Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Transition Time

I’ve been gearing up for Ethan’s transition from early intervention services into the local school district. We’ll have a transition meeting on May 1st followed by loads of evaluations, followed by the meeting where we create Ethan’s IEP, or individual education plan for special services.

Some might think that my background in education would make me uniquely prepared for this experience, but that would be wrong. I had very little interaction with IEP’s as a teacher because most of the time I was the technology teacher who worked with the staff to meet their curricular goals using the computer lab. I didn’t have to teach content area standards or make any adjustments to my classroom to accommodate kids with IEP’s. In fact, what I find most interesting looking back on my experiences is that those kids who were “special ed” were far and away the most naturally gifted users of all the technology in my lab. I can remember 2 boys in particular who as 5th and 6th graders were reading far below grade level, yet they would unpack scanners, printers, and digital cameras and then proceed to teach the staff on their use. I saw their self-esteem soar and in the process realized why I loved being their teacher.

I changed positions from technology to language arts in the final year of my employment there. I was pregnant with Ethan and planning to take a one or two-year break, completely unaware that I was about to have a special needs child of my own. I sat in on several IEP meetings that year, even though none of the kids in my classes were identified with an IEP. I was amazed at how inefficient and poorly run these meetings seemed. I saw parents become defensive and emotional, and rightfully so. I was ashamed of the way the people in my school conducted themselves in these meetings and could not believe the lack of focus and interest in the actual student they were meant to be helping.

So now I’m preparing to go into a meeting with a room full of school staff who have never met Ethan or me and who have no earthly idea of what we’ve been through or how far we’ve come. I have the task of making sure he gets the strongest IEP goals we could possibly write and that all of his therapy needs are addressed in an appropriate way and not just framed by what the school can conjure up to offer. And then I have to take this IEP into a new school district in a new city and convince those people that it’s necessary to place him out of district in a school for the deaf where the other children sign and can communicate with him.

Whenever I imagine Ethan in a preschool class where the children speak and don’t know sign language, I think of him being unable to develop basic language skills. How will he participate in conversations? How will he be able tell his own stories? How will he enjoy reciting rhymes and songs?

Will he just look at books by himself?

No way man, not my kid.

21 comments:

flutter said...

Oh hell no. Not your kid.

Mom to Toes said...

ITA.

Hell no. Not Hetha's kid.


Something tells me Ethan's IEP will be a model for others. You are an amazing advocate for him. You will get what is needed for him, I have no doubt.

I can't wait to go through this with you! (But that is totally selfish, because I just want to pick your brain for ideas on how to deal with the schools ;)

I am Trish Marie said...

I hope it goes well. We have pretty lucky on this end. Our school district has an amazing deaf ed program, and the ARDs always go well.

Hetha said...

Trish Marie,

I recall a great quote on La La's blog recently that went something like this:
"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity"
Didn't your family relocate in order to be near better services and schools for your daughter? So maybe luck didn't have much to do with after all :-)

Jennifer said...

I have no doubt that y'all will get it ALLLL worked out. You've been championing Ethan's causes from day one...that is one blessed little kid.
Not meaning to get way off topic, but the girls are wanting to learn sign language. The Signing Time videos are twenty bucks apiece...and there are several of them. I want to know that they're really, really good before I sink all that money into them. I see that you have a link to them...do you like them? are they worth the money?

Hetha said...

They are MORE than worth the money! I just sent you an email, but wanted to go on record as saying that they are literally life changing for us. Try ebay for better deals!

Kyla said...

Hetha, aside from some delays in getting things worked through, our experience has been wonderful and I hope yours is the same. In our district there is a hearing impaired classroom, where they do sign and speak and all of that good stuff. As about it in your area, it is handled separately from the normal PPCD program, so you'll need to ask most likely. Good luck!

Emily said...

We're working our way slowly through the initial IEP process too. So far we've done a transition meeting and a ton of assessments. Noah's doing great language wise (never thought a year ago that I'd ever say that!), but he's got so many other issues and no one seems to know how to meet them best. Good luck & keep us posted!

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicky said...

Hi Hetha
It can be so exhausting but be strong it'll be worth it. That little chap is so cute. I was so excited to read about your thoughts on schools in the city for Ethan. I keep meaning to email you because we are going through similar things, moves, starting school (different countries but hey details...).
Nickyx

Jen said...

Sorry I've been MIA lately, and missed a lot of what has been going on.

Wishing you luck at the IEP. I hope you get what Ethan needs.

Hang in there.

jen said...

he's way too bad ass for that, girl.

Tales from the CI Gal said...

First IEP meetings can be so confusing and frustrating for both parents and the team. I tell my parents that an IEP is a working document and not set in stone until it is signed by all parties. I encourage my parents to make changes and ask for services. Have you reviewed the parents' rights for your state?

I'm sure Ethan's IEP will be fantastic!
Valerie

Aliki2006 said...

You'll have to let me know how it went and some of the goals. As you know, out IEP experiences have been mixed, but not altogether horrible. It's so tough, these IEPs--you feel like such a responsibility is on your shoulders!

KC said...

Ethan will so rock it. You know he will! Good luck and may the fierce be with you. (I know, I just came up with that.)

David said...

The DVD I bought on ASl from the local hearing society here has been amazing. (Off topic but wandered into Jennifer's comments). It was about $20 and I watch it daily. I do 20 minutes a day on the treadmill while it plays. I slow it down to 1/2 speed, it is amazing what slowing it down does. Just by sheer osmosis I have learned so much.
OK back to your post. Ethan is in your great and capable hands. you will no doubt always be his champion.

La La said...

I LOVE YOU!

You are one amazing mom and an equally wonderful educator.

I've also been embarrassed at IEP meetings. They are so impersonal. Sign here. Sign there. Yadda. Yadda. Never mind the kid in the room.

I'm glad Ethan has YOU!

Eileen said...

Heather,
The best IEP meetings are the ones where the parents know their right, know what their child needs and advocates for their child. Having said that, I know Ethan's meeting will go well. You and your husband are amazing parents and will do everything in his best interest and will not be intimidated. You know him better than anyone else and don't let them forget it. Don't sign it if you are not comfortable with it, period.

As for Ethan, I think he will be just fine in pre-k. I can't see him just sitting looking at a book. No way. He will find a way to communicate and he'll have tons of friends. You'll see.

Love you.

Sarah said...

You'll get him in, it will all work out!

Drew's Mom said...

Thank you for sharing your IEP journey with me. I will be going through this about this time next year, so thank you for helping me know what to expect (and in many ways, what to ask for!).

Your last paragraph really touched me...We visited one of our preschool options and there was a little boy (deaf) in a mainstream class. He was three and had only had his one CI for one year. He couldn't communicate with any of the hearing children. The hearing children were trying to talk to him and when they couldn't understand him, they walked away. It was the sadest thing. I don't know why I'm telling you this, other than I saw this kid struggle in this class and knew that it was not the right placement for him.

That's not going to happen to Ethan. Hell no!

Nikkicole said...

Hey just thought i would let my old teacher know that you wrote ethan or me and it should have been ethan or myself