Monday, November 26, 2012

My Child Left Behind Part I


As I may not have mentioned, Elinore has finally received an actual diagnosis of PDD-NOS from her developmental pediatrician. However, Elinore has been in the early intervention system since she was eighteen months.

I must say, her therapists and service coordinator have been nothing short of outstanding. I am not mentioning names here, because I am not sure of each one's stand on privacy issues, but I already knew they were wonderful even before we transitioned from early intervention to the public school system.

When Elinore turned three, we opted for an extended IFSP (individualized family service plan), the pre-cursor to the IEP (individualized education plan) that she got when she turned four (and she is currently four-and-three-months). She started out at 18 months with home-based speech therapy, and gradually added physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and special instruction. So before we transitioned to the public school system, we had:

speech                      1 hour weekly, at home
PT                            30 minutes every other week, center based
OT                            1 hour weekly, center based
special instruction    30 minutes weekly, at home

Elinore made oodles (like that scientific measurement?) of progress. I think it is impossible to quantify how much is due to therapy and how much she would have made regardless.

The biggest thing that made me nervous about that first IEP meeting was as a homeschooling family since, I think, 1991, I was not ready to send my four year old off to preschool. I don't need six hours a day of babysitting. I crossed my fingers, hoping a half day program might be available.

From the beginning of the meeting, things did not seem to be focused on helping Elinore succeed. It seemed more focused on denying services. Here are her new therapy times, slashed from the IFSP, you'll notice:

speech                        30 minutes every other week
PT                              denied, determined it would not impact educational experience
OT                             denied, replaced with 4 hours annual consultation
special instruction     4 hours per week, after the recommendation of full time

On to the placement portion of the meeting, we decline to put our 4-before-school-starts daughter in a three year old program. I insisted I want her ready for kindergarten when she turns five. So we are offered a placement in a brand new program called Bright and Ready! Bright and Ready! met in the meeting room at the library across town only two days a week, for 2 1/2 hours a week, and not only was I welcome, I was encouraged! to attend. Headed by a special educator and an aide, attended by a maximum of 7 typically developing peers, and 7 IEP students, it seemed like it could fit the bill.

I did wonder how such a brief program would prepare my student for kindergarten, but since we were already homeschooling her using Calvert PreK, I wasn't too worried about academics, just trusting that she would get speech therapy and social skills from the program and that the teacher would see her need for OT.

Oh. My. Word. Even my minimal expectations were not met...

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