We had our first meeting with the school system today! Mary and I took the 25-minute drive down to where most all of the county and state child-oriented offices are.
Architectural aside: You can tell that the construction of this building and the passage of the legislation that mandates special ed services might have had something to do with each other. The 70s, brown, prison-crossed-with-bland-military-base-buildings motif of the place was as depressing as I remember it from his first evaluation there two years ago. An army of children could have shat all over the bathroom and you never would be able to tell.
Anyway, the meeting involved his Early Intervention Coordinator and a representative from the school system. As defensive as all parents who go through this are programmed to be from the word go, this went very well. We’ve been told by several people that if you’re going to live in North Carolina and have to get services through the county school system, where we live (Wake County / Raleigh) is the place to be.
No real red flags at this point and we have a pretty decent sense of what our schedule is going to look like between now and the start of the school year. Many parts of the outcome are unknown obviously (where he’ll be placed, what services he’ll qualify for, etc.). Given that the official meeting to determine everything (the IEP meeting) won’t be until less than a month before the school year starts, we’ll be hitting up on some serious time pressure there. Because his birthday and the start of the school year are within a few days of each other, this apparently makes it much easier for him to get a placement closer to our house. There will be much rejoicing if that happens!
The one major issue that gets my Hanes all in a wad is that when school isn’t in session, the special ed kids get no services through the school system unless they are in an extreme situation of regression. I was thinking, Yeah I know school won’t be happening, but surely he can still get some speech and occupational therapy through the county during those times. *Buzzer* Thanks for playing.
Harsh reality of county school services #1 – No school = you’re completely on your own until the next time the bell rings weeks or months from now.
News flash for school systems #1 – The typical degradation over the summer of a child’s knowledge of civics and calculating the time it takes trains to meet in Wisconsin is not as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things as the potential regression of speech in an autistic three-year-old. I’m way more interested in him talking than having that vacation to Disney. Just sayin’.
We do both kinds of school years here: Year-round and “traditional” (end of August to early June, give or take). I would think every special ed parent in the world would want year-round since the breaks between sessions are spaced out and shorter, which means less interruption between services. We can fill in 2-4 weeks off a few times a year with something. It’s the 2 1/2-month expanse of nothing in the traditional calendar that concerns me. Talk about a potential for regression!
Helpful answer to Reality #1 – The “Autism Underground” (pretty much what I’m calling the collective of parents around here who form the most elaborate support network I’ve ever seen) kicks in and offers everything you can think of to help you through those breaks in the action. We’d probably also try to get back in with his current therapy office during those breaks to keep the progress going.
Of course, we’ll also have the new home ‘classroom’ (still a vaporware DIY project). But since the recommendation is for 35 hours per week of total activity time (school + therapy services + work at home on therapy-related activities = 35), losing for any period of time what will make up the majority of that – school – will be rough. We’ll figure it out, but this has been a bit of sticker shock for us.
Confluence of unrelated events that may work to our benefit #1 – J-Man misses the kindergarten cut-off here by a whole day. This means he will be eligible for three years of preschool and not two, all because they couldn’t schedule Mary for induction in August three years ago. That could really work out well toward meeting our primary goal of getting to a place where he can be mainstreamed in a “regular classroom” and get near age-level developmentally by the time he starts kindergarten. Either way, much work lies ahead.
All that said, this part of the IEP process is like the preseason in NFL football. People go out and run a few plays and get acquainted with the game. It’ll be a couple of months until we put the pads on, but all signs so far lead us to feel optimistic that we won’t need to use them.