A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Teamwork’

The Extra Mile

We are very fortunate that our boys have such wonderful teams to help them succeed in school. I read many horror stories about denial of services, lack of accommodations, and falling through the cracks. Sometimes I think it’s necessary to shout out to the educators to let them know that their efforts are appreciated.

For example, Jake has been floundering. He’s overwhelmed, and school work is too much. Just prior to Thanksgiving, I had a few reports that were cause for concern. When I threw out a few questions to his team for clarification, every single one of the teachers and specialists replied to clarify how things were “going down” in their respective classrooms/sessions. We came up with a few strategies to help Jake power through the tough times. I got more feedback this week that he’s calmer and more relaxed.

Unfortunately, Jake’s resource teacher is having some health issues. She is on leave through January. I received a call from the principal that was very matter-of-fact. I appreciated that she let me know. Additionally, the resource teacher called me to inform me personally, as she knows Jake and how he struggles when his routine is changed. She started to cry on the phone, and without breaching her privacy, I told her that we’d work with Jake and help him through..and that she needed to focus on her health. We talked to Jake about his resource teacher’s absence, and discussed ways that he can get help if he’s not comfortable with the substitute.

Yesterday, Jake’s regular ed teacher stopped me in the hallway when I was at the school to get Tate for therapy. She wanted to make sure that we knew that the resource teacher was going to be out..and that she and the resource teacher really tried to impart upon the administration that the substitute be for the duration…and also be competent. The students who receive resource help cannot afford to lose 2 and a half weeks of instruction with an ill-prepared fill-in. It sounds promising for now, but my guess is that Hubz and I will be doing some hard-core tutoring over the next couple of weeks to make sure Jake stays on track.

Switching gears to Tate, his teacher put together a fantabulous resource book for each student, based on his/her abilities and present levels. The book goes between home and school and includes tools for the various subjects. It is amazeballs. I think I will do an entire post on this tool, as I think EVERY child should have one. I may even make one up for Jake, based on Tate’s!!

Tate’s teacher also created a “Good Morning” book for him. It goes over a basic routine for Tate’s morning, and it includes ways he can greet his family, teachers, bus driver and friends. The added bonus of this book is that Tate LOVES to look at pictures of his classmates, so he happily does activities he doesn’t care much for in order to have time with his book to look at pictures of his friends! Motivational tool!!!

This week has been rough for Tate in terms of re-entry to school after a holiday week. His behavior has been on “yellow” all week. When I asked his teacher to give me examples, she told me what had been happening, and said she had some strategies that she was going to try today to help him get back on track. She then emailed me to let me know that he had a fantastic morning, was engaged, talked with peers appropriately, and worked up to “purple”, which is the best behavior level he has.  She said he was incredibly proud of himself and happily chose a prize from the prize bucket.

His teacher also forwarded information to me about the Caring Santa program that is going on at various malls this weekend. She thought that it would be something Tate might like. We already  have plans to visit with Santa this Sunday, but I was incredibly appreciative that she took the time to let us know about the program (although I had seen it around the Interwebz).

Finally, she is writing an “I Can” book for Tate. In the book, there will be pictures of his school friends and teachers. It will give him strategies and ideas for social interaction with his peers, and has examples for him of different things he can do when he has finished his work in class, or if he needs help.

Our boys are incredibly lucky to have such invested teachers and specialists. We are fortunate that they are willing to work with them and us and to try new things so that our boys can learn and have a successful and relatively pleasant educational experience. I know that not everyone is so lucky….so I am very grateful!

A Good Team Makes a Difference

Our teachers and principal are working on assembling next year’s classes. They’ll have them done by May. At the PTO meeting earlier this month the principal explained the process for class formulation. The teachers work together and assemble classes in groups. They look at the different needs and abilities of all the students and put them together. I can only imagine the drama that takes place when trying to create the classes.

Our district does not allow for teacher requests. Instead, we are encouraged to write the principal a letter with information about our child that we believe may help in class assignment. The teachers do their part, and then the principal assigns teachers based on the classes and parent and teacher input. 

We, as parents, are permitted to ask for our child to be separated from other students if there is a known issue. Last year, I asked that Jake be separated from a girl who was a best friend, but who also took over the reigns too much and bossed him around. That request was met. This year, I asked that he not be put in a classroom with a boy who I know has been bullying several of the kids, including Jake. 

Last year we had a meeting at the end of April to talk about Jake’s progress since his updated district evaluation and new supports were put into place. I never mentioned a teacher, specifically, but I was very clear about the type of teacher that Jake would benefit from…and they knew exactly who I meant…and he did get his fabulous teacher. His third grade teacher will hence be the benchmark for fantabulous teachers to hit. She has been phenomenal. 

How phenomenal? Let me list the ways….Reads and understands the accommodations in the IEP–check! Works with the resource teacher to make sure Jake is appropriately challenged and kept from frustration–check! Works with the social worker, speech therapist, and OT to make sure Jake is getting a fair shake at education–check! Communicates frequently with the rest of the team AND Jake’s parents (that would be me & Hubz)–check! Asks questions about Jake and how he’s doing–check! She has been a DREAM!

Earlier this week she stopped me outside of the school. She wanted to confirm something that she couldn’t find in the IEP…during Jake’s annual IEP meeting in October, we had discussed how smoothly his transition into 3rd grade had been. It had been so stress-free and comfortable. He didn’t take forever to get acclimated to the new grade. It was smooth. We all acknowledged that a huge part was that he knew who his teacher was and where her classroom was and that took that anxiety out of the picture. We all discussed, and noted, that for subsequent years, we could have Jake meet his new teacher at the end of the school year, visit the classroom, and get comfortable.

When I met with Jake’s teacher and resource teacher in January/February/March to discuss the behavior and coping struggles Jake was having at that time, we discussed that again..and it was implied that they would meet with his new teacher to give her (all the 4th grade teachers are women) some insight into Jake…and we talked about how nice it would be for Jake to meet her before the new school year..and how that would help him transition in August.

Apparently during class formation meetings, though, there was some push back on this agreement. It wasn’t written into the IEP…and yet, 4 different people who were in the meeting had it in their meeting notes. Jake’s teacher said she KNEW we had discussed it, and that she and Jake’s resource teacher felt it was imperative for Jake to meet his 4th grade teacher ahead of time. I agreed.

I ran home and poured over the IEP. It wasn’t in there. FRACK!!! But, I had my meeting notes, and there it was…in my notes, “Follow up with team in spring re: Jake meeting new teacher.” I had circled it and starred it. Obviously that was important. So, I sent an email to Jake’s resource teacher and cc’d his homeroom teacher. I was more than willing to request a meeting to get this formally into the IEP via an amendment. 

Both responded back within about an hour…the principal was going to grant the request. Jake could meet his teacher the week of Memorial Day, visit the classroom, and stop by a few times before the end of the year…so he could get comfortable. Jake’s resource teacher and I discussed adding it as an amendment, though, so that it would be in there IN WRITING.

We are lucky. We are blessed. Don’t think for a second that I am not grateful for this allowance. I know sooooo many schools where this wouldn’t be allowed to happen. I am eternally grateful for our son’s team…for 3 of them who were willing to go to battle for Jake so that he could start 4th grade on the right foot. You bet your bottom that when we do Teacher Appreciation Week in 2 weeks they’ll be getting the works from the House of Hope family!!!


It Takes a Team…

Today I met with Jake’s IEP team. After all of these years you would think I would be accustomed to these things…but every time I still get butterflies in my stomach. I have to give props to our team–they always, always, always share some positives about Jake. That I can handle. It’s the struggles, the shutting down, the “dys’s” that we talk about that break my heart. I steeled myself as I prepped for our meeting.

We did a domain meeting because the team had the new “outside” report from our neuropsychologist. While everything that the neuropsychologist found is consistent with the school’s evaluation from last year, they still have to review the findings and determine if it affects any of Jake’s IEP services, accommodations and goals. The key to this was giving permission to the team to re-evaluate Jake’s eligibility.  Hubz and I have asked (per the neuropsychologist’s recommendation) that Jake’s IEP reflects his ADHD, and includes it as an OHI (Other Health Impairment). Essentially, we want to make sure that as Jake improves in other areas as a result of his interventions, that it is always duly noted that his brain works slightly differently from a neurotypcial child’s brain, and as a result, he will need some extra help along the way.

This year I feel so positive. So many members of Jake’s team are rooting for him and really want to help him succeed. Our social worker is amazing. She’s just generally a great person who really looks out for all of the students. She is working with him in a social group to help him out of his shell. Our OT has been working with him since first grade. She is a very gentle therapist who understands how sensory issues can impact Jake’s entire day. Today she remarked how once he is shown coping skills, he implements them. She said he has come far from the point we were at 2 years ago when he’d shut down and hide under his desk when things got too frustrating. He will tell her that his “brain is getting crazy”, and she knows that she needs to give him a break, and then he’s ready to work. Jake’s teacher and resource teacher are an amazing team. They talk and share information about how he’s doing in their classes. They are working together. They were both mentioning how he can tell them when he’s getting overwhelmed, and that he knows what works to calm himself down. I am overjoyed that they are approaching Jake’s education as a team effort.

Our speech therapist is new this year. This is the 3rd therapist in 3 years for Jake. Our district just cannot keep a hold of speech therapists…it is a bit disconcerting to me, especially since BOTH of my children require speech services.  Anywho, she, the psychologist, and the coordinator all agreed that Jake should keep his 60 minutes of speech services. They are sending home an amendment to the IEP today. Jake’s schedule reflects the 60 minutes. I feel like a Staples commercial–that was easy. It just makes sense–his primary qualification for special ed services is the speech/language impairment. Um, hello?! The speech therapist seemed confused as to why the prior speech therapist wanted to decrease his minutes…so this is good news. Jake definitely needs that extra attention.

The meeting went quite well. All of the specialists are going to review the data from the report and will add their current observations. I know they get like 60 days to do this. Jake’s new IEP meeting will be later this fall, and that’s when his new IEP will start–and will include his ADHD diagnosis. So we wait.

As we were wrapping up, Jake’s teacher and resource teacher shared with the group that Jake’s MAP test reading score went up TEN POINTS! That is HUGE!! Especially considering that we just came off of summer break. I got misty when they shared that with us. TEN POINTS. We were all saying how it’s so rewarding to see the progress after all of the hard work that he’s been doing…that they’ve all been doing. He couldn’t have gotten there without his teachers, therapists, and the support at home. All of those days and nights fighting with him to pick up a book and read…it has finally started to sink in!!! I am beyond thrilled. The math portion of the tests are next week. I don’t foresee any big jumps there, as he struggles mightily…but I would be happy with just staying where he was in spring of last year. We shall see.

So, I left the meeting with zero butterflies, a positive outlook, and hope. The hope is what keeps me going. He can do it. Given the right tools and supports, my scattered little man CAN and IS making progress. And for now, that is motivation enough to keep me going.

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