Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting Ready for School

We are nearing a time I had both dreaded and looked forward to since Brennan was born......his third birthday. Along with his third birthday comes saying goodbye to the wonderful therapists that have helped guide us through the past three years, and hello to school and not having Brennan as my constant companion. During the last couple of months, Brennan has had evaluations by each of the therapists at our public school so they can assess his needs coming into school, evaluations by his early intervention center in order to write their final report, a visit to the Down Syndrome Clinic at Children's Hospital, and an assessment by the Augmentative Communication Department at Children's Hospital. All the while, I've been reading and talking to other parents to ready myself for his Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.

Brennan's evaluations from his early intervention center and the public school had very similar results. He has not had formal evaluations since he was about a year old since I didn't see any real benefit to them. I remember when Brennan was first born and I'd read on other blogs about kids and the assignment of developmental age to their abilities and thinking how hard it must be to see that as a parent. However, that ended up not being the case for me at all. I realize exactly where Brennan is developmentally and am so incredibly proud of him. He has learned so much and come so far in the past three years.
So, here's the breakdown:
Fine Motor: 23 months
Cognition: 18 months
Receptive Language: 20 months
Expressive Language: 16 months
Gross Motor: 11 months
Social Emotional: 29 months
Self-Care: 23 months

Down Syndrome Clinic:
At Brennan's annual visit to the Down Syndrome Clinic, he saw a pediatrician, physical therapist, dentist, nutritionist and audiologist. I like going to the clinic to get a second opinion on what we're doing with Brennan. Basically, they all agreed that he's doing great and had a few suggestions going forward. The pediatrician suggested he see an opthamologist this year, get another celiac test, use a total communication approach in school (verbal, sign and pictures) and that I send a book of Brennan's signs in to school with him. The physical therapist suggested scheduling an appointment with an orthopedist and also had a couple of suggestions of what to include in his IEP. The dentist said his teeth looked healthy and suggested wiping his mouth with a cloth after brushing (since he's not spitting after brushing yet). The nutritionist suggested adding a multi-vitamin and said otherwise his diet sounded well balanced. And lastly, he got a clean report from the audiologist.

Augmentative Communication Evaluation:
I took Brennan to see and augmentative communication specialist so they could suggest the best method of communication for Brennan. He currently uses sign language as his primary means of communication. As his family, we understand all of his signs. However, many of them are approximations or slightly different than the actual sign - so my concern is that even though his teachers will know sign language, they may not understand his signs. So, at this evaluation Brennan was able to try various communication devices. He took to them very quickly and was able to navigate them to ask for what he wanted. The device that was recommended for him is the Vantage Lite. And while it is totally cool, the $7,495 price tag was not. So, we're putting that on hold and the school will have their own augmentative communication specialist work with him and possibly find devices we could borrow. In the meantime, Brennan's verbal communication seems to be taking off......so we'll see!

We had Brennan's IEP meeting at the beginning of March. I had read From Emotions to Advocacy and many IEP related articles and had spoken to other parents and attended a few workshops. I felt somewhat educated about what Brennan's rights are and what to expect from the meeting, but also felt like special education laws are complex and that it would take a great amount of time and research for me to feel really comfortable with them. So, I hired an advocate who will be my go-to expert as questions arise over the years to come. Going into the meeting, I had written down what my ideal education plan for Brennan would be (number of days, frequency of therapies, etc.). Luckily, the schools proposal match my ideal plan exactly. So, starting on Monday, Brennan will go to our local public integrated preschool (with a mix of kids on IEP and not on IEP's) four morning a week for 2 hours and 15 minutes per morning. He'll see the speech therapist and occupational therapist each twice a week for 30 minutes and the occupational therapist once a week for 30 minutes. The therapies will provided both in and outside of the classroom. He'll also have an aide to help him get from place to place since he is not yet walking independently.

And, as thanks for sticking with me through this very long post, here's a picture of Brennan showing how excited he is to be starting school:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Baby Steps

Helping Brennan learn how to walk has taken a combination of different methods, each a baby step toward the end goal. He started army crawling when he was 1 1/2 years old. It was over a year later when he first crawled on hands and knees. He's been getting physical therapy one hour per week since he was a month old. In addition to that, he did swim therapy for a couple of months. Swim therapy was great for him and really helped him learn to bear weight on his feet. Then he did a few sessions on a treadmill which helped him learn how to move his feet in a walking pattern.
Once he understood how to move his feet, he was ready for a walker (which his early intervention center graciously loaned us so he could practice at home).
He has loved this new sense of independence. He also loves how quickly he can get from one place to another!
A friend suggested taking Brennan to the mall to walk which has been so great for him. He loves the social aspect of saying "hi" and "bye" and waving to everyone he sees. And he'll walk, and walk, and walk until his hands hurt from holding the handles on his walker.

About two weeks ago, Brennan took a few step independently for the first time. It may still be a while until he's really walking on his own, but he's making great progress and we're SO proud of him.


I can't bleieve it has been 5 months since I last posted! Here's a quick photo recap.

Brennan is turning into such a big boy. Doesn't he look older sitting here with his brothers and sisters?
And eating at the table with his cousin....
He's spent alot of time playing....
He loved helping decorate the Christmas tree...
And opening presents with his Grandma...
And was a perfect companion to his sister as she recovered from having her tonsils and adenoids removed.....
Then he spent more time playing....

Life is good and it has been so much fun watching Brennan grown and learn. More to come....