This past week we had Ellie's IEP meeting (that is an ARD for all you Texas folks). I have written about the IEP process last year here, here (guest blogger), here, and here so this is more of a personal Ellie Bear IEP post rather than general IEP information.
Because Ellie has a mid-September birthday, her IEP meeting was held after the start of school as the IEP is valid for 1 year. I brought baked goodies and I wore mascara. And a skirt. I sort of figured that jean shorts and a tank top didn't scream "team member".
It went well.
I learned this year just how much I didn't know last year. How I didn't know about the inner-workings of Ellie's school. I was completely clueless. I asked questions, but not the right ones. You see, I blindly listened to Ellie's Early Childhood Therapist when she told me that Ellie's program was inclusive--kids with special needs and some of the teacher's kids all in the same classroom. Last year, a few months into the school year, I discovered that her class was not inclusive, but rather all the kids have special needs. I did not ask the right questions. Mama fail.
This year, I thought it would be great for Ellie to spend some time in the typical Pre-K classroom. I brushed up on IDEA and read about LRE [least restrictive environment]. Ellie's ABA therapist sent me many articles to help build Ellie's case. I learned that "IDEA's least restrictive environment directive requires the inclusion of children with disabilities in the general education program to the maximum extent appropriate". Of course "maximum extent appropriate" can be translated in many ways, but this basically means that pre-k aged children with disabilities should be placed in typical early education classroom if possible. As in Ellie should spend time in the typical Pre-K at her school. Or so I thought.
I mentioned my idea to the teacher about 1.5 weeks prior to her IEP meeting. The teacher looked uneasy and told me that she didn't think it would happen. The teacher contacted the principal and the teacher of the Pre-K. About 1 week prior to her IEP meeting, I learned that this was not possible. You see, the Pre-K at her school is for children who turn 4 years-old by the end of August. Ellie has a mid-September birthday. She was not old enough. The teacher tried and for that, I am grateful. If they waived the age requirement for Ellie, they would have to do so for all children.
However, the typical Pre-K shares activities in Ellie's classroom. They may spend time in social play, circle time, music time, and during other activities. Recess is shared. In a way, Ellie is not in a completely secluded classroom environment. She did/does have activities with typical peers.
Back to Ellie's IEP meeting. Ellie's teacher and I had something called a Pre-ARD. This is where we spent over 2 hours discussing Ellie's learning behaviors, her strengths, her weaknesses, as well as her progress and regression over the summer. We truly were a team trying to come up with attainable, but challenging goals specific to Ellie. I learned, but was not truly surprised, that Ellie has a lot of behavioral "issues". These issues really relate to her ADHD. The inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are greatly affecting how she learns. Actually, they impair her learning and her social interactions. She has several behavioral goals such as "Ellie will sit in her chair during circle time for 2 minutes" [30 seconds is a challenge] or "Ellie will hang up her backpack upon entering the classroom with 1 prompt". Ellie can hang up her backpack. She knows to hang up her backpack. Yet, she gets distracted by other people's backpacks. Or she needs to hang from the hooks in her cubby.
We developed several goals that build on last year's goals such as Ellie will take 3 turns with a peer and a teacher. Last year's goal only included a teacher and so we added a peer this year. At the actual IEP meeting, we also discussed speech therapy [ST] and occupational therapy [OT] goals.
Finally, Ellie's teacher spoke with the typical Pre-K teacher and hand selected two peers to serve as role model's for Ellie. These peers will help Ellie learn social skills and hopefully improve speech and behavior. Pairing typical peers with a child who has a disability helps children learn new skills--both for the child with a disability and for the child who is typically developing. This is called Peer-Mediated Intervention/Instruction and has been proven to be an effective strategy in promoting learning and social and communication development.
I am excited about this upcoming school year. I feel like Ellie has people who are truly interested in her and that Ellie is going to accomplish great things.
|Yes, I know this pic was in the last post but I just love it so much!|
Harris, K., Pretti-Frontczak, K., and Brown, T. (2009). Peer-Mediated Intervention. Young Children, 43-49.
Including Children with Disabilities in State Pre-K Programs. Education Law Center/Standing Ip for Public School Children. (Feb. 2010).
IDEA The Manual for Parents and Students About Special Education Services in Texas. (2012) A joint project of The Arc of Texas and Disability Rights Texas.