The number of acronyms in the special ed process is enough to make anyone’s head spin. In fact, crazy acronyms aside, the entire process can be overwhelming at times. The past few weeks we have spent in contact with our local school district nailing down Charlotte’s individualized education plan (IEP) for next year. I have been anticipating this for months (while years really, as I started thinking about it way back when we moved and were looking at school districts), and am extremely happy to report that it went really well.
I have read many blogs posts about other people’s experiences with the process and they were extremely helpful. I also was thankful for my education background, and my posse of education friends and former colleagues whom I was able to bounce questions of before and during the process.
Each school district is different, and the way the process is handled is not always the same. Because Charlotte does private therapy, and not our county’s birth-three program, there wasn’t a formal transition from therapy to district services. Instead, I started by sending a few emails to the special education director from our district. She put me in contact with the school psychologist and asked me a few questions about Charlotte and our thoughts on what next year would look like for her. Our district does not have an onsite Early Childhood program, and historically have sent children who need EC to a neighboring district. This option was presented to us, but so was sending Charlotte to a local preschool and providing the support and therapies she needs there.
The process formally started a couple weeks ago with three mornings of assessments. The meetings took place in our home, in an effort to have Charlotte in her most natural environment. The first day the school psychologist and a PT came, the second morning an OT and a Speech therapist, and the third morning the school psychologist returned with an EC teacher. It sounds like a lot; however, it was nice that it wasn’t overwhelming for Charlotte. The meetings were short, and I believe each person was able to accurately observe who Charlotte is and what her strengths and weaknesses are.
The officially IEP meeting was held this past Wednesday. Before the meeting, we were given four questions to think about regarding Charlotte’s strengths and what goals we had for her (long-term and short-term). Missy and I sat down the day before and pretty much wrote what we thought IEP should look like (the benefit of having someone in your life who not only does this as her profession, but knows my kid as well as her own). Mike and I went into the meeting prepared, and though anxious, we really didn’t need to be.
We are very encouraged by the outcome of the meeting. Charlotte will be attending a local preschool next year, with many peers who will also attend the same elementary school with her some day. She will receive the therapy she needs—OT, PT, and Speech in an inclusive setting (with the exception of one pull out session per week, separate from her preschool time), as well as have the support of an EC teacher and/or paraprofessional when needed. For Charlotte, I don’t think this placement could be any better. She is very social and learns best from watching others. Her IEP goals are realistic and for the most part, pretty meaningful. I was also impressed by the willingness to change these goals if necessary (since nearly 4 months will pass before she actually starts school, some of the goals may already be met by then).
I am thrilled our first experience with this process went so well, I can only hope the same for the future! Now if only I can wrap my head around putting my eldest son on the school bus for his first day of Kindergarten and dropping my little girl off for her first day of preschool on the same day....I may be shedding a few tears come September!