’s needs. Now if we could just get everyone else in the world’s IEP teams to work like that!
Every day he goes to school, we feel like we’ve won the lottery. It’s such a huge weight lifted knowing that he’s getting one of the best educations available from teachers who are brilliant and love him right where he is.
OK, I’ve gushed long enough. 🙂 Feel free to read all of our other IEP posts, too!