Monday we had A's second IEP. Ours is an annual IEP (reviewed throughout the year) but this was the big one with a million people crowded around a small table discussing my daughter. Last year I was very nervous for the IEP, but this year I knew what to expect, so I wasn't nearly as nervous.
Just like last year, we had tons of people present: the school psychologist, the program director, her speech therapist, her adapted PE teacher, her deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) specialist, the vision specialist who assessed her at my request, the resource specialist, the district nurse, A's preschool teacher, the preschool director, a school psychology intern, my husband, and myself. The only person missing was her physical therapist, who couldn't be there but sent her reports and new goals. Whew!
As I expected, all of the reports were glowing. A has met, and in most cases surpassed, almost all of the goals set for her last year. Now that she is fully walking, she has blown her PT and P.E. goals out of the water. And she has progressed very well with her language. Articulation remains hard for her, as she has the trach, paralyzed vocal chord, and scar where her cleft lip was repaired to contend with, but it's getting better. She is bright, and again didn't even qualify for a resource class: she knows her colors, shapes, capital letters, some lowercase letters, can count by rote to 11, can count objects, etc. All in all, she is doing fantastic.
The team decided to keep the same services she is already receiving (two hours a week of speech therapy, an hour of week of adapted p.e., and half an hour a week of physical therapy). However, they are adding a new service: half an hour a week of DHH therapy, which I think is learning more how to listen, which is great for her hearing loss. I am pleased.
Here is what I am not pleased with: once again, like last year, the team recommended a Special Day Class (SDC). Why? They gave me two reasons:
1) If she goes to an SDC, all of her services will come to her in one place. Right now they are splintered, meaning that I am taking her to different places every day to receive the services. But really? I don't care. This is my JOB. I am a stay-at-home mom for a reason; I truly don't mind driving her about town.
2) They say that the SDC is a very language-rich class, with teachers who work with kids with needs. However, A goes to preschool already, in an inclusion program, and I believe THAT school is also language-rich (and hey, what preschool class ISN'T language-rich, anyway!?!?) And because it's an inclusion program, the teachers there are trained to work with kids with various needs.
3) They didn't list this as a reason, but I believe that they HAVE to offer a SDC to cover their butts. They don't want me, as a parent, to come back in 5 years if A isn't doing well at school and ask why they didn't offer an SDC in preschool. They have to have a paper trail showing that it was all offered.
There is nothing wrong with an SDC. I have some friends here in real life whose kids go to an SDC, and I know I have many anonymous readers whose kids do too. However, I don't feel it's the best placement for A. She needs to be around typically-developing kids; she is one of those kids who will rise to whatever challenge is posed to her. And cognitively she is right where she should be: all of her test scores, from IQ to language, put her in the average range.
The preschool where my son D went, which was through our synagogue, wouldn't have been the right fit. It was too academic and they couldn't handle anyone with needs. An SDC isn't right either; I need A to be with kids at or above her level, rather than at or below. We have found the perfect school; the inclusion program means that the majority of the students are typically developing, but they take a few kids with needs of various types, and the teachers are trained in how to adapt to the needs. A is getting the best of both worlds.
So, we declined (once again) the offer of an SDC. She will continue at her current preschool, but this time 3 days a week instead of 2, and will receive all of the above-named school services. We will also continue to get PT and speech therapy privately at Children's Hospital, and do horse therapy as we've been doing for the past 2 years. And next year we'll have more free time, so we can do a ballet class, or soccer, or gymnastics.
All in all, it was a great IEP. I am so proud of A and it was great to hear so many wonderful things about her! I hope we are making the right choice for her, given my fears last month, but I truly think we are. After the IEP, her therapists all came up to me and told me they agreed with me. And we can always reassess if I think that A is falling behind. But knowing my daughter, she won't be!