Yesterday was our first IEP meeting. Overall, it went well, and everyone seems to be on the same page with Moe's strengths and areas of need. The meeting started with a discussion of the assessment report and the draft goals. We had received the report and draft goals beforehand, and I had reviewed them with our trusted SLP so we were ready to go right away. There were 14 goals, in areas from expressive and receptive communication to pre-academic skills.
Things started off a little funny. We were confused about the first two goals, and spent a lot of time discussing them. I think the group from the school was a little taken aback, and I think they were bracing themselves for a rough meeting. But once we got past those two goals, we had very little to say about the remainder. We changed the wording on a few, made some more aggressive and split out some goals into two parts to make them clearer. But overall, they were spot-on and picked up where our IFSP goals left off.
Then we talked about services, which is what we were anxious to discuss. This school is actually pretty incredible, offering a number of different special ed preschool programs right on one campus. The goal (and the law) is that your child receive Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), and be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). For example, maybe your child does fine in school, but needs some sensory breaks. Your IEP could be that your child is in a general education mainstream classroom (LRE) but is allowed extra breaks or fidget toys. Slightly more restrictive might be a mainstream classroom but with full time support and an hour of pull-out speech, for example.
This school offers programs for kids with cognitive disabilities (not Moe) and 2 and 3 half-day classes for kids with speech delays and/or social and pragmatic delays. They also offer a five day, full day, ABA-based preschool program. This is their most restrictive program and is reserved only for the kids who really need it. Unfortunately, Moe is one of them.
That said, we are lucky that such a program exists here. It is based on the Competent Learner Model, which I need to learn more about. Each child is tracked very closely and gets a daily report from the teachers. Speech therapists and occupational therapists "push in" to the classes. Moe will also get two "pull out" speech therapy sessions a week, one solo and one with a peer. There are only six kids in the class right now, and they are supported by one head teacher and two or more aids in the classroom as needed. The ratio is generally 2:1, though sometimes better, but not guaranteed. Being in a special ed classroom with an experienced teacher should be good for Moe. They will use visual schedules and picture exchanges and be familiar with processing delays and other characteristics of kids with autism. The goal of course would be to get him to one of the less restrictive classrooms in future years, but for now, getting him as many services as possible is the right thing to do.
We have two concerns. First is that the kids in this class do not have a lot of interaction with typical peers. They share recess with a typical class one day a week. Moe is just starting to notice what other kids are doing, so this could be an issue down the road. Our bigger concern, however, is the ratio. All of our therapists and our developmental pediatrician, Dr. S, recommended a 1:1 ratio to make sure Moe has adequate support. In this type of classroom with experienced staff, it might be okay, but we're not sure if we should push for more or what exactly to push for. Currently, he's not getting any specific behavior therapies, and we were assured that that is something we could add in as behaviors arise (we don't know what those might be since he hasn't started yet).
We haven't signed yet. We need to get the final version with our changes. We're also reviewing the plan with Dr. S to get her opinion and I need to circle back with our team to see what they think. We're going to observe the class next week and I think that will give us the best sense of whether we really need to push for the extra support for Moe.
Finally, Moe did qualify for Extended School Year (summer) session, so he can start right after his birthday. He'll have about 10 days of classes, then a week long break before summer session. Summer is a slightly shorter day and is only a month. Then there is a month break, so we'll probably continue our ABA through our current provider during the summer (with fewer hours) just to keep things moving along.