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:


Kelly said...

Wow Sharon, very exciting and overwhelming all at the same time!! Glad to hear that everything is in place and matched your ideal plan...I can only imagine the emotions involved during this next chapter in your journey! I've been reading and trying to familiarize myself with all the apsects that this next step entails......Scott & I are in search of an "advocate" also....a go to person will be so helpful!! Congratulations and good luck....looking forward to reading all about Brennan's school day experiences!!!

BTW, he sure does look excited to be going to "big boy" school!! Sooo CUTE:)

Lyn said...

Yay, Brennan! He looks so happy and most certainly excited to be going to school. Looks like you've done a great job with all of your research, too. He's going to do great! If you are ever in the Cincy area, please let me know so we can possibly meet up.

Good luck next week...I'll be thinking of both of you!!

Shauna Yule Brasseur said...

I am so proud of Brennan... and of you!

Anne and Whitney: Up, Down and All Around said...

i am so happy to hear that the iep meeting went so well. happy 3rd birthday to brennan :) he looks so so cute in the picture at the bottom of this post. hope all is going well for his first week of school!!!

Catherine Just said...

First - I need to apologize. I lost touch with you. I have been thinking about you for the past 2 months and couldn't find you online. Finally just tonight I found your link on someone else's blog. HOORAY!!!! It's so great to see your little guy and read up on how he is doing!!! He is so big now! Can you believe how small our guys were when we met at the Sacramento Conference? I'd love to talk with you sometime soon. Lots of catching up to do.
*Catherine ( mama to Max who is TWO! )