Friday, April 26, 2013

He Qualified

On Wednesday, I took Gus to our local elementary school for him to be evaluated by FCPS (Fulton County Public Schools). As you know, back in October we had him evaluated through Georgia's BCW (Babies Can't Wait) program and he qualified for both speech/language and OT services. We decided to start with speech since that was our biggest concern (and STILL is), but because of scheduling conflicts, we didn't actually get a lot done with Gus and his speech therapist.

The ST came to our house three times and each time was horrible. Gus didn't seem to like her and she was constantly touching his face, talking really loudly, and just not a good fit with him. On the third visit she threw her hands up and said she just couldn't keep working with him until his sensory "issues" were resolved. She said I was the problem (he was looking to me for help and not doing as she wanted), and so it was for the best that we stopped using her for speech.

However, while it was great to start OT services with Mary, whom Gus absolutely LOVES, he hasn't been getting any help for his speech and language. As six months have passed, he has remained behind and has actually gotten further behind where he should be.

We did enroll him in preschool in January, and I honestly think it was the best thing we could have done for him. Any language gains that he's made have come from preschool.

Anyway, BCW is a program for kids up to age three. Once a child is three, they "graduate" out of BCW. Some end their services there, because they don't need assistance anymore. Others continue to need services and so they move to the public school system for their needs.

Because we still need support, we had to start the process to see if Gus would qualify for services. He had his hearing tested about a month ago and the results were excellent. Then on Wednesday, he went to have more testing done.

There was good news that came from the meeting. 

He qualifies for more services and will start in August at an elementary school that's close to us (not the school where he'll attend for K-5). 

He did not qualify for OT services. I say this is a positive because it means that he's doing really well in the areas that he was deficient before. He's been seeing Mary every week for an hour, and obviously it's paid off. They said they see the sensory problems that he'll need help with, but it's not enough to have an OT there to support his needs.

He will have an IEP. This will be good for three years and each year we'll write goals for him and we'll review to see how he's doing. When he's met all the goals we have for him, I believe the need for an IEP will be gone, and so will the IEP. However, it's a legally binding document that will spell out exactly what he needs and he'll be sure to get what he needs through it.

So the biggest question I had was what are we going to do next? The team recommended he be in a classroom setting. This means that instead of someone coming to our house for one on one time, once a week for an hour, he'll be in a classroom and seen at the school.

They said he could go five days a week (mornings only), and wouldn't need to continue with preschool somewhere else. This means no more Christ the King for preschool. It also means, no more spending $$ each month for preschool, since sending him to the public school is free (taxes pay for it).

I had a lot of questions and doubts. I want him to be with a variety of kids, not just a bunch of special education kids in one room. However, I was told that while he'll be with kids with IEPs, he'll be with similar kids. So he'll be there for speech delays, he'll be with kids who also have speech delays and maybe a few other things, but won't be with behavior/emotionally delayed children. They try to put the kids together based on their needs, which made me feel a little better about it. I want him to thrive and not be negatively impacted by the behavior of others.

I don't want him to go five days a week, but I found out that it's most likely a 7am-11am program. It might not be too bad for him to go five days a week for just that little bit of time. We could still do MOMS Club stuff and it's important that he still have time with non-disabled peers.

We'll see. We go May 9th for the IEP meeting and thankfully, Steve will be there with me. I just want Gus to get the support that he needs and I want him to be with teachers who not only have a passion for exceptional learners, but also have the background, training, and ability to serve his needs. 

Gus has a great teacher at CtK right now, but she's the only one on staff who is going to school for early childhood education, and is the only one focused on special education. It's been such a blessing to have her for Gus, but as the director told me, we cannot guarantee what next year would look like for him. He could have a teacher (at CtK) who doesn't understand his needs, and it could be a disastrous year for him.

So, we decided to give the public school preschool a chance. If it's not what we're looking for, or it's not a good fit, we'll have the IEP to help us find the right fit. CtK is a great school, and we'll probably send Hugh there when he's older, but for now, when we get to May 21st, Gus will be saying goodbye to CtK for preschool.

Fulton County offers free transportation to and from preschool. I immediately said no, I don't want Gus on the bus, but they assured me that it's a special bus for preschoolers only and it has car seats. I said I'd think about it. The more I've thought about it, the more I think I may do the bus. Not only because it'll be super nice to not have to load everyone up to go down the street, but because traffic is HORRIBLE at 7am. We'll see, but I'm leaning more towards letting him ride the bus and it'll give me more time at home with Hugh, will let Hugh keep sleeping and not have to wake to take Gus to school, and will give Gus a chance to ride a bus, since he sure as hell will NOT be riding the bus when he's in elementary school. 

It's REALLY odd to be on the other side of the table for an IEP. As a teacher, I sat in on multiple IEP meetings each year, and I'm very familiar with IEPs. As a teacher, they spell out exactly what you're to do for the child, how to help them be as successful as possible, and what goals to work on for helping the child succeed. 

As a parent, it's totally different. I just want Gus to get caught up on his language. 

Looking at the developmental milestones for a three-year-old, I was shocked at how many are centered around speech and language. At this age, EVERYTHING revolves around speech and language and he's significantly delayed. I'm excited that he'll be going to school (which looks just like any other preschool classroom) with teachers who can help him get where he needs to be.

I'm hopeful, I'm relieved, and I'm excited for him. 

I'll keep everyone posted. Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, and texted to see how the evaluation went. It means the world to know that you care!!!


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