refrigerator letters

Well, that escalated quickly.

Here are some excerpts from the horse-choke-worthy stream of paperwork we were given this week:

BIA (third-party ABA service provider) report:

Dar has increased his time engaged in structured learning tasks steadily since beginning school in August 2014. For the first 3 months of school Dar would transition between 5 locations, spending 5 to 10 minutes at each location dong [sic] various engaging learning tasks then would walk to the next location. This rotation would happen up to 5 times daily. This process helped Dar to learn what he would do at each spot and gain familiarity with the expectations. It also gave Dar many opportunities to use his communication book to make choices at each location and to learn that the pictures represented the places he was traveling too [sic]. Dar now does this rotation between one and two times daily. He travels from the classroom, to a work station in the cafeteria, to a break at the swings, to the Speech/Inclusion teacher’s room and back to his class. [Sic] Each location he spends between, except during snack, recess, lunch and Center’s time [sic] Dar is with his class for the entire duration.

Currently on an average day Dar spends 65% of his day alongside his peers and 35% of his day in structured learning activities with his 1:1 behavioral tutor, Speech, OT, and physical therapist.

…Dar easily participates in engaging learning activities once he is familiar with them and understands “how much” of something he needs to do to earn a preferred item or reward. Many activities he participates within [sic] are fun and intrinsically motivating (i.e. PE obstacle course, turn taking with beads, climbing play structure and matching items). These fun and motivating activities are interspersed with more challenging curriculum (i.e. holding a crayon to draw, expressive language targets, challenging gross motor tasks).

Me and wifey’s impression:

Better to be leaving class 2x a day than 5x a day. If the ratio of time with NT peers to time 1:1 with aide is really (about) 2:1, then clearly the school is doing something that Dar won’t get in any other way. And that something…is probably good for him.

General notes I wrote down:

Dar is going off of other kids’ cues more

S (1:1 aide) bases her work on visual cues – does Dar do it right away? If so, push him harder. If not, stick with known activities that are easier.

L (teacher) told us that one morning, she documented Dar’s outbursts, because she was wondering why they were getting to her so much…they’re not long, but they’re loud, and sometimes frequent. Dar’s screeching adds to layering of trouble. Other kids’ voices rise to whatever is the loudest voice in the room.

T (BIA lead) says if Dar is screaming, he doesn’t just run out of the room w S; he has to perform a task to get out

L says that afternoon aide doesn’t usually remove Dar from class for behavior; she estimates once a month

Me and wifey’s impression: well, I question this last item, based on how many times I’ve arrived for pick-up, found the rest of the class meeting and the two of them outside of class and Dar trembling and sobbing. But mostly, I was impressed with most of their answers to our direct questions (you’re not seeing all of them here).

Language Arts:

(Prior IEP said “By March 6, 2015, given a field of three uppercase letters, one uppercase target letter, and one verbal prompt (i.e. Match [letter]), Dar will identify the correct letter in the field of three and match to the given target letter (i.e. in field of A, B, C match letter A to A, etc.) to match 12 letters of the alphabet with 80% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials as measured by student work samples and/or data collection.”)

Summary of Progress: Given a field of three uppercase letters and one target uppercase letter and asked, “Match,” Dar is able to identify the correct letter and match to the given target letter for all 26 letters of the alphabet. When given a field of three uppercase letters and asked “Hand me (letter),” Dar is able to hand the correct uppercase letter for all 26 letters. This goal is met.

Comment: Dar has begun working on matching lowercase letters in a field of three with one target letter.

Me and wifey’s impression: We are somewhat overjoyed about Dar’s progress in this area, something we hadn’t known about until this month (and to be fair, he hadn’t really shown until last month). We’re now doing this at home with him all the time: putting out a field of three or four refrigerator-ready letters and numbers (Yahweh knows, we’ve got enough of them) and asking him to choose a given one. He’s 90-95% accurate. So his receptive language is way above what it was at the beginning of the school year. This is kind of amazing. He knows what we’re saying (and he shows this with many other vocabulary words symbolized by pictures). He just can’t say things, and he usually won’t proactively try even to use the pictures. (Instead he takes our hand or screams until he gets what he wants, which, because wifey and I are softies, is way too often.) But wow, he knows all the letters and numbers. Wow, full stop.

Expressive Language:

(Prior IEP said “By March 2015, Dar will use 10 word/sound approximations across two different activities with 4-5 verbal prompts on 3 out of 5 trials as measured by teacher observation and charting.”)

Summary of Progress: Objective is met. Dar in [sic] using word approximations (animals/household items/transportation/foods) during 2-3 different activities during TEACCH station time. He is able to identify several different pictures or items of a target word (e.g. table), as well as use the word/sound approximation.

Comment: During this goal it was discovered that Dar struggles with the /t,d/ phonemes in connected speech. He is currently working on these sounds in the initial position of words. Dar has also started using Kaufman Speech to Language materials to target word building.

Functional Communication:

(Prior IEP said “By March 2015, Dar will independently choose a classroom job from a field of 2, place his chosen job on his topic board for the week and complete the job once per day with 2-3 physical/gestural/verbal prompts to complete three jobs total with 80% accuracy in 4 out of 5 opportunities as measured by teacher observations, data collection and/or student work samples.)

Summary of Progress: Objective is partially met. Dar currently has 3 classroom topic boards. He is able to complete each 3-step job given 2-3 verbal and visual prompts (e.g. pictures of each step). This goal is still adult-driven, as Dar is not independent in choosing job [sic].

Comment: Dar has participated in the following jobs: watering the plants, pick up litter, choose afternoon song, and help with breakfast.

(Cutting and writing vertical/horizontal lines has vastly improved. Other gross motor skills are also going well.)

Me and wifey’s impression: Basically, this is sort of a glowing report card (and you’re not seeing all of it). As a broad summary, Dar’s BUSD team is thrilled with his progress. Many goals have been met, a few exceeded (and then re-calibrated), and others have been partially met. They feel he is “on track” for the plan that was agreed to nine months ago: two years in Kindergarten, with a continuing 1:1 aide for that second year (next year). They also feel that it’s likely he will be able to participate even more with next year’s class (perhaps nudging that 65/35 ratio closer to 75/25 or more). Their only regret about the plan is that he seems to have formed strong connections with some of his current kindergarten classmates. That doesn’t really bother us, because the classmates themselves won’t all be together next year.

So…now wifey and I need to decide if we’ve just been hoodwinked by the BUSD, or if things are really as positive as they say. In the past, we’ve felt that most of his progress has come through 1:1 therapy at home, but it’s also possible that home progress is just the progress that we see, and that he may be doing work that’s equally encouraging (and necessary) at school. We are still committed to using this summer to take advantage of his pre-qualified 30 hours a week of 1:1 home therapy, when I have more time to be in the home with him. (I believe most ABA therapists expect a parent nearby, especially when the kid isn’t potty-trained.) A week ago, we thought we’d just carry over those 6 hour days into September but…this IEP has made us question that. It’s not like the peer aspect is unimportant to us. And it’s not certain he’d be progressing this well in a Special Day Class. So…we have a lot of thoughty thoughts to think.