So we had our first mainstream IEP meeting recently! Ok, it was actually last month and I’m only just getting around to telling you about it now, but that’s how it goes sometimes! We had Tommy’s team from WPSBC participating via phone and Tom’s Dad and I were at his new school with his new team. We are basically continuing his spring IEP since he will need to be evaluated in his new school once school starts and they see how he learns in the new environment.
This is a big transition and we need to give Tommy some time to explore him new environment and acclimate. Tom will be in an intensive support classroom for most of the day and will spend 20% of his day with a mainstream kindergarten class.
We toured the school and met with everyone before making the decision to transition him. His new teacher is quite young, but obviously very competent and motivated to help her students. She was enthusiastic about learning braille herself and seems very interested in working with Tommy. I think it will be a good match.
We talked a lot about the kind of support that Tom will need, how they will adapt lessons for him, how they use motivators to help the kids learn a schedule and work towards goals and rewards. I am excited to see how he will react to some of these new ideas. It will really be different for Tommy.
I made sure I read through his recent progress reports before the IEP meeting so I could speak about Tom’s current goals and challenges. The team sometimes asks parents (and they did ask us) what they’d like to see us work on. Well that can be hard to answer. Sometimes what I’m working on at home is not what I’d want them to focus on at school. I’d like him to be exposed to as much of the mainstream curriculum as possible, even it has to be presented in a different way. A lot of things we learn are essentially stories and I think that is universal. I want him to know about the world, including science, history and current events.
One thing I feel particularly strongly about is Tom getting an FM system to use in class. I brought it up during the meeting and was able to cite the reported difference between Tom’s achievement when using the FM system as opposed to not using it when it was trialed at his old school. It’s a dramatic difference. He had something like a 40% decline in skills when he didn’t have the FM system. That’s the difference between meeting a goal and not meeting it! His principal heard that statistic and said, “Order that FM system!”
Tom starts extended school year in July and you can bet I’ll be checking to make sure the FM system has been ordered so it will be in place for the beginning of the school year. An FM system is a Frequency Modulation (FM) system. It basically helps cut through the extra noise in the environment and amplify the teacher’s voice. Noisy environments are really difficult for Tom and he off track and can’t concentrate.
As I said, extended school year is right around the corner. He’ll be doing a split schedule of two days as his new school and three days at his old school. This is an excellent way for him to dip his toes in the water at his new school. His new classroom teacher will be there too! The familiarity of his old school will be a nice mental break from all the newness he’s had to deal with this summer.
Tommy also started a new daycare for the summer. In general, it’s going really well, but he has meltdowns when it gets too loud. Daily meltdowns it seems, which is heartbreaking, but he’s got to go to daycare. And he’s got to be able to handle some loud sounds sometimes. Sometimes growing is an unpleasant process.
I wish there were more daycares for kids with special needs. We have one in our general area but it’s more for medically fragile children and it would basically mean driving 30 minutes one way and then driving back and then heading to work. At WPSBC they have a daycare for kids with visual impairments and sighted children. It was awesome and Tommy loved it there. I’d love to see more opportunities like that for blending children of all abilities at a young age. In general, daycare is something I think we can do a better job at in our country. I’d also love to see more employers with on-site childcare. I work at a really big company. We could keep a daycare busy at work, trust me!
But back to the IEP! It’s in place for the beginning of the school year. He’ll be observed for 30 days and then his new team will write a new IEP in consultation with his old team at WPSBC. I really like the new TVI I met at the meeting that was representing the AIU. She was so positive and warm. I think Tommy will really like working with her. One thing I’ll be adding to the new IEP is technology goals. I’d like Tommy to have instruction on using an iPad independently. I have a hard time with Voiceover. I find it really difficult to work with. Tommy loves finding music on YouTube and I’d love for him to be able to do that independently. What does he like to hear on YouTube? I’m glad you asked!
Tommy’s Top 5 YouTube Requests
- Edvard Grieg – Anitra’s Dance
- Caribbean Music (steel drums, Red Red Wine usually)
- History of Rap with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake (We listen any I can get to play,but they keep blocking it. I’d buy them if I could!!)
- Vivaldi – Four Seasons
- Tori Amos – Sorta Fairytale Live
Do you see why he needs to be able to do this himself? I am his DJ! It’s a full-time job accommodating his music whims.
So that’s where we are. I’m currently keeping Tom fresh by working with him on the Touch and Tell books by the American Printinghouse for the Blind. They are great! I think it’s what he needs to keep those fingers active and learning.
Hope your summer is off to a great start!