Sometimes I just crack myself up. Last week, when I started this blog, I was feeling pretty confident about how things were going for K, my extra-special kid. After all this time, I should know that in this journey, confidence is a slippery slope.
Had a team meeting for K to check on her progress since our last meeting. In attendance: me, my husband, K's classroom teacher, the resource specialist, and the principal. That was a small group! Usually we would also have our advocate, the speech therapist and the program specialist from the school district. Yes, we usually have someone from the district at our meetings because we always ask for more services. They need to have someone as the budget barrier there! In our case, however, we are extremely fortunate that our team is truly that - a team. I'm not so naive as to think that they will always do everything they possibly can without our even having to ask. However, K's greatest gift is her ability to draw people to her (especially adults) and with her charm and personality, she wraps them around her little finger. She's a natural giver, so people who work with her are genuinely committed to her best interests and success.
So, what's the fast dose of reality? The progress meeting went well, but I was discouraged to find out that K isn't meeting the expected progress on several of her goals and in terms of her general ed classroom, she's pretty much failing everything except reading fluency (not comprehension) and spelling. She's improving in writing and is successful with math computation. Everyone can see that she is making progress, but her progress is not in line with what we had all hoped. Whoops! What was I thinking, feeling all confident? Silly me...
Normally, that would not be a big deal to me. As long as she is moving forward, I consider that to be good. In this case, however, we are talking about the fact that she is not successful with grade level work in some of the most important subjects compounded by the fact that because she is pulled from the classroom so often, she is getting absolutely no science or social studies this year. I had to ask the team what do you do with a child like that? What is the expected trajectory? I would have to logically assume that at some point, the expectation is for K to do grade level work and pass. If nothing else, she has to have enough knowledge to pass the damn high school exit exam (yeah, because standardized testing - even when modified - is such an excellent tool to determine what a child has learned - note my heavy sarcasm). Knowing that she is essentially not learning 4th grade, how do you move her to 5th grade? The quickest answer would be retention. That would be a reasonable consideration for some kids. In K's case, it would be a disaster. She would not be happy about not moving forward (in itself, not enough of a compelling reason), she is already an "older" 4th grader as she turns 10 this year (holding her back would make her an 11 year old 4th grader), and socially it would be devastating. She has been with most of the kids in her grade since Kindergarten and it's already hard enough for her to engage with them socially.
That leaves us with considering alternate placement. Alternate placement. We've always been proud that K has been in a general education classroom since Kindergarten. In most ways, she doesn't belong in a special ed class (we call them Special Day Class around here) and that isn't where we would want her to go. However, at some point the school she is currently attending will not be able to help her in the ways that she needs to be helped. We are rapidly approaching that situation, I think. It isn't the fault of the school team because as I said, they are committed to K in ways that I've not heard of with any other extra special kid. It is simply a matter of K needing something different to really address her severe language processing deficits.
As usual on this journey, just when I am feeling pretty good about things, reality has a way of kicking me in the butt and reminding me that there will always be something else to consider. The job is never done, not even for a week or a day or an hour. I've had to learn to laugh, at least a little bit, because I can't spend my days crying with a case of the "Why me???" It's pretty easy to do that and believe me, I've spend more days having a pity party than I care to admit. I think that's normal, but it doesn't help me or K to move forward and besides, I was serving cookies at the pity party. Lots and lots of cookies. It's really not a mystery as to how I gained 45 lbs in the early stages of this journey (good news - I've finally lost almost all of it!). Learning to laugh a little is far healthier than eating more cookies, I think.
We will be doing research between now and our next meeting. We need to figure out what we feel will be best for K so that when the team meets, we aren't starting from that point, but rather, we'll be ready to make a decision together. Ultimately, we are her parents, so we will have the final say. It's just a matter of us figuring out what that final say should be.