Last week, I attended the annual meeting for Jilly's IEP. This year was slightly different than the past couple, because she will be going to Kindergarten in the fall and the IEP needed to reflect that. It was a great meeting, all of the observations by her teachers were right on track with what Steve and I have noticed about her. I feel very good about the plan for her for next year.
For the past almost two years, she has been in a self-contained preschool program at a local elementary school (though not our 'neighborhood' school), receiving help in Social/Emotional, Communication, and Gross Motor areas. To give some perspective, when Jilly started the program, at 3 years old, she was speaking in 2-3 word sentences, could not jump, and never objected to another kid stealing a toy from her or hurting her. Now, at 5 years old, Jilly has met every goal set for her and exceeded several of them. In the Social/Emotional area, she can now identify her own emotions and those of others. She's become more assertive and taking ownership of her possessions, which is leading to using words when in a conflict with another child. In Communication, Jilly has progressed amazingly. Now she is able to answer Who, What, Where, and Why questions with 100% accuracy; she understands pronouns and prepositions; colors, shapes, etc. She maintains eye contact and and greets people appropriately. Also, she can make requests, ask questions, and has a great vocabulary. Her SLP told us how when she evaluated Jilly, Jilly used pictures of people in a classroom to narrate a very detailed story, with dialogue and everything. It was fun, because the girl is always talking and telling stories like that! In Gross Motor, she can now go up stairs alternating feet and not holding a rail. She can jump forward about 12-14 inches with feet together, jump down from about 18 inches high and jump independently on a trampoline. She can walk on the balance beam with one foot in front of the other (which she demonstrates for me on the way back up the hill from the bus stop, using the curb). She is learning to catch a ball, throw it overhand, and kick. If you saw her two years ago, this progress is just astounding.
While Jillian has made super duper progress, she still has a bit farther to go. So the IEP set new goals for the next year. There are 5 listed on the IEP paperwork.
- Communication: When given structured group work and/or play activities Jillian will appropriately interact with her peers by using eye contact, asking questions/requests, and making comments improving expressive and pragmatic language from >50% of the time to 90% of the time.
- Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given the opportunity to appropriately resolve conflict Jillian will select an appropriate strategy (claiming & defending possessions, use simple strategy, and negotiating) improving her social skills from walking away and finding something else to resolving conflicts, using her words to claim and defend her possessions, and to negotiate.
- Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given free-choice time and it is time to clean up Jillian will respond to the request (time to clean up) improving her social skills from needing to be reminded, and helped to follow directions 50% of the time to responding appropriately (end playing and clean up independently) 90% of the time.
- Social/Emotional/Behavioral: When given unstructured, child-directed, free-choice time Jillian will establish and maintain proximity with her peers who are playing in the same area improving her social skills from solitary play 80% of the time to establishing and maintaining proximity with her peers 75% of the time.
- Social/Gross Motor: When given physical activities at recess and in the PE/motor room Jillian will increase her skills for balance activities and ball handling improving participation from needing verbal cues to participate 85% in all skills to needing no cues to participate 85-100% in all skills.
As you see, Jilly's main delay now lies in Social, not Communication. I think she will probably always be a more solitary girl; she's an introvert (she gets that from her dad). But she needs to be able to engage in conflict resolution and be able to defend herself, as well as at least be comfortable working with others and initiating that contact. Her Communication goal goes right along with her Social goals. It may seem kind of silly, or trivial, to have a goal about 'clean up time', but I will tell you this is a big struggle with Jilly. She almost never wants to clean up and often refuses to do any measure of it, even after repeated requests, demands, threats, etc, and will need someone to physically take her hand, pick up a toy, and put it in the right box. Her little brother is much better about this than she is. It goes beyond the typical willful young child resisting the end of playtime. So it was a bit of a relief for me to at least hear that it is an issue at school and something her teacher wants her to work on. Her teacher told me, she will be trying to work with Jilly one-on-one, daily, with this.
The rest of this school year will continue with her therapies the same as they have been the past two years. Most of the work is done in the classroom, with going to the motor/PE room once or twice a week. But once she starts Kindergarten, this will change a bit. Her teacher said that Jilly is definitely ready for a General Education classroom, meaning she'll no longer have to be in a separate Special Education classroom. She will be in a normal class with typical kids her own age. Academically, Jilly is soooooo ready for Kindergarten; she can read easily and is starting basic math. But she does still need some extra help. This means she'll be in the regular classroom full time, but with “pull-outs” for her therapies. The way it breaks down is Gen-Ed for about 80% of the time and the rest for her Special-Ed needs. She'll continue to have Speech & Language Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Social/Emotional/Behavioral therapy. I will register her as normal at her 'home' school next month, and then in April, her preschool teacher will get in touch with that school and hopefully we'll be able to get her teacher assigned this spring, meet them, and ease the transition into Kindergarten in the fall.
Overall, I am happy with this plan. After the Parent-Teacher Conference back in the fall, I had wondered if getting Jilly into a Special-Ed Kindergarten class would be the better choice for her. But hearing this plan, I feel like the Gen-Ed class is better. Jilly is far enough along in her progress and development, that I think being around 'typical' kids will do more to push her and encourage her, rather than making her fall behind more. I think she will thrive in the Gen-Ed setting. We have ZERO worries about her cognitively/academically, which is why I feel Gen-Ed is the best. She will get a little extra support and help with her social, language, and gross motor skills, and have lots of time to practice those skills with her peers. She is due for her next full evaluation in March 2013 (a year from now). If she continues to make progress at this rate, she might even be done with extra services and be 100% mainstream/Gen-Ed. We'll see how her progress goes over the next year. But in the meantime...
Jillian is Kindergarten bound!