Wednesday, August 02, 2006

school evaluations

Our intial meeting with the school was uptight and formal, and never have The Map Man and I felt more like ADULTS having to deal with this situation. The first thing we did was assure the "team" that we did NOT want ABA services for Jacob. We could see that the Special Services Director from the district wanted to do backflips of joy over that, and suddenly the stiff, tense atmosphere dissipated and everyone relaxed. They outlined the plans -- 2 days of Psychological evaluations, 3 days of SLP evaluations, 1 day with the OT, and 3 days of classroom observation; one with the Psychologist, one with the OT, and one with the classroom teacher. We started the following week.

The psychological evaluations were a series of questionaires, a series of tests she did with him, and a big long checklist about what he can and can not do. Not surprisingly (to us anyway) he didn't fit the models very well. He was at age level on some things, above age level on others, and vastly below age level on others -- even items in the same "section" of her questionaire, making the results pretty much unreadable and ultimately useless. The final "test" she did with him was the CARS (which is an Autistism Rating Scale). Her results found him to have "severe autism" which made us all laugh. Well, not the Psychologist -- she wasn't particularly amused that none of her evaluation tools were useful. She suggested ABA as reccommended by our Developmental Pediatrician, having no idea what else to suggest. We just worked with the team leader (his SLP) to get her removed from his "team". We were successful.

The SLP evaluations were much more useful. The testing was a little grueling for Jacob, and we ended up spreading it out over the course of 5 days instead of the 3 it was originally scheduled for. In the end, we discovered that both his expressive and his receptive language was "severely impaired", being two full standard deviations below the norm for his age, or approximately 18 months to 2 years behind. His vocabulary and pronounciation was at age level. We thought the results of these test very accurately depicted Jacob's language abilities and delays, and we really connected with and liked the SLP (as did Jacob).

The OT's evaluation and classroom observations indicated a strong need for Sensory Integration Therapy, yet when the IEP meeting was actually held, no SI was offered. We asked about it repeatedly, and kept being met with an "we'll apply that as we feel it's neccessary" sort of response, yet it never did make it to the actual IEP reccommendations. The impression we got was that they felt he needed it, but that their OT wasn't able to provide an SI program, hence it was not going to be offered.

The results of the classroom observations were mixed. The phsychologist insisted that I leave Jacob, without giving him any notice I was leaving. He was understandably distressed when he realized I was gone, and did not recover well, something that could have been avoided if she had allowed me to tell him that I was just stepping out for a few minutes (I don't think he would have cared, he was quite involved with the story that was being read at the time). She of course chalked it up to seperation anxiety. (snort!) The other observation sessions went better, as I was allowed to stay in the classroom and watch from the periphery. He was there during a snacktime, where he contentedly ate the cookies I brought from home while sitting in an assigned seat, although he was oblivious to everything and everyone else around him. The other time was during their "centers" time, where the kids could move freely from activity to activity. He spent his entire time at the sand table, pouring sand through a funnel. A couple times kids tried to interact with him, he ignored them completely, except when one of the kids touched him (put her hand on his shoulder in a friendly way) and he came sreaming and crying over to me. He also had time on the playground, where he climbed up the same ladder and slid down the same slide until it was time to leave.

During our IEP meeting in May, the team reccommended placement in their Pre-K program for the fall (they reccommended the summer program too, but it was at a different school on the opposite side of town, with an entirely different staff, and we thought that any possible benefit would be negated due to stress. Besides, we had to get our heads wrapped around the fact that we were sending our child to school. And PUBLIC school, no less. At an age where we really felt he should be playing in unstructured situations rather than sitting in a classroom!) with 2 1/2 hrs of SLT a week, and 1 hr of OT a week. We swallowed hard and signed on the dotted line.

Jacob visited the classroom (with me) twice a week for the rest of the school year, coming in at the unstructured "centers" time, eating snack with the class, and playing on the playground for their reccess time. He loved the sand table, he loved eating cookies in the little chair, he loved playing on the playground. He was as ready for school as he ever would be. Posted by Picasa

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