May 20, 2011

IEP Season

Spring is in the air, and though many of you might be sneezing and wheezing with seasonal allergies, most of the parents at Moe's school are having reactions to the other thing that starts coming up around mid-April: IEP meetings.

Yesterday, we had Moe's Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. We discussed the year's progress against his current IEP as well as the aspects of the Competent Learner Model that is used in our special education classrooms.

It is hard to believe that one year ago, we were in our first IEP meeting, getting ready to transition out of our home-based ABA program and into preschool. We had no idea if this program was a good one. We set goals that were a bit of a shot in the dark.

Moe did well this year. His strength's are in areas of problem solving, and I think I'll take some time over the next few weeks to go through the specifics of the CLM and how he's progressed. Moe is also making progress interacting with adults. His teacher believes this is a precursor to playing with other kids.

Next year, Moe will get the same services he's getting this year: the autism preschool program with our beloved Mrs. M, as well as some group and individual speech therapy. We set out fewer IEP goals than last year, but they are more focused, especially around communication and play skills. There are also some pre-academic goals around reading and writing. The highlight of the meeting was when Mrs. M showed us some tracings Moe recently did of his name. He required assistance, but she said he was excited about writing his name and did a pretty good job, especially with the first letter!

Our biggest challenge will be getting Moe consistently using his skills, since he will often do something a few times, then be done with it. Then out of the blue, a few days or weeks later, he'll do it again.

Because the classroom uses the CLM, they are always working on moving the kids through the areas the model identifies as required for school success. So even if certain skills are not identified as IEP goals, they are still covered as part of the CLM.

I am disappointed that Moe wasn't able to meet our speech goals this year. We had hoped he'd have 100 words (10 words in 10 categories, like toys, foods, animals, etc.) but we've identified 5 words that he uses fairly consistently: yeah, more, open, frog and jumping. So next year, we've set a goal of 15 words. It is our hope that once he starts speaking, he'll acquire new words rapidly, but for now, maybe focus will help.

For many families, the IEP process can be stressful and contentious, sometimes involving advocates and lawyers. I think it can be especially hard to get services for kids with high-functioning autism and Asperger's, since they often assess well and get good grades. We could fight for more, and the one area that bothers me is the extended school year program, which only covers four of the 10 weeks of summer. We're going to be sending Moe to a private preschool for the second half of the summer, and we've thought about asking the school district to pay for this, since Moe clearly needs to be engaged during that time. But as of right now, we've chosen not to take on that fight.

How's everyone else doing with their IEPs?

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