Saturday, October 29, 2011

Schools: Part Two - Process

(if you missed part one it is here)

Once we had sorted out, WHO we needed to meet with and contact, we were in business.  Aubrey is assigned to a "home school" in the school district that we are zoned for (not in the city that we actually live in).  She will always be assigned to that school.  We also have a school district representative....her name is Allison and she has been the most helpful to us.  She is the Early Education Coordinator for the district.

At Aubrey's 2.5 year ECI meeting, we talked for a bit about transitions to school, our concerns and wants for Aubrey (and our own) and about the process.  Our next step was to have our ECI coordinator contact the school district and set up a meeting with the  Early Education Coordinator.  She explained the entire process and even took us on a school tour and answered a million questions.

We were assigned to our home school and a transition teacher.  Her job was to evaluate where Aubrey was at through an interview and then through some testing, and set up any other testing, based on the services that she was getting through ECI.  The testing she did was lots of developmental things like stacking blocks, naming shapes and colors, counting and that sort of thing.  The test was scheduled for 12:30pm (right in the middle of nap) and in an boardroom at a HUGE table.  Things did not go well!  It was a good thing they allow parents to answer by interview and not only on what she could "perform" for them.

We also had a speech therapist come, who after 5 minutes, decided she was done, because Aubrey was "non-verbal"!  I could have saved her the trip by telling her that Aubrey actually SAYS about 5 words and signs all the rest!

We saw a physical therapist as well.  She was completely impressed with Aubrey's abilities and we were proud to show off all the hard work she had been doing.

It should be stated that in ECI, a child can receive services based on a diagnosis, such as Down syndrome.  In school, you only receive services if you are unable to "function" in the class and throughout the routine.  Since she is walking and can do all those physical things required to function in a classroom, we assumed she wouldn't get PT.  And since she didn't receive Occupational Therapy through ECI, they didn't test her.  Our PT covered both areas.  (she is getting PT at school now and also OT--more on those tomorrow)

After all the testing, they set up  her initial ARD meeting.  ARD stands for Admissions, Review and Dismissal.  Basically a meeting to  admit her to school, review frequently if she needs special help at school and dismissal which happens when they no longer need services (for Aubrey it will be graduation from high school).  It is held at her "home school".

There were a lot of people at that meeting.  It is made up of all the people that tested Aubrey (3), the school principal, a preschool teacher, a general education teacher, 2 people from the Regional Day School for the Deaf, the District Early Education Coordinator (Allison).  These people were "required" to be there.  We are then allowed to invite anyone else that we feel knows Aubrey well and can speak to her needs, so we invited our ECI service coordinator as well as speech therapist.

It was a two hour meeting that outlined each test and then set goals for her in the coming school year, and IEP or Individual Education Plan.  It was the committees recommendation that she attend the Regional Day School for the Deaf to address her language needs.  The home school classrooms are not taught by teachers who know sign language, beyond the very basics, and wouldn't be TEACHING her any so that she could further her communication skills either.  And non of the kids would know sign language and be able to talk with her....she would be all alone in the classroom!  It was a very scary thought.

So she would be attending Pearson!  (the official name for the Regional Day School)  And we were so pleased and relived that they agreed to send her there (her home school district actually has to pay for her education there and it is not a frequent we are thankful).  If there is anything that I learned through this process it was to ASK lots of questions and NOT to be afraid of pushing for things.  We knew Pearson was going to be the best place for her and we would have pushed for her to go there if they hadn't recommended it.

Tomorrow:  Preschool Experiences

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