On Wednesday, I had a two hour meeting with Squeaker’s school. Honestly, though, any time I go to an IEP meeting for him, they usually run a minimum of an hour and a half, and this time we had to discuss his behavior, so I’m not shocked. I guess sometimes when the teachers at my school look aghast at meetings that last an hour, I reflect on the meetings I have about my child and think, “Man, they’d hate meeting with me.” Some children are just too complicated to wrap up in less than an hour. My son happens to be one of those children.
This time, I brought an Autism Resource Specialist with me; requesting one through The Autism Society is simple, and she made helped keep me centered. I came to the meeting prepared, with notes about what I wanted to talk about, a copy of his current IEP, and a specialist. All of these things helped facilitate the meeting. I guess it also helps that I work with the county and I had had a lengthy conversation with the department heads prior to the meeting to let them know about my concerns. I brought my own support person because, as an employee and a parent, it gets uncomfortable sometimes feeling free to say what I need to say.
Fortunately, the meeting went very smoothly. We had a large number of people there: The Assistant EC Director, EC Department Chair, EC Teacher, Regular Ed Teacher, OT, Autism Specialist for the school, my Autism Resource Specialist, and myself. Speech couldn’t make it to the meeting due to an emergency, but he’s made lots of progress there and she’s been writing regular notes in his communication book, so I didn’t make a big deal about that. I asked about Squeaker’s educational progress and the Autism Specialist reminded me that the classroom he was in was on Extended Content, which meant he didn’t technically get provided the Standard Course of Study (even though they had been supplementing him with it due to the fact that he surpassed all of that). He goes out for Resource Classes and gets taught Hill Center Reading and regular math. He knows all of the first grade sight words on the list. All of them. He can add single digit numbers, but he’s struggling with subtraction. They’re working on equations now, which just means he has to write number sentences, and I know he struggles with that because I work on it at home and he doesn’t understand it. He can sound out words when he chooses to and he can read grade level books. Comprehension on pre-primer books is at about 80%. It gets lower as the level gets higher. The verdict? If he can do more than Extended Content, he should not continue in that classroom because his progress will suffer. We need to re-evaluate and see if he’s ready to move out. Now we’re doing a complete re-evaluation to see where his current IQ and achievement levels stand. We already know he’s far above his classmates in the room. If he’s ready to move out, the next stumbling block would be behavior.
So, we discussed his behavior. At school, he had no behavior issues until January. I’m not sure what changed another than the fact that he just decided that he no longer wanted to wear his patches. Despite the fact that they want to claim medication issues and move on, it doesn’t really matter because medication or not, behavior issues are behavior issues and we need a plan. I told them that as soon as we can get a referral through to a psychiatrist, we would start the search for a better medication again, which meant uncertainty as far as behavior goes. It sucks and I hate that we will have to switch at some point, but we will have to go to a different medication at some point and deal with behaviors until we figure it out. We came up with a crisis plan (and defined what constitutes a crisis) since behaviors at school are sporadic and they will track his behaviors. If they become consistent, a behavior plan will be developed. I’m going to fill out a Ziggurat and return it to the school.
Finally, they praised me for what I do as a parent and a teacher. I teach special needs children and I advocate for him. I came to the meeting and I told them all of the things we do at home for him to help with his behaviors. They do not always work, but we’re trying everything we can. I gave them all of the information I could to help them. I told them how to tell when he’s truly calm because when he’s having a meltdown and wants to come out of a safe hold, he’ll say he’s calm when he isn’t (if he can count by 6’s here, he’s calm). I told them about his color chart having an extra color at home that they didn’t have at school. I still need to bring them the lip butter to use at school. But, it does feel good having the acknowledgement that I’m a good parent. I don’t often feel that way. When your child screams at you and kicks you and you’ve taken away his most valued possession and he still can’t stop, you wonder if you’ve done enough. The team leader there told me she didn’t know how I did what I did all day and then kept going and my eyes started to water, but I didn’t cry. I felt proud that I kept the emotions back. Then, she got a box of tissues.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m fine.” And then I felt tears welling up again. “Well, until you bring those things near me,” I added, and pushed them away.
You see, we have a plan now. At school. I’m really happy that things went well and that we’re on the same page again. He’s doing well educationally, and we may actually get to move him to bigger classes, but I’m worried about his behavior. I know how he gets when he’s challenged because his frustration tolerance is so low. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, I wait until they get all of that testing done. Good luck to you, School Psychologist.