We had the Middle School Transition meeting today. It was the most unproductive IEP meeting in the course of history, but also the most exciting and encouraging. Let me explain….
We arrive and head in with the county school psychologist and ASD/behavior expert (who we know very well and has taken a personal interest in the Brick). We go through the formalities..introductions, blah, blah, yada, yada. Then, his current teacher (we shall call her The Goddess) speaks up about her concerns for middle school transition. How, while he is functioning at grade level on regular curriculum materials, he needs support to be successful. Not just academic support but behavioral support. Keep in mind, we have chosen to do core academics (language arts, math, science and social studies through our districts virtual school program—we are so lucky to have this option—and have ‘electives’ and the social skills class done through ‘brick and mortar’ (the actual zone school). Also bear in mind that until we get state standardized test scores (FACT) we will not know for sure which classes the Brick will be taking via the brick and mortar school.
The Goddess continues describes the Brick and his learning style and challenges. We move into classes—if he does not score appropriately on the state tests he will need to take remedial reading and/or math. We will not get these scores until the last week (at the earliest) of June. The reading specialist who is attending the meeting is concerned because the reading classes are strongly small group learning. UGH!! I, then question the legislation (I did my homework) and they bring in the VP. He explains that we have ‘some leeway’ with math, but taking a reading class is a definite; all 6th and 7th graders take a reading class of some sort. OK, this is some progress. We may be able to squeak in a real elective that the Brick elects to take.
The Goddess asks about support facilitation in the remedial classes and electives the VP says they don’t offer it. WHAT?!?! Nope, no support facilitation except in language arts, math and science. He goes on to say they have ‘never done it’ and they just don’t have ‘the staff for it.’ I understand the staffing and budget issues, I really do, but my kid needs support! From previous experience and other parent’s stories I also know that getting a 1:1 in our district is all but impossible. It generally takes a lawyer and a lawsuit as well. Not that I won’t go there again, but it is not how I want to start our relationship with a new school. The Goddess looks at me like ‘Oh, no.’ and ‘I’m sorry’ rolled into one. I can tell by her expression that she is just as concerned as we are at this point.
I look at hubby and am telepathically sending him ‘We are going to home school!’ thoughts. The Goddess goes on to explain that putting the Brick in this situation is setting him up for failure. The team is at a loss. Somehow we move to the behavior plan that the school psychologist updated last week. It is amazing!! She outlines every detail possible; how to interact with the brick, how to react to him for positive reinforcement, how to react to him for correcting behaviors. She went so far as to put in all caps ‘DO NOT SUSPEND OR REMOVE FROM THE CLASSROOM.’ In the past, at the ‘Voldemort School’ (He attended a school for a short period that was a horrible placement for him. We have, after 2 ½ years, gotten to the point we can drive past it without him becoming anxious. We still, however, cannot name the school. It has become ‘the school that shall not be named.’), he was removed from class and suspended almost weekly and it became reinforcing because he got to come home and not go to this hideous place that was mistreating him.
Anyway, the behavior plan is amazing. If it is followed by his teachers we will be good to go. But with no support facilitation there will only be the one teacher and we are still VERY concerned things will escalate before anyone can intervene. Middle school is not a nice place. It would only take one or two events and the Brick would become bully target number one.
About this time another lady walks in and the staffing specialist introduces her as the principal. We move back to discussing the Brick’s learning style and challenges and the principal shares that all of the learning is done in small groups (for most kids this is a good thing) in all of the classes and that the school uses multimodal learning in all classes (also a good thing). This means even the electives and remedial classes are group and cooperative learning based classes. The Goddess speaks up again about her/our concerns for the Brick’s success in this type of setting with no support facilitation. The principal said ‘Who said he wouldn’t get support facilitation?’ Someone on the team, I think it was the guidance counselor, explains what the VP told us. The principal then says “It sounds like he needs a 1:1. If he needs support our job is to get him support.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I could not believe what I just heard. She then asks (remember she came in half way through the meeting and knows very little about the Brick) ‘Does he have Asperger? Listening to you discuss your concerns and he sounds like another ESE student we had that we got a 1:1 for.’ Now I am thinking ‘Wow, there is even precedent, at this school, with this principal, for a 1:1.’
From here we are running out of time and have agreed that, until we get scores and know for sure what classes the Brick will be taking, we cannot complete the IEP. With the new info from the principal the school staff needs to do some work and get a 1:1 for the three periods a day the Brick will be in school. We agree to meet back, hopefully before summer, but possibly the week before school starts to finalize the IEP. They let us take the draft so we could look it over. Good thing because I have many things to add.
So in an hour and a half we accomplished nothing related to the IEP, transition into middle school, creating a schedule or defining supports. We did get a principal who, very obviously, care for and advocates for her students. If she follows through and is showing us her true dedication and commitment, I may call her Goddess #2.