Special Day Class

This may be the first time wifey and I have called for an IEP. Normally, we just ride along with the school’s scheduled meetings for Dar. His last IEP was scheduled by the school, in October, on his birthday, and if it were up to them, our next meeting would be in June to discuss next year’s placement. Without forsaking that meeting, we called this one. This week, Dar’s kindergarten teacher, Libby, produces progress reports for all her kids, including Dar. Knowing this well in advance, we thought this would be a good time to review Dar’s progress.

Wifey and I are in a bit of an existential dilemma regarding Dar and the Berkeley schools, maybe all schools. As I’ve mentioned here before, Berkeley is the only nearby district that insists on “mainstreaming”; all the other ones around here (Albany, Oakland, El Cerrito, Alameda, etc) have some Special Day Classes where kids like Dar learn alongside their special-needs peers. Sometimes we feel Dar would do better in such a place. One path there is for the BUSD to agree that their methods aren’t working, and they help us place Dar in an Albany SDC or something. That has happened with other kids, but email groups and forums leave the impression that it takes a LOT of parental petitions and other work. Probably, Dar would have to be doing terribly in school, and he isn’t.

We want to see the progress reports, particularly the ones with clear metrics (e.g. “Dar will do ____ 6 out of 10 times; Dar will say ______ when prompted 7 out of 10 times), but our impression is that he’s treading water. He hasn’t regressed since September (the start of the school year), but we’re not sure that the school is advancing him as far as it could.

We love his home therapy, but it’s only 90 minutes a day. We have definitely seen progress there. Two years ago, he wouldn’t point to anything, ever, unless heavily prompted. These days, he has proven his ability to point, with very little prompting, to a picture of anything he likes in a field of eight. One sign of progress is that these days he touches everything in the house – bit of a mixed blessing there. He’s also been getting better and better with the iPad – that’s a future blog post.

For all we know, Dar’s relative progress is a combination of school and home therapies. Yes, that’s possible. There’s no control in this experiment, so we can’t be sure. But it seems like 1-on-1 brings out so much of his communication.

We are close to believing that Dar’s best option is one-on-one therapy all day. Through our insurance we qualify for many more hours than we’re currently using. So we could push harder to advocate for something like this. If we go that way, though, we’ll always wonder what we’re missing by not spending time with neurotypical kids that are the same age as Dar.

Like anyone would, I like seeing kids open their hearts to Dar. One of his classmates always comes up to Dar at the outset of class – she says hi to him even though he barely says anything, she takes his hand, she takes off his backpack and puts it away. To her I give a very sincere, effusive thank you and she looks at me like what’s the big deal? In Peet’s coffee the other day, we ran into a different classmate who came right up to Dar for a big hi, remaining in Dar’s face even though Dar wasn’t saying anything. Yes, my heart is touched. (Though the back of my mind is saying, “Enjoy this while it lasts; they’ll eventually get bored of Dar like everyone else.”) But I don’t know what this level of social interaction is doing for Dar. Is he getting more accustomed to other people? Is he “socializing”? Or is he treating them pretty much the same way he would treat a talking robot?

Anyway, wifey and I are waiting on progress reports; besides those, we have a list of IEP questions like:

 

1. What does Dar do all day? We’ve seen the logs, but is there a MTWTF schedule?

2. How much time does Dar spend with the rest of the class? How much with just Sophie? What’s the percentage? Approximately?

3. How does Sophie determine when to join the group? If it’s parent-reading time, for example, what is the logic behind the decision to join or not join?

4. How often is Dar asked to leave the class because of outbursts?

5. How does Dar ask for things when not actively using PECs? Or do PECs go everywhere he goes? How does he ask for things on the playground, for example?

6. What has specifically changed with the BIA program since the visit to our house?

7. Do you use “coping strategies” at school? (Deep breaths/hug pillow/stomping feet/chewie) Do you ever have to give him an “all done” and walk away, or is it always re-directing?

8. Does he ever clear a table at school, meaning knock everything off of it? What happens, does he have to clean it up?

9. Should Dar expect to have Sophie as an aide next year? Or someone else doing 1-on-1? What is the criteria used to make that decision?

10. Does Dar do taking-turns exercises in class, or only outside? If so, what are examples of that?

11. At this time, do you anticipate that in September, Dar will move on to 1st grade, stay in kindergarten, or another option?

12. In the October IEP, Libby mentioned the difficult curriculum of her classroom and wondered why Dar had been assigned to her class. Is that still a concern? Why or why not?