Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Road to Mainstream Kindergarten: Evaluation

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Most schools have some kind of intake evaluation they give to their incoming students.  We were contacted last week by the elementary school to schedule a time for us to go in.  Honestly, we weren’t sure how effective of a reading on C they’d get considering he doesn’t always respond to people who are talking to him or asking questions.  

Getting in the building yesterday was a treat with all 3 kids and a Sit ‘N Stand stroller, but we made it….through 2 sets of doors, and then an elevator (have I mentioned this school is enormous?).  C wouldn’t ride the elevator, so someone walked him up the stairs for me.  He wasn’t very receptive initially, but did sit down.  I walked in the room (even though I wasn’t supposed to) to tell him to listen and sit, and after a few more minutes, he did.  I couldn’t hear anything going on once back in the hall, but the occasional “good job,” or “that’s right” kind of comment. 

Twenty minutes later, one of two women who had been working with him walked him out.  “He’s very high,” she told me, and I nodded back.  “He was zipping through the words…I’ve only had one other child do that so far and he was way faster than she was” (Internal horn tooting going off in my brain at this time).  I just said I hoped that we would be able to get the behavior part under control so that he can do the “school” part, because we know he’s so smart.  She said,”You can totally work with this….He knows more now than some outgoing 1st graders.”  Phew.  I was certain he wouldn’t be able to show what he knew, but he did!  Small victories….

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The Road to Mainstream Kindergarten: Additional Conference

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I had a request by the director of the preschool (who I also learned that day is one of 2 special needs coordinators for the district…um, where have I been for the last 2 years???) to come in for a conference. She thought that having just the two of us sit down may help us regroup without everyone trying to give their input and opinions at once. I totally agreed.

We sat and chatted about how the next couple months would go down: the transition meeting with school personnel from the elementary as well as current teachers, summer upkeep of skills, ABA therapy, summer camp, etc. One of the things we discussed was that the transition meeting was probably a bad idea right now.

The idea of the transition meeting is to better plan out goals, the school day minute by minute, how long he will actually be in the school building, and I’m sure a lot of other stuff. There’s so much planned for the summer that we feel it could be shorting him to make plans for the kid he is right this minute. I also think that at the end of a school year isn’t really when teachers are getting all hyped about incoming kids. To these people who don’t yet know him, he is the unruly kid they may have seen on one of his visits or just what they can read on a piece of paper.  Plus, he changed immensely over last summer, so who’s to say he won’t do something similar again?  I wish I could take credit for thinking of postponing this, but it wasn’t my idea…I just thought of all these things after the fact.

We are so hopeful of all the possibilities for what growth we could see by August, but trying not to pin everything on it.

The Road to Mainstream Kindergarten: School Visits

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One of the ideas brought up by the preschool teacher was to try and visit the elementary school before summer time. The intent was for C to see how the classroom works so that it wouldn’t be a complete surprise in August.

Visit 1: Morning. This was calendar time, which we feel will be a strength eventually, but while he was tuned in and able to keep up for a lot, he was wanting to wander around the room and see everything.

Their perspective: He couldn’t sit and attend to calendar time entirely, but he did enjoy it and was able to count up to 160 (how many days they’d been in school) with the class.

My perspective: I was totally fine with him not sitting still the whole time and feel that it is natural for him to want to see everything in a completely new environment.

Visit 2: Afternoon. The teachers wanted to see how he would do sitting at the table working.

Their Perspective: He found a second exit from the bathroom and “ran away.” I was called to come get him.

My perspective: in the 2 minute drive, I had come up with why he had tried to run away, which was that he had never been given the chance to see the building; there was no tour or explanation. I never heard how the work part of this ever went, but he was only there about 20 minutes before the class bathroom break.  Apparently, he was actually missing for a few minutes (this building is a huge maze) so by the time I got there, he’d been lost, found, and then in and out of a meltdown because he didn’t understand what was going on. My guns blazing and telling these staff members they were going about this all wrong was not exactly received well right away, but talking to his current teacher and the autism consultant helped them understand what I was meaning better.

Outcome: it was determined that a tour would be helpful, so it was scheduled for the following day, after school hours so things would be more empty.

Visit 3: Tour. His current teacher, the autism consultant, and I walked around the building with him. He had some places he wanted to go, but was able to continue on the tour without trouble (though we did have to spend some time in the library looking at the fish).  We also spent a little time in the classroom talking to his teacher for next year.

Their perspective: this “might” help.

My perspective: This will definitely help at least a little.  He was able to see the main parts of the building which could eliminate his desire to wander. Now if he does wander, they will have an idea what places were interesting to him and can check there first.

Visit 4: Lunch.

Their perspective: just his current teacher was there and so the two of them sat at the end of the table of current K students. She said he was very happy and she was so glad to have a relaxed and happy time with him since things have been so demanding lately. He sat and ate his lunch, but was sad to leave because he thought he was going to the classroom (the K teacher said it was time to go back to the classroom).  His teacher for next year was trying to help get him out the door.

My perspective: this was an area he succeeded in! The other 2 kids and I sat in the car and hung out since we didn’t expect this to be longer than the brief lunch period.  While I wasn’t happy to have to collect him crying from the front doors, we had had a minor victory, and it is also good that he wants to be there.

Overall, I’m not sure how big of a difference this all makes. We skipped a final visit that would have been in the morning again. I would have liked to see if he did better having knowledge of how it all worked, but ultimately we decided he probably wasn’t going gain anything from it.  His teacher for next year should be a good fit, and oddly enough, was my youngest brother’s first grade teacher many years ago!

The Road to Mainstream Kindergarten: IEP Meeting

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We had our annual IEP (Individualized education plan) meeting/case conference near the end of April.  Special needs kids with IEPs get annual reviews around the time of year when the document was first created.  For us, it is very close to our son’s birthday since that was when we were transitioning from First Steps to the school system.

At the meeting, we were joined by nearly all of the people who currently work with our son in the school setting: the classroom teacher, OT, SLP, autism consultant for the district, and also the director of the school (standard procedure).  All of the past year’s goals were reviewed and progress (or lack thereof) was noted. Overall, we were very pleased with the course of the last year and most of the people at the conference could also see the big improvements.  We also discussed current setbacks, issues, and the road ahead.  While our little guy is super-smart and will most likely be running circles around his peers academically, the behavior component is not where it needs to be in order for him to succeed in a general education classroom.  Our personal estimate is that he’s a good 2 years behind developmentally, as we have an almost exactly 2 year younger comparison living in our house.  This is where the ABA therapy can really help us.

We assumed that new goals were to be set that would carry into kindergarten, but that was not the case.  Instead, there were just slight modifications on the previous IEP to carry us through the end of this school year and a future “transition” meeting with the necessary adults from the elementary school would cover kindergarten appropriate goals.  The bottom line from this meeting: none of us are ready for what is coming in August.

The Road to Mainstream Kindergarten: ABA Therapy

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After many many months of waiting for insurance and billing hiccups, we started ABA (or Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy with C.  ABA is a type of behavior therapy widely used with autistic kids to help them learn appropriate behaviors and eliminate problematic ones.  We are very hopeful that this is a good course for us as we try to assimilate as much as possible to a mainstream school setting.

Initially, therapy was 6 hours a week.  After a month or so, we noticed that problem behaviors were creeping back in to the school setting and home.  I feel that it was due to him wanting to find something he could control, so he started acting out in those places since he couldn’t at therapy.  The suggestion to us was to bump up the hours, something I was hesitant to do because I wasn’t sure how our little guy would handle a full day of hard work with both therapy and school.  He is currently attending therapy every morning to total 15 hours, and school 4 out of 5 afternoons.  Needless to say, he is a busy and tired boy.  But, 3 weeks in to this new schedule, he is handling the heavy load very well.

Since the hour increase, it seems as though things are getting a little better.  The tantrum-type scenarios are shorter and shorter in all 3 settings, and he has relaxed a little bit.  At home when he really wants something, he is more accepting if the answer is “no” or “not now.”  Once school is over next week, we will be bumping up hours again to our max approved by insurance to 25 throughout the summer months.