A few weeks ago, I wrote about the struggles that Jake has been having in Kindergarten this year. If you want to be caught up on our story, read this: The First Seven Weeks.
The summary of that post is that Jake has been having a really hard time in school. His previous IEP was written without the understanding of how Jake would behave in a regular school classroom. He had an hour of speech therapy a week to address his auditory processing problems, but very little other support. After spending a bit of time in the classroom, I wrote a pretty strong e-mail to the special needs department of the school and that e-mail, along with a few other things, set in motion a new IEP being written.
On Monday of this week, I met with the IEP team, which consisted of myself, his teacher, three of his therapists and the school principal. We met for an hour and a half and we laid everything out on the table as far as the struggles we have seen in the classroom so far. I was able to tell them Jake’s entire health and therapy history and catch them up on what has been done for him so far. They were able to tell me what they have seen, where we are falling short on services for Jake, and what they believe we need to do to help Jake be successful this year.
After being in Jake’s class all day for the third day in a row, I am too wiped out to go into great detail (which is probably good anyway), so this is the summary of what came out of that meeting.
Jake needs help. He needs someone with him all day and someone who is qualified to be able to help him when he is struggling, frustrated, upset, or just not being able to focus. Because laws are funny and there are safeguards in place, we aren’t going to be able to get that person, whose job title is a “Para”, in place until January. So, for now, we are going to be piecing together some help which will include a few other aides and myself to get Jake through his day.
The next 60 days will see us getting lots of things done to re-write the IEP to include a Para. I will need to get Jake tested and evaluated by his regular doctor and by a psychologist. There is some concern that there is an attention disorder in addition to the other issues he already has. Once we get the evaluations and tests done, Jake’s IEP will be re-written and then the school has a certain amount of time to implement the changes.
I’ve always described our journey of therapy as being a maze. Jake is totally intact somewhere inside of a maze. My job is to go in the maze, find him, and help him get out as best as possible. The blood tests and psych evaluation will give me a better picture of how to keep helping him get out of the maze.
Due to the wonders of modern medicine, we’ve already been to see our GP, had lots of blood tests done and everything is normal so far. We are just waiting on the allergy tests to come back.
While we wait for the tests to be done, I will be going to class every day with Jake. As soon as we get the other aides schedules worked out, they will begin coming in to work with him and I will be able to leave for 20-30 minutes at a time. I will plan on staying at or near the school for the entire morning and early afternoon, but the hands-0n portion of my day will begin to dwindle. I plan to bring my running shoes and books to read while someone else is with him. I’m also developing a bit of a plan with the two other Kindergarten teachers to work with the kids who are behind and just need someone to sit and read to them. I would dearly love to be able to help someone else’s child!
So far, things have been going well. The day has extended by another hour and twenty minutes, so we are in a time of adjustment with the entire class. We often forget that these little guys have only been walking around on the earth for five years and are still not really capable of caring for themselves. We expect so much out of them at such a young age and I keep hoping that whatever alien life form that develops standards for Kindergarteners would back the crap off and let them be kids a while longer. But, Jake has been doing pretty well, all things considered. He gets really tired after noon and I spend a lot of the remaining class time holding on to him, restraining him, and desperately trying to run out the clock on the rest of the day. It will get better once we get used to the longer day. I’ll be really glad when I am spelled for a while by the other therapists and will have time to take a deep breath and jump back in. Right now, I am so tired by noon myself that I feel barely capable of holding us both together.
I had a stroke of genius over the break and pulled out his old Benik vest. I did some alterations on it and he has been wearing it for parts of the day. I took pictures of his school work so you can see for yourselves how amazing it is when a kid with special needs, who is very bright, feels secure enough to do his work.
This is Jake in his vest:
This is the level of his classwork without the vest (he should have an entire page of the letter S as well as some pictures):
This is his work while wearing the vest:
I was stunned at the difference a little help can be for him.
If you have been following our story at all, you are probably waiting for me to talk about the other moms and the not-quite-bullying that has been going on in the classroom. I was able to speak to the principal after the IEP meeting and he did confirm that there have been complaints made about Jake. However, they were so glaringly inaccurate that he said it was obvious to him that the other parents have been trying to stir up trouble. I am so thankful that he saw through the Mean Moms and understands what is really going on. The taunting and nastiness towards Jake from the other kids has greatly decreased since I’ve been going every day. A few of the stinkier little girls even cheered for Jake when he did something well. I know that being a kind, rational, even-tempered presence in the classroom has gone a long way to getting Jake the help he needs.
I think I cemented my bad-ass mother status with the administration today when I caught the gopher that bit a kid on the play yard. Of course, the little boy had stuck his hand down a gopher hole and the gopher was terrified, but I knew that it would need to be tested for gross things, so I threw my coat on top of it and put it in a box. I had so many people come up to me today and say, “Were YOU the one the caught the gopher?” It made me smile and I am sure it will help them see me as more than the mother of the kid who is having trouble
Even though our train got seriously derailed for a while, we are picking up the pieces, building a new track, and are in the process of putting Jake back where he needs to be. I’m hopeful and encouraged which feels pretty great.