Well, well, well. The long-awaited, much-anticipated draft IEP finally arrived in yesterday’s mail (Michael arrived home after our mail, including a notice that we had been missed to sign for a Certified Mail package, had been delivered, and managed to chase down our mail carrier up the street to sign for it).
I’ll confess right off the bat that it was upsetting to read. It is so, so difficult for me to separate myself emotionally from all this; actually, I’m not really sure I’m supposed to endeavor to do that, but I do know that continuing to be overly emotional about it does not necessarily help me to be a better advocate for Finn.
In a nutshell, what our school district is offering/recommending to us for Finn is preschool in a separate, special ed classroom “MOD/SEVERE” (at a Title 1 school – not a “mainstream” school), five days a week for four hours per day, with speech therapy and occupational therapy in both group and one-on-one settings. (These are the only two therapies being offered because these are the only two areas of assessment we consented to.) There are lots of goals outlined for him to reach by May, 2012, including things like demonstrating an acceptable attention span, to wit:
By 5/15/2012. When presented with an adult directed activity involving the adult, Finnian and at least 1 peer, Finnian will maintain attention (looking at activity, body facing forward, engaged in activity) to the activity for a 10-minute period, with no more than 1 point of redirection (visual, gestural cues) minimum of 3 opportunities daily as measured through 10 random data collections over a one month period.
Huh. Sounds like a party, doesn’t it? I don’t know . . . this just rubs me all kinds of wrong ways. Beginning with the fact that this goal stems from the school district’s determination of Finn only being able to demonstrate an attention span of “3 seconds,” during their assessment, and as reflected in their assessment report. What a load of hooey! This kid has an amazing attention span! Ask anyone who has spent any kind of meaningful time with him. What would they possibly expect of ANY almost-three-year-old (at the time of the assessment) in a strange setting with several strange adults hovering over him and making rapid-fire requests of him? But, given the manner in which the school district has proceeded with this process, we were never given the opportunity to request that this assessment report be modified to more accurately portray his ability.
Also, is it just me or does this sound very . . . I don’t know . . . performance-centered? I mean, Finnian is a child, for goodness sake. Is this what we have to look forward to for him – being stuck in a school setting where his every move is measured and recorded and somehow scored?
There are lots of other goals listed, including recognizing colors and letters, etc. Only some of the goals bug me.
I am rather upset, though not altogether surprised, however, at their offer of placement at this particular school. No alternatives or options. I get the distinct impression that this is where our school district expects to send ALL children of Finn’s diagnosis, that in the eyes of the school district, their “offer” was already set in stone long before they ever laid eyes on Finn or conducted any assessments or IEP meeting. Which leaves me feeling very pigeon-holed. Where is the “individualized” aspect of this IEP? Or is it really just a one-size-fits-all-kids-with-Down-syndrome proposition?
But there I go, getting emotional again.
What I can say at this point is that we are not going to be making any hard and fast decisions about this anytime soon. We will visit the preschool program they are recommending in September. Off the top of my head, here are some of the options for us to think about, in no particular order of preference:
- Accept the school district’s offer of placement and services.
- Accept the school district’s offer of services, but not placement.
- Look into a Montessori preschool, and couple that with ST and OT through the school district – or through our health insurance carrier.
- Look into a church-based preschool (horrors!), like the Mother’s Morning Out program I had the twins in when they were three – a couple of mornings a week. Not extremely academic, but may allow Finn an opportunity to be around “typical” peers in a setting away from home. He would also not be required to be potty-trained, which he is not. Couple with therapies through the school district or our health insurance carrier.
- Forego preschool altogether for the time being and just do therapies through the school district or our health insurance carrier. Maybe join a mommy-and-me class one or two mornings a week with him for the socialization/peer modeling aspects.
- Forego preschool and therapy for the time being and revisit in a year.
Of course, the alternative preschools, like a Montessori or church-based, would be dependent on their willingness to take on a child with Down syndrome.
Lots to think about. Like I said, we’re not making any decisions now. We are going to enjoy the rest of summer, and when all the other kids are back in school, we’ll wrestle with this some more.