Someday I will share the full story of how and why we pulled Moe from school. For now, it is enough to know that he was not progressing there. What started as a desire to secure additional extended school year services (for summer and other breaks) turned into a full independent evaluation done by a very well respected child psychologist on our dime. She observed Moe in class on two separate occasions, and it was her professional opinion that the school district's preschool program was not appropriate.
Moe has been doing an in-home ABA program since June. He receives about 20 hours a week of in-home behavior therapy as well as an hour a week of speech. In the beginning, the difference was remarkable. While the school tried to convince us that Moe wasn't meeting goals because of his "rate of learning," Moe mastered his programs at home quickly. The school and our ABA provider use the same program so the comparison was easy.
Jeff and I have been thinking a lot about where we want Moe to be next year. Should we continue with a home program? Get him back into school? And if school, which one? We know the district's program is simply not appropriate for Moe, and there are several non public schools in the area. Last year, I visited seven of them, and there are two or three that might be appropriate, though they all have serious trade-offs. We will need legal action to get Moe in one, and we need to be sure the one we choose is the right fit.
I've also been questioning a little whether his home program continues to be effective. Moe is bored at home sometimes. The program is highly scaffolded, meaning that program progresses in small, incremental steps. While his early progress was remarkable, it can be hard for me to see the progress when the steps are so close together. For example, to Moe one sorting task probably looks a lot like another, even though we've added more items or distractors to make the task more challenging.
In order to help us answer these questions, I took Moe to see the same psychologist who evaluated Moe last year. Dr B met us in the waiting room, looked at Moe, who waved to her. She said "such a difference from last year. I can see it already."
I was nervous as we went to her office. Moe can be aggressive and non-compliant and frustrates easily. I really wanted her to see him at his best. This assessment isn't about qualifying for services, it is about making the best decision for Moe. I wanted her to get an accurate picture of Moe's skills.
He did great. By that I mean, he did his best, with no behaviors to get in the way. He showed what he could do and where he still struggled. He sorted. He matched. He imitated and approximated words and blew bubbles. He had trouble with a few areas I know he knows (like pointing to body parts), but Dr B will be here Thursday to see him in a ABA session as well.
This was the first assessment I can remember leaving with a smile on my face. I did not fall apart in the car on the way home. Moe has made progress.
Moe is still severely delayed. He's probably at a 2 year old level or younger for many things. But he's doing better. He's learning. As we were packing up to leave, Dr B said to me "It is nice to see him learning things and not just pushing toys around in shaving cream."
And in that moment, I knew that we made the right decision to pull Moe from school. I know his progress this year has been real and significant. I still don't know what we are going to do next year. But I do know we were not being unreasonable to demand better for him, that his lack of progress wasn't because of his learning, but because of how he was being taught.