We made it through our non-IEP meeting today. I guess my message must have come through loud and clear to the case worker. Today’s meeting really was just about changing Nik’s classification and brainstorming on strategies for the fall. His full IEP meeting will be in mid-September and Niksdad and I are OK with that.
We did feel a little put on the spot this morning because the autism program coordinator and school psychologist —neither of whom had returned my calls about talking before today’s meeting — shared the results of their evaluation in the most rambling, round-about way. We were sitting there trying to decipher just what the psychologist was saying (do they every just speak like normal human beings!?) and trying to process the emotions. God I got so frustrated I just wanted to reach across the table and smack the crap out of the psychologist! It took them nearly twenty minutes to articulate this:
Nik’s overlapping medical issues, combined with his long-term
hospitalization may have contributed to, in fact may be the primary driving
force behind, his autistic features. Because they couldn’t really get an
indisputably clear picture from the ADOS, they agree that he needs educational
supports congruent with those a child with autism might receive. However,
they feel the classification that best suits Nik right now is “multiply
handicapped,” which encompasses the medical (CP, seizures, GI health), the
physical impairments (orthopedically & visually), and the extreme
OK, that’s pretty straightforward. It is also the classification we wanted. Yay!
The bottom line is that Nik will continue in the preschool but with some greater supports, including behavioral and intensive language/communication programs. There was a lot of talk about the potential to do a disservice to Nik in isolating him from typically developing peers; I agree right now. The autism classroom at Nik’s school is not set up to accommodate the overlapping issues he presents at this point.
Nik’s OT, Miss D, was at the meeting this morning and backed us up on the need for a comprehensive sensory evaluation both at school and by an outside professional. I was thrilled! The outside evaluation, if I understood correctly, will cover more aspects than she can in a school setting. Miss D’s feeling is that it would extremely useful information to have in structuring daily activities for Nik.
The new principal, Mr. L, was in there too. It was wonderful. The old principal never got involved in IEPs unless there was a significant problem (thus his butt being on the line!). Mr. L had some really useful input around the issue of a 1:1 paraprofessional for Nik right now. While it doesn’t give me what I thought we wanted, it makes a great deal of sense when I put it in the context of my extremely clever son.
The caveat Mr. L put forth was that Nik needs to generalize his learning at this point in his education (I agree) and the danger is that, because Nik is very bright and a good problem solver, he may learn instead that he doesn’t have to mind the teacher or other authority figures and that his individual para is the only one he has to mind. OK, I can see that as a highly likely scenario if I am completely honest with myself.
I do still have some concerns about Nik’s safety given his seizure activity. It is so subtle (they are short absence seizures —like staring spells) that they can be missed. The net result is that we cannot give reliable data to the neurologist in order to adjust meds. Also, Nik has been known to have a seizure while he is climbing or crawling and the potential for significant injury frightens me. I mean, hell, we didn’t spend all these millions of dollars (thank you insurance and Medicaid!) to keep our son alive just to have him fall and bust his head open, right?! (I am SO kidding, folks! Please no admonishing comments!)
Mr. L’s suggested solution is to educate the entire staff on what Nik’s safety issues are, as well as what we can reasonably predict they may be as Nik becomes more independently mobile. On the surface, that seems reasonable enough; we are willing to try it. But Niksdad and I made it clear that we reserve the right to reexamine the issue of a 1:1 if Nik’s safety is in the least little bit compromised. Miss J, Nik’s teacher, suggested that I come in at the beginning of the school year to do a little in-service with the classroom staff about some of Nik’s needs. I like that idea.
On a related note, I am excited about picking up prescriptions today for significantly increased therapies for Nik. Hopefully, we can get him into a good groove and making some significant progress between now and the time he goes back to school at the end of August. It would be wonderful if I could go back and show the folks at school how well Nik makes progress when he gets appropriate levels of services.
In this morning’s meeting, when I raised the issue of increasing frequency and duration of services, even Miss D (the OT) balked a bit. The old “school versus medical” line came up. I was ready! I reminded everyone that IDEA 2004 calls for preparing a child for “further education, employment, and independent living.” Further, I brought up that FAPE also encompasses the child’s ability to participate meaningfully in extra-curricular activities. The issue isn’t about medicine it is about development; that is about education. (Don’t get my Italian riled up, folks!)
OK, so I may not have been all softness and acquiescence this morning. Been there, tried that and Nik got the crappy T-shirt that ran and shrank in the wash —thank you very much! But I think our preparation and outspokenness made it clear that we weren’t going to just settle for the “same ol’ same ol’.” I feel good about today —I think.
I’ll let you know in September…