This second meeting went so much better than the first. About a million times better.
So many variables changed- Ryan was there, the special ed director was there, the group was significantly smaller, members of the team who know Paul were present and vocal-so it’s hard to say what exactly made the difference. It was probably just a winning combination, though Ryan said it’s because they knew he wouldn’t be pushed around like “some woman.”
He was kidding. He’s not a jerk. Promise.
Anyways, for speech, we increased minutes from 60 to 90 per week. This will be 1-on-1 with a SLP- 30 min, 3x week. We will also have 60 minutes (30 min, twice a week, or maybe 15 min, twice a day, for two days) dedicated to communication goals and oral motor stimulation. I will need to read through the meeting notes again to be sure this is explained he way I’d like it, but I think it will be fine.
Nobody seemed to have a problem with this. I had a letter typed out with my reasons, the SLP added her thoughts and suggested the same thing as me, and it was done. Easy.
The interesting conversation came when when we started discussing how many minutes Paul would be in regular ed. I did not prepare for this portion of the meeting as much, but apparently the bit of reading I did do sufficed.
I think the tendency in special education is to fall into the typical routine- all the kids go to the special ed class first thing to put away their backpack, then to reg ed for circle time, then back to special ed for reading instruction, then reg ed for recess, then special ed for fine motor work, then reg ed for snack, so on and so forth. Everyone is just on the same “track.”
And from a logistical standpoint, I completely understand this. I have no idea how special education teachers do it because it’s complicated enough as it is. And if every parent advocated for the most inclusion possible, and for something truly individualized (which is their right by law) I’m not sure how it would all work. Certainly, the expenses would skyrocket because of the need for more support staff.
But, just like the SLP’s caseload, that’s really not my, or Paul’s, problem.
So when they were trying to explain to me how Paul needs to go to the special ed room for instruction in reading, my thought was, “why?” He doesn’t even have a reading goal. Maybe he will have one once the new team gets to know him; we’ll deal with that later. But right now, his goals are not academic. His self-help/independence, and social/emotional/behavior goals are related to being independent in the classroom, learning routines, attending to tasks, lining up/safety. He has sensory-motor goals that can be worked on just about anywhere, and his speech/language and communication goals will have lots of dedicated time, and can also be worked on pretty much anywhere.
Truthfully, aside from pull-outs by specialists (mostly speech), everything can be adequately addressed in regular ed, in fact, I would argue that most goals can be BETTER addressed in reg ed where he can have peer modeling.
So we had a really good conversation about it. One of the concerns was that if he was in reg ed from the start of the day at 8:30 for a whole hour until some fine motor work in special ed, it would be a long time for him to stay engaged. But at the beginning of the year, that will be hard for all the kindergarteners, so can’t he participate in that evolution that happens when kids are bouncing off the walls, to when they can sit and attend? And even if he still has a hard time, can’t he have 5 minutes to take a walk, jump, do some chin-ups like he loves to do? How about practice taking turns by rolling a ball with the aide (it’s not as good as taking turns with a peer, but it serves many ends- bilateral coordination, turn taking, with the added bonus it’s a preferred activity to break up that hour of class.) Or if we must, could we take 15 minutes with whoever will be consulting with the SLP, pull him into the hall, and do the oral motor work and practice communication goals?
That first hour of the day is going to be his best hour, when he is ready to tackle the day! I told them I want to presume competence with Paul. If it doesn’t work, then we can adjust and take him out, but let’s begin there. As they had it, he had circle time, 2 difference recesses, and a snack with regular ed. I want him to have meaningful time and interaction with his peers, and it wasn’t going to happen.
Finally, after more discussion, I just said, “His placement is based on his goals, and all of his goals can be met in regular ed with the right supports. That is the least restrictive environment and we should start there.” Keep in mind I was literally asking for 30 more minutes in reg. ed per day; I’m not talking about asking for a 1-on-1 all day everyday.
And then the special ed teacher started to explain, half to me and half to the administrators, how she doesn’t know what kind of para support she will have next year and how that makes this difficult because Paul will need someone with him.
And I really sympathize with her, because that does put her in a bind. If she doesn’t have the support staff she needs, her job will be impossible. There are situations in which IEP’s might not be followed because there are not enough hands to do the work.
But Paul doesn’t need to bear that burden.
So, they added the minutes! We’ll see how it goes, I guess! I think I will need to be present at his school in the Fall. I’m not sure exactly how that will work out. I don’t want to impose in the slightest, but I also know that I’ll need some time to observe to see how things are shaking out. We will have another IEP meeting in October once class schedules are finalized and the new team gets to know Paul.
Of course, I am pleased that we got two things into the IEP that I was hoping for, but I really just enjoyed the collaboration that we had to get there. I joked with Ryan that the first meeting we had should have been a lot shorter, because everything I suggested was basically met with a “no” or some moderately condescending explanation of why what they had is the way it should be. So today, even if I hadn’t gotten what I requested, but the conversation was had and we acted like a team, it would have still been a win.
I’m hoping next time it doesn’t take a second meeting to get to that point.