Friday, April 30, 2010

Penny starts school!

Yesterday was my introduction into the world of PPTs. Well, it may be more accurate to say that my first PPT took place last month when I bravely sat down to a table with five of them and one of me. This was a meeting to discuss whether or not she qualified for services. Since I wasn't worried about the outcome, I didn't bother with reinforcements. At 9:15 am yesterday, my husband and I walked toward a rather large table with almost a dozen educators. I hate to paint a portrait of "sides" as I know we are all on Penny's side, but I have heard enough horror stories to know that sometimes there can be a "them against us" mentality. The people that had my back were Scott and Penny's Birth to Three providers. Penny's occupational therapist is herself a parent advocate and is very knowledgeable in how these proceedings should go. I also have the unfathomable support of Penny's physical therapist. Her attendance at the meeting felt like a wall holding me up. Penny's speech therapist and service coordinator/sped teacher were also present, and each had a chance to speak to Penny's strengths and then go on to discuss her needs in the preschool class.

On the other side of the table were the "NEW" teachers, too numerous to mention. I remember 3 sped teachers from various classrooms, a PT, an OT, and an ST, but I also seem to remember one or two that I can't even remember what their function was. Everyone was nice enough. One of the new teachers (the OT maybe) asked if we had a picture to share before they could get going so that they could have a visual image of her before we discussed her placements. Scott happily passed his I-phone around the table to the sounds of oohs and aahs at his beautiful little princess. Scott and I had typed out a page describing what kind of person Penny is and I happily passed out copies around the table. I had indicated that I wanted a copy of this added to the IEP (individualized education plan) because Scott and I also included some goals of our own in there. The personality summary that I passed out was met with warm reception and I was really happy that Scott and I took the time to do that. It focused somewhat on her sign language skills and that our hope, no, our requirement for her would be that she be placed with a para that can sign and understand her signs.

We had a lot of ground to cover in this session. The objectives on the table were really threefold. Penny is turning 3 at the end of May, so that means she will need services or school in June until the end of the school year. She also qualified for summer school (or EYS, extended year services) and we needed to discuss how that would be organized. Lastly, we had to decide her placement for preschool next school year. There are many options in East Hartford, but until recently, I was made to feel that many did not apply to my Penny.

Since I cannot be flexible as far as driving her there and back for individual services at school (since I will be going to school myself), we had to arrange her services in June in tandem with the bussing schedule. We worked out that Penny will go to school starting May 27 for four Thursdays. I will be able to drop her off at the school at 8:15 and then she will get her ST, PT, OT, and special ed classes back to back. The bus will arrive at the school at 10:30 to bring her across town to the daycare we have chosen for her. Scott and I feel she can handle two hours at this time, and it is not a reduction in services since she is getting ST once a week now anyway. I almost cried when I realized that I WILL be able to see her go to school on her first day and see her when when comes off the bus. School starts on June 1 for me and I thought that she wouldn't start until that week as well and I had already resigned myself to the idea that I would miss her first day.

I have to be honest here and say I was not too happy with the summer school situation. The only summer school they have available are with children with severe, significant delays. As soon as I heard that I said out loud, "Then that is not appropriate for my Penny." On paper, she will attend summer school, but what we will do is find out when and where the ST time slots are and go in for that only. ESY is not about gaining new knowledge, it is about avoiding regression. She will be fine without OT and PT for the summer, but I am worried about any speech skills she may lose.

Now comes the fun part: next school year!! Determining how long her day will be, how many days, what classroom has been a moving target with this school. There are twelve classrooms in this school, some integrated, some with only typical kids, some with very severely delayed children. . . Initially I was told she was going to go into a class with only special needs kids. Even though they know it is against the law, that was the way they were doing it. Then I found out that the afternoon Head Start Program through East Hartford is a fully integrated class that she would be eligible for. There are 18 spots and they fill 10 of them with typical kids and the other eight spots are for students with IEPs. At first I was told it was from 12noon to 2:30 (which is an awful time), but later I found out that if she was picked up, we can get her at 3:30. Scheduling wise, it is much more convenient to pick her up at 3:30 then it would be to be home for the bus at 2:40 and we didn't want to pay for before and after care, so we elected for the no bussing for the way home. I was aware that there was a full day program, but that is only for typically developing kids whose parents are under certain income requirements. Technically, the half day program's typical kids are from lower income families as well. Yesterday, one of the administrators said, "You know what, since the mom will be in school full time, why don't we put Penny in the full day program." I was like, YES!! That was want I wanted, but had been denied because "we make too much money." But this woman made it seem like it would be possible. We ended up getting 1 hour each of OT and PT a week (or maybe 30min) but there is also classroom time for these therapists so Penny will in fact be getting more. We agreed on 90 minute of ST where she will be pulled out once every other week for 30 minutes to work on some skills one on one. Additionally, she will get a couple of hours of special ed instruction to work on cognitive skills along side the integrated class.

Once I get a copy of the PPT I will see if I can share it for anyone that is interested. I feel really good about my "first time" and I am super excited for Penny to start school!! We also get to go in for a visit on Tuesday so she can meet the other kids. I really can't wait for that. only 4 days to go. . .

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