Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer School for Parents - Part 1

Yesterday I spent the day at a parent workshop put on by Raising Special Kids.  According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) under Part D, each state is required to have at least one parent education center for families with children with special needs.  Raising Special Kids is Arizona's "Parent Training and Information Center."  They provide many resources, help with finding answers, provide advocates to help you make sure you are receiving fair services, and classes for parents about different things, such as about IEPs (Individual Education Plans), Life Transitions, Organizing Paperwork, etc.

I signed up to attend two classes yesterday, but ended up staying for a third, one was about transitioning your child to Preschool (I'll talk about in this post), and the other was IEP basics (I'll talk about at a later date).  When I signed up, we already had Sadie's transition meeting scheduled for before the class, so I didn't know how helpful it'd be.  But then someone important got sick and our meeting was rescheduled for August, so actually it worked out great!

Basically, when Sadie turns 3, a lot of things regarding services from the state change.  We will get a new service coordinator from DDD (Dept of Developmental Disabilities...that's the state agency that keeps watch on us), she will go into developmental preschool, and her therapies at home will transition to some at school and some at home.  There is a lot of confusing information regarding this, however, I'm going to share with you the important part.  If you're reading this and you have a child with special needs under 3, I encourage you to do some research in your state about how all this works (although, I believe much of it is nationwide policy).

First we will have a Transition Planning Meeting.  We had this on June 4, it was the same as her regular annual IFSP meeting that we have every year to review her goals and check up on our services.

Then there will be a Transition Conference (this is the meeting that was rescheduled), which is to be scheduled between when Sadie's 2 years 6 months and 2 years 9 months.  Ours was rescheduled for August 17, so Sadie will be just about 2 years 7 months, which is perfect, and you'll see why in a minute.

So, once this Transition Conference is held, the school has 60 days to develop a transition plan and put it into place.  This includes determining eligibility for Developmental Preschool (which is based on disability need, not diagnosis), which may include some evaluations and screenings.  It also includes an Independent Education Evaluation or Comprehensive Developmental Assessment, including a vision and hearing screening.  I have no doubts that Sadie will qualify for eligibility, so I'm hoping this isn't a painful process.

But here's where it gets a little sticky...if you've already done your math, you know that 60 days after August 17 is October 17.  Why's that important to note?  BECAUSE WE'RE HAVING A BABY!!!  Our due date is October 12, but going into labor on the 17th is not unreasonable if I have another late baby.  I've worked for school districts, and I understand that in all things they prefer to wait until the last minute to do things...especially relating to Special Education.  So, I'm hoping to convey to them at the Transition Conference that I'd really like their 60 days to be something more like 45 so that we don't run into a scheduling conflict.

Anyway, at the end of those 60 days, an MET is scheduled.  This stands for Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team.  Every 3 years a child who has an IEP is re-evaluated to determine if they are still eligible, so every 3 years we will have an MET meeting.  At this meeting someone will come to interpret evaluation results and the implications of those results (basically that Sadie will need an IEP).  At this MET meeting, eligibility is officially determined for Special Education.  The eligibility categories are: Speech/Language Impairment (check), Developmental Delay (check), Hearing Impairment, Preschool Severe Delay (check), Visual Impairment (check).  We qualify for 4 out of the 5...and you only have to qualify for one to be eligible.

After the MET meeting (at which Sadie will be no older than 2 years 9 months according to the dates that are already scheduled), the school has another 30 days to put together an IEP and schedule that meeting so that Sadie can start school.  I will go into more what I learned about an IEP in another post, but basically it includes her present levels of achievement and functional performance, it has measurable goals written with a plan on how she will progress toward those goals, there will be consideration of special factors (which, for Sadie, include her lack of physical ability, her visual impairment, and her inability to speak), it will place her in the least restrictive environment, meaning that if she can be placed with her typically developing peers, she will, and it will include her special services related to her needs, like her wheelchair, her stander, her therapies, her feeding tube, etc.  There's obviously a lot more to this meeting and document, but I don't want to bore you, so I'll follow up on that later.

Once Sadie has a working IEP document, she is officially ready to start school, which, if you've been following my timeline, you know will not be any later than November 17, which puts Sadie right at 2 years 10 months, and hopefully only about a month after her little brother is born.  The typical age kids start preschool is 3 years old, but there is a stipulation that says a child can start up to 90 days before their 3rd birthday if it's in their best interest... I think having a newborn who will require more care than her (which leaves her to basically lay on the floor all day and not receive any stimulation), qualifies her to start early!!  And if I can get them to hold the MET early (like, before I have a baby), then we may get Sadie in as early as a couple of weeks after the baby is born...which would be fantastic!

All in all, I feel like it was a good day, and time well spent.  If nothing else, I got a timeline established from this workshop, which helps me understand what is required of the school district once we have that meeting in August.

What about you?  Have you started the transition process yet with your little one?  How did it go/how is it going?  Anything I should be aware of?  Ask for?  Make sure happens?

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