This morning we had Clare's IEP meeting for next year. As eager as I was to add some new goals to her IEP (especially goals related to a sensory diet, social skills, and self-advocacy skills - see how much we have learned over the past year??), I was more eager to finalize The Plan for next year.
Everything went smoothly. There were a few minor details we ironed out, but we are very happy with the IEP for next year and approve The Plan. As it stands, Clare will repeat half-day morning kindergarten with the same teacher and curriculum. Everyone agrees this will be such a benefit to Clare. She entered kindergarten last fall with almost zero knowledge of letters and numbers so she really struggled and made little progress in the first half of the year. Clare blossomed in the second half of the year, though. Now she will re-enter knowing a good majority of her letters (still struggling with numbers), so we hope she will continue to make great progress. Clare has done great achieving her OT, PT, and speech goals, so the new goals for next year are in line with where she needs to be. Once the kindergarten day is done, Clare will join the first grade class for their lunch and recess, then in the afternoon, be in a first grade class for math (with a modified curriculum) and specials (gym, music, art, science - areas where she does not need a modified curriculum). When she needs pull-outs for resource room and therapies, the team is going to try to work her schedule (and theirs) so she has less pull-outs during the kindergarten day and will receive her extras during transition times or a specials time. This year, out of an 11-hour kindergarten week, she was pulled out 3 hours for services. That's a huge chunk of time away from the curriculum!
Walking away from the meeting, I kept thinking how blessed we were with our little elementary school. It's been a learning process over this past year for Shawn and I, and we have spent hours doing what we could on our end to help Clare in getting all we can for her when it comes to school, but her team has been excellent. The special education teacher made a comment in the meeting about how she thinks they "really know Clare now" and "know her needs." And I have to agree 100%. Many of the items on our priority list were addressed by the team and included in the IEP before Shawn and I brought them up. The school guidance counselor is a new member of the team this year, and she had already come up with ways to address social skills and self-advocacy skills. The speech therapist wants to switch Clare from group speech to individual speech, feeling Clare will benefit more from the one-on-one time (we have been advocating for this change for three years now when developing IEPs with the preschool). Despite budget cuts and other uncertainties regarding the upcoming school year, the team was insistent that Clare will have a paraprofessional, no services have been cut from her IEP (in fact, she has increased services), and that they are doing everything they can on their end to help Clare succeed.
One piece of "sad" news that her teacher shared with us recently is that the other girls in the class have matured past Clare in the way they play and interact. We knew this would happen (we have seen it already happening with family friends and their children's interactions with Clare), but it's still a tough pill to swallow. Clare has been invited to a classmate's birthday party next week, and I am having such bad mommy-indecision about it. Although I think everyone in the class genuinely likes Clare, I don't think any of them are particularly her friends. When I observe her on the playground or running around with the kids after school, no one really interacts with her. I am so grateful for the fact that she is still pretty much oblivious to these nuances and just has a great time doing what she wants to do. But when we went to a birthday party back in September, Clare was definitely left out of the action (and I actually started to cry at the party and I was not even pregnant!!). Now these little girls have been together for the entire school year and have formed their bonds and cliques that Clare is not a part of. I just don't know how much my 9-month pregnant-hormonal-emotional self can stand to watch. Then I always get the anxiety of what is Clare going to eat (it's a "luncheon" party right after school), how will she act in a stranger's house, what will she get into, will there be any outbursts to deal with? Clare knows about the party, so if Shawn can swing his schedule around to watch the little ones, I know I will end up taking her. This is one of those tough moments where I have to swallow my own anxiety and reluctance and just be there for Clare in whatever capacity she needs me.