We had Clare's first IEP meeting yesterday. After more brief panic attacks about what to wear (ummm... and promptly forgot said panic attack come yesterday morning and ended up wearing my favorite pair of jeans that I wear five days a week and a comfy shirt), what we were going to insist upon having in the IEP (which Shawn and I hashed out in detail during commercials while watching the first Final Twelve showdown of American Idol), and whether or not all children would be healthy so we could leave them with their grandparents (I am pleased to say they were all healthy for exactly one day!), the day of the IEP finally dawned. This long-dreaded-oh-so-important step in the transition process was here.
For those who have never had the experience of venturing into the world of special education (and I had no clue what any of this meant before Clare), IEP stands for the Individualized Education Plan. In a nutshell, it is a list of the educational goals we would like Clare to reach by the end of the school year. It also includes a list of accommodations that Clare will need to reach those goals as well as whatever services she will need. It's a signed contract between us and the school department. Signing all the paperwork was almost as bad as buying a house.
Shawn and I were both extremely satisfied with the results of the IEP meeting. The team was great, and the IEP was thorough. I expected to go in there and help them draft the whole thing up right then and there. But the IEP was already written, we went over it in detail, then we brought up our concerns. Other than a couple sensory goals, everything we wanted for Clare was in the IEP. Including a defibrillator on site with trained staff. Hooray!
Clare will be attending preschool four mornings a week. The team felt Clare needed a fourth morning of school because of all the services she will be receiving - two units of group speech, one unit of group OT, one unit of individual OT, and two units of individual PT per week. It only amounts to 3 hours of therapy per week, but that's longer than the length of an entire school day. I was happy with this arrangement. Going in, I wanted one hour of PT, OT, and speech per week, which we got. At this point, I am not concerned whether the services are group or individual. We will see how Clare progresses and take it from there. One of the good things about Clare starting preschool at the end of the year is that she will only have about 10 weeks of school before summer. So we will have a chance to evaluate her progress, figure out what worked and didn't work, what we liked, etc. then have all that information when planning her first full year of preschool come September (and writing a new IEP). The team also felt Clare needs an extended school year or else she will regress over the summer, so we enrolled her in the five-week summer course as well. In addition to all this, we are going to continue outpatient OT with Clare's current OT, Jen, to work on Clare's sensory oral issues. We have had to cancel OT the last couple weeks due to illnesses between Jen's family and ours, and I can feel us slipping away a little. So I am eager to start up again.
After the meeting, the assistant director offered to show us Clare's new classroom. Clare will be coming in for a visit day at the end of the month prior to starting school, but Shawn and I jumped at the chance to get a sneak peek. As luck would have it, Clare's new teacher was in the building. Although she didn't currently have a class since it was the afternoon, she walked us through her classroom. She explained the different areas of the room and the daily schedule. She was obviously already well-informed about Clare and asked us lots of questions. I instantly liked Clare's new teacher. (Warm fuzzy feelings - yea!) The teacher was genuinely interested in learning all she could about Clare, and we could tell she loved her job and the kids. We also discovered that Clare's classroom is directly across from the nurse's station (who will be on site whenever Clare is in school).
I have been dreading the day when Clare starts preschool. I am so glad we had the opportunity to meet Clare's teacher and see the classroom. I will still be a basket case come March 31, but many of my fears and worries have been relieved. I must say that coming into this process with so much trepidation and low expectations has worked out for the best! Nowhere to go but up!