A family's story

Posts tagged ‘It Takes A Team’

Parent-Teacher Conference Success

Last week the boys brought home their first trimester report cards. I always get a little nervous on the days that they bring them home. This year, we have such open communication that I didn’t foresee any surprises, but there is still apprehension as the day arrives. I opened Tate’s report when he came home for therapy. I was ecstatic. Yes, he has a modified curriculum, but my son is kicking some booty this year. He is progressing towards grade-level in several areas. He is doing well with his math and spelling. The teacher is helping him stay interested when it comes to reading. He still wants to explain pictures in the books more than read the words, but he’s getting better. He’s making progress towards his IEP goals…only a month into the new IEP.

Jake made sure to tell me that his report card was in his folder as he popped out of the school. I read it when we got home. I was pleased. He is doing quite well in reading and spelling and social studies and science. He is making progress in math. His teachers have him pegged so well. Jake tries hard, when he wants to try hard. When he doesn’t, the teaching staff has to resort to motivators…and pep talks. His effort in math is inconsistent. He can do it, but because he doesn’t like it and struggles, he fights her with every ounce that he has left in him. Jake needs a lot of reassurance that he is on the right track. A lot. Like every 10 minutes. God bless his teachers for not getting irritated too much. They give him what he needs. He is grateful and lets them know that.

The day after report cards came home, we met with each of the boys’ teachers. In Jake’s room we had most of his team–regular ed teacher, student teacher, resource teacher, social worker, and speech therapist. He is progressing well in speech and social work. He achieved one of his first trimester goals in social work! The speech therapist is working on his pragmatic speech skills, and is noticing improvement with his peers, too. The teachers talked about his progress in reading and math. We are certain he can achieve a big leap in reading. His fluency, comprehension, and decoding skills have just all come together lately. He’s even trying harder books..and having success. He is splitting his reading time between the regular ed classroom and the resource room. He reads the story the regular ed kids read and then works on breaking it down with the resource teacher. We are all very impressed with his ability to get the work done.

We all wish his math class wasn’t at the end of the day. But that’s when the third grade has math. He’s tired, his meds are wearing off, and he is easily distracted. It is hard for him, so he tends to melt down a bit more. They are hoping for him to make a 10 point gain in the district assessments come January, but we aren’t sure if it will happen. We all tried to brainstorm different ways to help him succeed. We are all working together for his benefit.

Hubz and I raised concerns about Jake’s organizational skills. It was flagged on his report card as an area of concern, as well. We brainstormed in his conference. We decided that in order to motivate him to write down his assignments, we will let him use pens and Sharpies. He loves colors. The teachers also said that they would be comfortable with him doing homework in pen/ink, as long as it is neat. So now when he wants to write spelling sentences in purple pen, he can do so. I love that we can talk about it and come up with some new ideas for him. No one lets their ego get in the way…it’s all about getting him to achieve. I love it.

After Jake’s conference, we walked down the hall to Tate’s classroom. We chatted with his teacher and the social worker. Tate is doing so much better. His anxiety is much lower. He is not scripting nearly as much as he used to be. In fact, we were all in agreement that as soon as we put a BIP review into his IEP, the scripting stopped…at school and at home. He still does it, but not to the degree where it interferes with everything else. Tate is loving the visual schedules that the teacher provides him at his desk. He is able to change it every day according to his schedule. He is first to let his teacher know if she forgot to change anything on the main schedule on the board, too. That’s my Tater.

We talked about his passion for numbers. We are able to get him to do math willingly, and he’s getting better. He struggles with some of the various terms that are used in math, which mean the same thing…so we’re going to work on that with his teacher and his speech teacher. Until he gets more comfortable, his teacher will write the various terms so he sees them all at the top. For example, when they want him to find the EQUAL pieces, she will do: EQUAL/SAME/MATCH. For addition she writes: ADD/SUM/ALL TOGETHER. Tate is also starting to show his humorous side at school…that playful, charming side that Hubz and I know so well. He will recite the answer correctly for the teacher, then write down something incorrect. For instance, 1+1=2…and he’ll say it, but then write down a “3”. Then he smiles his megawatt smile and says, “Nooooo, that’s not it!” and erases the “3” and writes the “2”. Love that kid.

Social interactions are still a concern for us. I asked specifically about them. His teacher said that for Tate, peer interaction is still on his terms…unless it is prompted by an adult in the classroom. But he is getting better with fewer prompts and examples. The social worker is really working with him to help him learn to initiate himself into play. That is, by far, his biggest struggle. He tends to crash, literally, the party. Instead, they are working so hard with him to get him to use the right scripts for initiating peer play. He does ok, but only with the prompts. He’ll get there….I know he will. Already it is emerging at home…and of course, that doesn’t surprise anyone, as he’s so comfortable there with his brothers. It is a step in the right direction.

For the first time in a long time Hubz and I walked away from the conferences with a spring in our step, and a hopeful, positive outlook. As we told Tate’s team, we are in a good place right now. We know that there are other challenges and struggles ahead, but for today..this moment?! We are closer to hope and joy and relative status-quo than that hard place that we’ve found ourselves in for so long. And we like it. And we are enjoying it. And we will not take it for granted because a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this “place” that we’re in…and it will not be here for long. It is a great feeling to know that all of the choices and fights and compromises and being the squeaky wheels have paid off for our kids’ relative happiness and success.

IEP Season is over…whew

Well, as anyone who has a child with an IEP knows, IEP Season is never over, but our annual meetings have been held and are in the record books. Shew. That bluster of air? That’s not wind..that’s Hubz and me exhaling. This year our IEP meetings went fairly well. There was give and take, discussion, and some really, really good plans put into place for each of our boys. I had updated on Jake’s IEP meeting here.

Last Thursday we had Tate’s meeting. We had received his draft the week prior, which is awesome. I need to check the laws to see if this is now standard in our state, or if it’s just a new district-wide thing…whatever it is, I love not having to beg for a draft prior to the meeting. I like having some grasp of what they are trying to implement for the next 12 months, and I like to feel intelligent and able to ask pertinent and pointed questions without scrambling. It definitely helps me feel calmer about the whole process.

I was a bit annoyed, not with the school, but with our ABA director. Back in the summer she had asked to be a part of Tate’s IEP meeting. I had let her know the first week of September that his teacher wanted to schedule for October 11th. I never heard a word. I spoke to the coordinator about it in mid-September when they all met (sans director) to discuss Tate’s ABA programs. She sent 3 emails and a few texts. Nothing. I sent another email 2 weeks prior to the meeting.  And another a week prior. I left a message. The therapists left messages. His teacher called her, and she wouldn’t talk until she saw a release from me. (I had one on file with the ABA director, too…so I don’t know why she made the teacher fax one in..but whatever.) They talked briefly, and the director decided that she didn’t need to attend, but she wanted to see the draft of the IEP. The day before the meeting. I scrambled. I got it to her. She sent her comments. It was a lot of rigamarole, but we got it done.

Back to the meeting….Hubz and I showed up, with the draft and our and the ABA director’s notes. We had our “Binder of Power” with us…it has our boys’ neuropsych reports, prior IEP’s, notes, assessments, and most recent report cards. Tate has a whole section on ABA programs, too. It’s big. And red. And screams “Don’t mess with Us, we know our shtuff.”

We did the greeting and introductions. Then we dove right into the nitty gritty. Everyone did their PLOF.  I can’t argue with anything they said…except that in the social/emotional area, there was some sentence in there about how “Tate does not get along well with neighborhood peers.” WTH?! He gets along ok…more often than not he’s on the periphery, but he isn’t antagonistic or nasty. I asked to have it removed, and they agreed. I know that this section is necessary, because it establishes where Tate is at with all of the various areas, but still, it absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt stinks. I really dislike reading about what he can’t do. However, I do like that each of the therapists and the teachers included a few of the things that Tate CAN do…it is nice to hear the positives. It helps soften the blow with the deficiencies.

I’m not going to bore you with a play-by-play of his goals and objectives. That would be about as tortuous as it was to sit in the meeting. However, I will say that Hubz and I asked for a few peer-interaction goals, seeing as that Tate’s greatest area of weakness is socializing with peers. The social worker was more than willing to add peer goals, and the district behavior specialist, who sat in on the meeting, gave some terrific suggestions for implementing peer socialization with some of the other classroom goals. This year, Tate’s team is going to try to help him improve his handwriting (trust me, it is abysmal), strengthen his visual coordination, regulate himself with strategies taught by the occupational therapist and social worker, and strengthen his academic skills in the areas of reading, writing, and arithmetic. (For the old folks out there, the “Three R’s”.)

I mentioned the behavior specialist. She attended the meeting because while we were there, we did a domain for a Functional Behavior Analysis. Per discussions we have already had with his team, Tate would benefit greatly at school from an analysis of his environment and his behavior in that environment. Then, the teachers, therapists, and behavior specialist can formulate a Behavior Improvement Plan to help him function  more successfully in school. I know I have talked about this before…but we made it official on Thursday. The district now has 60 days to complete the FBA and formulate the BIP. We will meet again to discuss once it is ready. In the meantime, his special ed teacher and the therapists have had some training with the behavior specialist to try to address the excessive scripting in the interim. They are having some minor success, so I guess that is a good start.

I am relieved that we are all on the same page. I am grateful for a team that is willing to work with us, and to help us understand why they put certain goals in place for Tate. I am confident that with this team, as well as his ABA team and us, he can progress and achieve these goals. As a parent, it was encouraging to watch the entire team, all seven of them, sit around and discuss, TOGETHER, how they could better help Tate succeed. It was amazing. They took ideas, brainstormed, hashed them out, defined them, made them measurable. It was fantastic. Truly, it was one of the most productive meetings we have been a part of since Tate started in special education three and a half years ago.

When we were done with our meeting, Hubz and I thanked everyone for their time and their energy and efforts. We know they are overloaded. We know they are being asked to do a lot with fewer resources. And we told them how much we love what they are doing for our son…and for our family. I told them that I was grateful for their willingness to change a few things in the IEP, and that I was sorry to create a little more work. The Special Education Coordinator said that it was not a problem…they want to help Tate, and if we need to change things, it is always ok to ask.

There you have it. We are in a pretty good place with solid plans ready for each of our boys. I have very open communication with their teams and teachers, and I think it is the most solid footing we have been on in regards to a school year, ever. I have great hopes for 2012-13.

And, yeah, IamsogladitsoverandIcantakeabreath…whew. For now. Until the next thing. But today, today I will relax, knowing that we are in a good place.

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