Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch out second grade!

We are some of the lucky ones - we had a great IEP meeting last week.  I know it, I give heartfelt thanks everyday that we are lucky enough to have a GREAT educational support system.  For those of you outside the special education community, an IEP - Individualized Education Program - is written for children served by the public school system's special education providers.  So a child with just a speech delay can have one to define their speech therapy services at school or a child like Cate can have one to define their entire day at school.  The IEP sets out specific goals that the teachers are required to work towards.  It also gives them guidance of what accommodations are needed to ensure the child's success.   An IEP is an official document that would travel with a student who moved to another state or school district so it is important it follows specific guidelines and formats. I have friends who dreads their IEP meeting all year long.  They have sat through 3 + hour meetings where every person in the room seems to be working against them.  Like I said we are some of the lucky ones.  Our IEP was truly a collaborative meeting with ideas being exchanged and a helpful document prepared, plus it was only just over an hour long.

The big things that came out of this meeting for us is that next year Cate is heading to SECOND GRADE(!!!!) and that we are continuing her current model of inclusion in the classroom.  Specifically she will be placed in a regular 2nd grade classroom with extra assistance from either a para-professional or a special needs co-teacher during academic units, except for two units where she is pulled out for small group instruction.  Cate has a wonderful para-professional now and hopefully will be able to keep her next year.  A para-profession acts as a teachers aide - not creating or modifying lesson plans but assisting a student or group of students in completing the work.  Co-teaching occurs when a regular education teacher and a special education teacher work together in a single classroom to serve the needs of kids of all levels.  The class all works on the same lesson in a collaborative fashion with the two teacher modifying the work to fit the needs of different learning styles and levels.   A co-teacher is able to figure out what assignments best fit the abilities of the students with special needs to challenge them and teach them the material without causing frustration. 

In Second Grade there is a huge focus on reading so Cate will spend one unit per day in a small group setting outside the classroom, one unit inclusion with a para-pro, and one unit inclusion with a co-teacher.  She loves to read and has recently tested at an early first grade level!  Keeping her reading level as close to on track as possible is super important to us.  We know that if you can't read on grade level then it is next to impossible to be included in not just reading or literature as subjects but also social studies, science, history, even health class.  Fortunately Cate likes to read and assists us in this venture because you know trying to get Cate to do something she doesn't want to do is like trying to get a cat to fetch.  She might do it for the right motivation but you never know exactly what that motivation is or when it will work.

Math is an area where I can see Cate sliding father behind her peers already.  She just doesn't like it and won't memorize it.  Frequently our conversations go like this
me - "Cate what is 7+0?"
Cate -  "9"
me - "no, not 9, Cate think about it, what is 7+0?"
Cate - "9"
me - "Does a number get bigger, smaller or stay the same when you add 0 to it"
Cate - "Stays the Same"
me - "so what is 7+0?
Cate - "4"
me - AHHHHHHHH  - OK that part only happens in my head or at least that is where I try to keep it!

She gets the concepts of addition, subtraction and the number 0 but she rebels against actually learning it.  I know with Cate things tend to come in 'stops and starts' like when she was learning to walk she barely said a single word for months then started spouting phrases one day.  Add to that the fact she hates to be wrong - she get really upset if she tries and fails at something so sometimes she just guesses instead of trying.  I'm hoping that she is taking all the math knowledge in and just waiting for the time when she masters reading a little more and feels more confident about math, then we'll make some big strides.  But who knows for sure!  Because of all of this I was afraid that she would not be able to participate in any general ed classroom math.  I was going to be OK with that even though I hated to add another unit of being pulled out of the classroom.  Her teachers were one step ahead of me there too.  They have recommended one unit of small group and one unit with a co-teacher.  That is the best of both worlds for us - two units of math more geared to her specific level but still only one unit out of the classroom for it.  So both the reading and math outcomes were even better situations then I was hoping for before the meeting.  Her goal in the IEP for both areas are realistic, attainable, measurable and still challenging so we are pleased with them too.

There was some great collaboration in the speech and OT sections of the IEP meeting as well.  Her ST had already written goals that cover our areas of most concern.  She had goals like working on completing a thought and using multiple terms to describe people or objects.   That covers our concern about Cate's meandering speech - where she starts talking about one subject then veers off to a totally different one instead of finishing her thought, so you might start talking about an assembly at school but end up talking about how she wants a bow-n-arrow (thanks to Disney's Merida).  The collaboration came in an area I wasn't even sure ST technically covered.  After a good discussion we added a goal to the IEP to teach Cate coping strategies for situations when a teacher or adult cannot understand her speech.  Cate's speech is good enough right now for this to be an issue because you expect to understand her.  We (and her teachers) understand 90% of what she says but an unfamiliar adult might only get 50% of it, especially if it is out of context.  Whew - especially when she is in story telling mode - darn she talks fast and in a roundabout fashion sometimes!  Her ST is going to work on teaching her to slow down, repeat and/or rephrase when someone doesn't understand her and requests her to say it again.   If she can use some of these strategies maybe we can up that 50% some.  She is even going to do one of the speech units each week in the classroom so she can work more effectively as the situations happen and keep up on exactly where her weakness lie with her teachers and peers.  That covers another thing we know about Cate - she performs differently given the situation she is in, so she might have different issues in ST pullout then in the classroom and hopefully the ST will be able to .  We frequently hear she does something at school regularly that we don't see at all at home.  Her OT also included some classroom support time in her services so she can evaluate if there are any devices, like a slant board or pencil grip - that we need to look in regards to writing and classroom functioning. 

We can't thank Cate's team enough for being so approachable, willing to listen and offering such amazing care and education advice for Cate.  So here's to a successful IEP and WATCH OUT SECOND GRADE here comes CATE!


  1. Cate is doing great! It sounds like you have a wonderful team who are totally supportive of Cate. We're still in preschool, but we have a good team too and I hope that continues into elementary school. Thanks for sharing all of this too--gives those of us coming up behind you some good reference points!

  2. It sounds good -- math sounds like my daughter who is 9. She reads everything or so it seems but math -- we keep working on.