Saturday, April 21, 2012

On the Other Hand....

Blogger just changed all its formatting for writing and I'm not digging it. Alas... Bob and I have been talking a lot about Dean's school situation for next year and we're just not sold. We are not sure that the center-based placement for next year is the best. Don't get me wrong, Dean definitely needs a certain level of support to do various school-related (and regular life) tasks. But we're having trouble seeing why those needs can't be met in a regular preschool setting with a personal aide for Dean. I know this idea is not going to fly with the IEP team, and so Bob and I are reviewing our reasons for thinking this so we can have a more productive discussion at the meeting on June 1. Our main concerns are lack of appropriate speech models for Dean and lack of inclusion. To be fair, we don't know the degree of inclusion that exists in the center-based placement, but we're getting the sense that it's not much. This spring break was a reminder that Dean benefits so much in terms of speech from having Cole (an appropriate model, usually :)) home. Not like he's suddenly talking or anything, but Dean tries more, imitates more, is just more vocal when Cole is around a lot. Dean obviously needs security with food, and that is something that would be provided no matter the setting. Also, he needs some supervision on the playground, but he is getting more and more able to navigate that by himself (which is very relieving to me :)). He falls a lot still even just running around, but gets right back up and keeps going. His receptive language is excellent. There's very little on a regular basis that I can ask him to do that he doesn't understand. He *does* need help with fine motor activities, absolutely, and he *does* need some help staying on task. Neither of these are things that an aide couldn't help him with. According to what we understand about special education law, the school system is supposed to consider how Dean can function in a regular educational setting before they say that he *has* to be in a special education setting. We were advised by someone else who works in the county schools that they often sadly recommend a more restrictive setting instead of the least restrictive environment as they are supposed to. Can Dean be part of a regular educational setting if he doesn't talk? I think so. Especially with individual support. And possibly some assistive technology like the NOVA Chat that I mentioned or the iPad. Not to mention, center-based is ALL day, four days a week. Holy cow! I think that schedule is going to be a lot for Dean. I'm just not sure he's ready for that just yet (not to mention that I'm not sure *I'm* ready for that either!). When making big decisions, I like to "try on" each one to get an idea for how it feels and where our intuition is leading us. I'm not sure yet which way things will fall. There's so much more I could say, but I will stop there for now. I would love, love, love thoughts on this.

7 comments:

Barbara said...

Ali,
I think you are 'right on' about having Dean in with the 'regular' ed group. by law that is what the school is supposed to provide, and with a 1-1 aide, that should work. Can you talk with other PWS moms about what they have experienced?
I think you have good instincts, and you know Dean better than anyone else. Best of luck in the June 1 meeting - I will pray for a successful meeting for you. Much love & prayers,
Barbara

lukesmama said...

I see what you are saying. I will say that I picked a special education setting for L's pre-school experience and have not regretted it at all. The class size is small (lage groups overwhelm him) and there is an SLP in the classroom with him 100% of the time, in addition to a teacher and an aide. Also even though it is a special needs class he is not the lowest kid or the highest kid. He has areas (gross motor) where he is the superstar, and others (languge) where he is lower and definately benifits from their langauge models. They are not all typical models, but if he said "more water" another kid might say "I want more water" which is a model he might have a hope of repeating, instead of a typical kid who would say "excuse me teacher, I want more water, please" which he has no hope of saying if you know what I mean.
There is lots to consider and every child is so different. Best of luck in your decision for Dean.

Elizabeth Phillips said...

Not really having a dog in this fight, I will humbly offer my two cents. Four full days would be a lot for any 3 year old. I thought the standard was a day a week per year old or something like that. The issue with inclusion in a preschool setting is that there typically aren't public preschools. Your standard church half-day preschool usually is exempt from most inclusion laws. That said, I'd think most would be willing to work with you,mbut the school itself probably won't provide the aide. I know Henry has a child with an aide in his class and I also know a non-verbal child on the Autism spectrum who went to his preschool. (He was at the party today. He's Henry's girlfriend's older brother. He's in 2nd at the elementary school H will attend). They both sometimes were pulled from class to do one on one work with their aide elsewhere. You might also, for his age, be able to find a Tues/Thurs class that would also give him the freedom on other days for more one on one therapies. When I taught Prek, I had a girl who'd get picked up by the bus at school to go to her speech on one day and OT on another day. Like most things, it'll just take diligence and creativity to find a solution. but I think your biggest hurdle may be the food issue. I know when they taught the senses, they had a tasting party to discover what was sweet, sour, spicy, etc. And every month has some holiday party, etc.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Elizabeth,
I'm not actually too worried about the food issue because I've already spoken to some private schools about it and they're fine with making accommodations. Plus, we're not going to bar Dean from eating at every school function. We just can't. We just ask that they let us know ahead of time so we can plan for what we'll do.

We've thought about a combo solution, although it just feels so complicated. Not sure if they even "allow" it anyway because he'd have to miss one of the days of school at the center-based to go at least two days a week at another school (the day they have off is Wednesday).

Private preschools are exempt from inclusion laws for sure, but I've found that they're willing to work with us. And they wouldn't provide the aide. But if we can make a case that this is the best scenario (and least restrictive environment) for Dean, then I think the county has to provide the aide? That's my understanding.

So much to think about....

Janet Gulley said...

Sounds like your goal is to have Dean spend at least a portion, if not most of each day with typical peers. I AGREE Dean can totally hang with that. I also agree that all day 4 days is week is a LOT. Ayden Jane is high energy (compared to PWS, not Cole) and 9-12 is about as long as she can focus and absorb and enjoy (at least in the fall). It also takes lunch out of the picture which is nice. Not sure that helps... Ayden Jane still thinks he should just come to her school:)

Jen said...

I am a special ed teacher and I have seen so many children develop by being with "typical" peers! Do they have any classrooms in your area that are special ed with typical peers within the setting! I used to work in a classroom like that and the results you get are AMAZING! That way Dean would get the best of both worlds, more individualized instruction, smaller classes, more therapy, but still have peers to learn from.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Jen, they don't! The only option we'll have for him to get the most supports is to be in the special ed center-based setting. So if we want him to have guaranteed time with typical peers, it's up to us to send him to a private preschool. I think we're going to do a combo....