Every year, Squeaker’s IEP meetings seem epic. They’ve been marathon meetings. Hours long. Fights for services. Overwhelming amounts of information. Last year, he made lots of progress, but not as much as we would’ve liked. I fought back tears at our meeting as we made the decision to put him in a self-contained classroom for Kindergarten due to behavior and lack of self-help skills. We (my husband and I) had made the decision prior to the meeting that that’s what needed to happen, but the decision hurt, none-the-less. But regardless, we’ve come a long way!
This year, I came into the meeting with some trepidation, but also with the knowledge that he’s made so much progress this year. Much more than last year. And I also came into the meeting with an acceptance of the fact that he simply wasn’t ready to be in regular classes and that’s okay. I would’ve been angry if they tried to push him out, because that would mean trouble for him. First, because he’s still not in control of his emotions and “rage reactions” (meltdowns). Second, because he’s not fully toilet-trained (he will only go to selected bathrooms at the school and still has accidents if he’s introduced to new situations). Lastly, because he still cannot fasten his own clothing or wipe himself without assistance. If he were in a regular 1st grade classroom, there would not be someone there to attend to him with the immediacy necessary to control the situation.
I will say that, although the list of behavioral issues are long, he has made progress. His tantrums are not as frequent or as long. They are also not as severe. At the beginning of the year, he frequently would draw blood when he bit himself. That does not happen nearly as often now. It’s extremely rare that he injures himself to the point where he really causes damage. We were ready to get him a helmet at one point, but now we don’t feel the need to do that. So there’s progress. They did a Ziggurat (Autism checklist) to see where his weaknesses were and what goals we needed to work on an identified his BIGGEST weaknesses (the list was kind of overwhelming) as being restrictive and repetitive, controlling behaviors, and difficulty with emotional regulation and anxiety, as well as rage reactions/meltdowns.
In speech, he still needs to work on his expressive and pragmatic language. He’s having trouble with his pronouns (difference between he/she, his/her, etc.) and descriptive words. He also has trouble with describing emotions and other social identifications. His speech/language person is fabulous. I love her. I work with her at the high school as a professional and she’s wonderful. I know that she works on social skills in additional the speech, so he’ll get some good stuff out of that.
With OT, he is inconsistent depending on the day. Letter formation is hit or miss. He makes letter-like formations. Shapes are difficult. He still can’t fasten his own clothing, but he doesn’t try to. When he writes, he doesn’t stay in the lines – he takes up (sometimes) an entire sheet of paper for one word. There’s a lot of work to do with his fine motor skills.
Academically, he is a rock star. This is where I’m proudest of him. I could brag all day long about how smart he is. All. Day.
He’s well ahead of schedule on his reading. He reads books to us every night. Last night, he read us “In a People House” and hardly struggled on the words. Once we told him the word “know” a couple times, he got it. And that’s a tough one. They tested his reading level and he’s reading on a 1.1 – 1.2 reading level. That’s about 1st grade 2nd month. I’m so proud of him. He learns his words and doesn’t forget them. He can spell like no one’s business. He’s just plain amazing.
On his math, he’s able to count to 120. I know he’s able to add and subtract numbers up to 10. They use picture representations at school to help. They can’t use counters with him, because he takes them all and won’t give them back. He has difficulty with word problems because of needing to look for key words and use inferences, which is hard for kids with Autism. But, he is able to find missing numbers in problems. For example if they gave him something like __ + 5 = 10, he would be able to answer it.
Writing is something that he doesn’t like to do. He is able to write three words together in list-like fashion in a sentence. He knows that sentences should have a capital letter and punctuation at the end, but doesn’t apply it to his own writing. And, like most kids I know who have Autism, he avoids writing as often as possible. At home, he does it when he feels like it and only on his own terms. If I ask him to do it, it’s mostly like not happening. But at random times, he’ll come up to me and show me something he’s just written (usually perfectly formed letters) and knock my socks off. He’s a smart little booger.
The only thing that caused concern me for me as far as academics goes was that they did some timed testing on him to see where he was at and I’m concerned that they’re even attempting timed testing with him, because that type of testing isn’t valid with him. He’s highly distractible. Apparently, he had a series of one-minute timed tests with a bunch of different areas in math and reading and it’s compared nationally. He was below average to well below average in several areas, except for one where he was average. It’s not in front of me right now, so I can’t remember what that was in, but it’s irrelevant. Apparently, he didn’t finish anything because he was distracted. He can’t do a one-minute test. Not that it counted against him or anything, but I would love to know where he was actually at if he were given an appropriate amount of time. Ya know?
Overall, this meeting went pretty well. He will remain self-contained. His level of service for Speech and OT will remain the same, except that OT will also be providing support to the regular ed teachers as part of a sensory program they’re starting next year that Squeaker will be a part of. So, he’s actually getting a little more than he did this year (and I didn’t even have to fight for it). I guess that’s progress, too! We’ve definitely come a long way.