Thursday, October 16, 2008

IEP Meeting - Initial Thoughts..

Long (2 hours), intense, productive, cooperative, "all on the same page"..
Those are the thoughts and feelings floating around in me right now. My concerns were listened to, acknowledged, and then some incredibly positive, out of the box thinking took place.

I am pleased.

I have lots of decisions to make, thoughts to process and get on paper, and lots of good outcomes and positive feedback to share with Salamander, and lots of new things and approaches to discuss with him too.

Salamander is an enigma, and (from school's perspective) an anomaly - a spectrum kiddo who is showing such incredible progress in all those areas that are commonly perceived as challenging for ASD kiddos.
Don't get me wrong, all those social/communication/empathy/perspective taking/ transitions/need for structure/being flexible, going with the flow, etc., etc. areas are still hard for Salamander; but he is LEARNING AND APPLYING the skills he needs to become more confident and proficient in these areas.
I repeat, he is learning, applying and IMPROVING. And for so many kids with similar challenges in the exact same school and under the exact same in-school interventions that is NOT the case. The kids plateau, and that's it.

Salamander is a true example of plasticity; while it takes him a hell of a lot longer and a hell of a lot more effort to learn all those "monkey see, monkey do" skills that come so incredibly easy to most NT kids, his skills in these arenas ARE coming on line, he IS using them consistently, and becoming more and more confident as his social and communication successes are increasing (yes, all that stuff that NT kids learn in that 3 to 6 year age bracket? Salamander is learning those now. But the bottom line is that he IS).

All TEAM members (including myself) feel that when it comes to his current abilities in communication, social awareness, ability to transition, flexibility, perspective taking, self monitoring, self advocacy, self control, he has outgrown (and outpaced) his peers (and remember that for those areas, his peers are ASD kids, or kids with other neurodevelopmental challenges). It is time to change his peer group, to place him more and more in a setting where his peers are neurotypical, to give him that extra push to become fully proficient and fully able.

It is time to now put a lot more focus on academics and integration with the NT world (while continuing to focus and support the areas of weakness associated with a spectrum disorder as while he's getting good, it will never be effortless). And yes, it'll be a gradual transition.

To be blunt, it is time to get him OUT of a setting where several of his peers communicate through intense behavioral upheavals and tantrums, and get him into a setting with kids that have more self control and more awareness of the impact of their actions on others. I greatly emphatize with the "behavioral" kids, I do, and for the staff that works with these kids and for these kids' parents. I was "there" (and will continue to go "there" I am sure) for many, many years. But these behaviors are creating such an incredibly level of frustration and anxiety and even fear in Salamander, that is is impeding HIM for learning and progressing (yes, great teachable moments in tolerance and empathy, and that is exactly how I process a lot of the "bad situations with Salamander. But I HAVE to make sure that Salamander's emotional needs are taken care of too.

I am excited.

I am terrified.

Salamander is so so close in overcoming a lot of the spectrum disorder related challenges. So now it's time to help him overcome his academic challenges...

School is thrilled with his social/communications/sensory regulation progress, and more than a little surprised (as what Salamander is pulling off does not fit with their typical experience), and a tad unnerved (as none of the usual perceptions and expectations apply - he is forcing ALL OF US to rethink our believes and preconceived notions).

The secret? Does this particular school have 'the magic recipe of interventions, accommodations, and specific instruction" that would help any and all spectrum kiddos make such substantial progress? Far from it. There is no magic recipe/cook book here. It has (and is) taken a lot of hard work, a lot of negotiating, a lot of learning together, a lot of "out of the box" thinking, and yes, a TON of remedial interventions OUTSIDE of the school setting, to get to this point. And of course an extensive biomed program for the past 4+ years (the biomed piece is also the ONE intervention piece that is different between Salamander and his "similarly" neurodevelopmentally affected peers).

Persistence and Perseverance. And a lot of blood, poop, urine, sweat and tears.
And we're not there yet, we're not there YET. But we are on our way...

Off to compile my notes and thoughts of this annual IEP review meeting. And then we are looking at a complete rewrite of Salamander's IEP.
[my apologies, I am rambling. These are my rough impressions and thoughts. I may edit this post later, as I need to tie what I heard today, what I see in the social/communications arena with the stuff I shared in the prior two posts.. ]


At 8:20 AM, October 17, 2008 , Blogger Renee said...

Congratulations! It sounds like a really productive, cooperative meeting. Give Salamander some extra hugs - he deserves it!!!

At 5:18 PM, October 17, 2008 , Anonymous Jeanne said...

Wow!! INCREDIBLE NEWS!! Congratulations to Salamander and to you, his very hard working Mom!!

:-) Way to go you guys!!


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