Friday, November 20, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy: a Mantra for IEPs, Kindergarten Transition, and IQ Testing

I've been doing a lot of reading, thinking, and talking to others about Sean's big transition to Kindergarten next year. I mean, jeez, it is only nine months away. :/

I'm trying to get myself in a head space where I'm not stressed about it any more than I was when Aidan started grade school, but it is hard. There's so much information out there about getting your child in the best environment for these early learning years. We all want our kids in the least restrictive environment so that they can learn along side their peers. We are all afraid of our kids being shut away in a room without windows, stimulation or teachers eager to help our child achieve at the best of his or her ability. We worry about abuse and neglect of our our sweet kids that can't defend themselves or verbalize the accounts of the day. So many of those fears seem valid and important to look out for.

This past week, the big news in the Down syndrome world was a report on possibly reversing the cognitive affects of Down syndrome. Research with lab mice have shown that the therapy plan may help our children with Ds if started at a very early age. Interesting possibility. Obviously one that needs a great deal of research regarding long term outcomes before it is applied in humans. I'm happy to hear that there is research that focuses on improving the LIFE of a person with Ds, rather than focusing on eliminating the existence of Ds. Should it prove to be effective and safe for humans, I think I'd be willing to try it. It doesn't change the make up of the person, it just helps boost the brain's ability to learn and retain information. However, I don't see that it has said if it would work on older children or if there's a window where it is only useful. Definitely research worth following.

So that leads me to this.... what do I want Sean to achieve in kindergarten? I guess I want him to have the best opportunity to learn that he can. I want him to speak clearly in full sentences that others understand as well as family. I want him to read and write. I want him to carrying on conversations that are not just repeating statements or yes/no answers. I want him to understand basic math skills. I want him to learn to button his shirts, zip his coat and tie his shoes. I want him to eat what his peers eat, and eat it willingly and independently. I want him to play with other children and be welcomed in their activities.

Do I think all of those goals are attainable? Yes. I do. I don't know if Sean will achieve all of those goals by the end of kindergarten. Some I expect will be more challenging and take longer. I don't know if this means he's in the "regular" classroom 100% or 80% or 50% of the day. I see no benefit to him being in a classroom if the pace is too fast for him and he isn't adequately supported to adapt to the activities. I don't want his time wasted at school because he is overwhelmed and shuts down. I'm willing to keep an open mind about where he is as long as he is learning where he is at.

Yesterday, Doug, Ella and I went to Aidan's Thanksgiving Feast. This is the school we intend on Sean going to. As I was clearing my tray and leaving the cafeteria, I saw the resource room kids clearing their trays and lining up for recess. I admit to staring at the three kids with Down syndrome. Watching as they independently sorted their trash and trays. They looked happy, the boys were laughing and tickling each other in line. The little girl was intent on scrapping her food into the can. But where were their parents? None of the kids in the class had parents that came to eat with them. Why? The school sent notes to us, so we knew when to go. Of the other classes, it looked like about 40% had parents or grandparents eating with them. Yet none of the kids in the resource class had a parent there.

Panic. Maybe the Special Ed teacher didn't send the invite home with her students.

Worry. Is this an example of how communication is lacking here?

Reality. Maybe they just have to work or have other kids at home and can't come. It's probably a coincidence.

Jennifer at Three's a Charm shared this post this week and I am trying to keep my mindset here instead of in a state of stress. I think I will just read it every time I start to worry. You know, this should be my new mantra, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."


JennyH said...

It is so hard to not stress about that big change. How cool that there are other students with Ds there! Max was the only one at our school but this year there is a little 3 year old Pre-ker there. I have never seen her or met the family (yet!) but heard about her from the pre-k teacher.

I know Sean will do great!

Heidi said...

It is so hard not to worry. I'm already thinking about preschool for Joel next year and wondering what that is going to be like!

Beverly said...

I think it is good to start thinking of kindergarten now and know what you want for Sean.

Kim V. said...

it wasn't a coincidence that you may have not seen parents there, but i'll get to that in a sec. (ps - my r key is not working well so you might notice a few missing).

transitioning was harder for me than it was for wyatt in many ways. IE focus mainly on just the child and in school it's just not that way. and sometimes it is a struggle to get the amount of services you want.

the flip side for us was wyatt is an only child, and the social interaction has been a blessing.

we just had wyatt re-evaled & IQ because they said there were some issues about him not being able to get therapy based off his old IEPs (i was stunned, because wyatt basically doesn't speak many words, and a lot of other things related to his DS). so i just look at tests as a way for him to insure that he gets what he needs. another parent in the beginning told me to look at it that way and it definitely helps.

wyatt has learned a tremendous amount by going to school (ie - to push his chair in when he's done, throwing his garbage away, constant hand washing, standing in line, listening in general, along w/ his school work, and high five-ing his classmates at the end of the day).

we have a great teacher in our class, and the principal and teacher assured me that i am allowed to drop in unannounced any time. i also take any opportunity to volunteer to read to the class, so i can scope out the general atmosphere.

i was the only parent that came to thanksgiving lunch. i sat with all the kids and had a great time. i do know that the other parents skipped because their children have a complete melt-down when they leave, or they think school is over and they want to go home. i'm not surprised you didn't see parents in the special ed class, and it is kind of sad.

luckily, i don't have this problem with wyatt, he's as happy as a clam to go to school. and i trust his judgment. he does act differently around people he doesn't care for, so he is a good indicator.

actually, the one place i don't attend is when wyatt has swimming at school, because i really need him to bond w/ his teachers, and now after 2 months, he loves it there, and most likely i could visit if i wanted, but i don't want to make more work for the teachers if he runs to me. (althou, we are invited to go swimming with the class, and only one mom goes, so now, i think i could go since he loves it).

lastly, it is a great mantra, don't worry, be happy!

i hope this helps! all my babbling!

Kim V. said...

ps - my husband says to add, that the lack of parents at thanksgiving wasn't out of a lack of love, it's that many of the students with behavior issues have a hard time transitioning.

he says don't worry too!

i will pray for you that your darling will have school as smoothly as it goes for our son!

SunflowerMom said...

Kim V.- You know I bet you are right! I didn't even think of that aspect. I mentioned it to Doug and he agreed.

We haven't reached the IQ testing point yet, as Sean's IEP doesn't renew until Spring. His BFF is going thru the process now and I've talked frequently with his mom about what they are learning.

I'm glad to hear Wyatt has done so well in school and you are right, there are so many little things they learn beyond the basics of education.

Kim V. said...

:) i can't wait to read your updates as you go along, it's such a big deal, for us mommies! (ps - i would be heart broken if i couldn't attend all of wyatt's school functions, so i count myself lucky! you will too).

much love and happy turkey day to you and your family!