Wednesday, March 28, 2007

triennial review

That's what the school district calls it. The every-three-year battery of evaluations and assessments and testing that every kid with an IEP has to endure. Jacob's been going through his triennial review for the past two months. I spread things out as much as I could to make it easier on him, but quite honestly, he loved the testing -- he loved spending time with the teachers/professionals, he loved having a captive audience for his anecdotes, he loved getting to "work" (the boy is a work hound), he loved being the center of attention. He had absolutely NO idea why all this was happening, in typical Jacob fashion it never occured to him to ask, but he was having fun playing the "games". And he got to see some old friends from his Pre-K days. What's not to like?

Most of the testing I was not allowed to be present for. He had several days of assessments with the Speech and Language Pathologist. He had several days of testing with the Special Education teacher, which I WAS allowed to be present at (and which I thought, in watching the testing, would have resulted in more useful information than it did). He had two days of evaluations with the School Psychologist. The Occupational Therapist chose not to see him, instead evaluating him based on a sensory questionairre we filled out. (The truly amusing part about that is that OT is where Jacob's greatest challenges still lie, and where the most work still needs to be done.) We filled out forms for the school nurse and the social worker too. As well as a half dozen or so forms for the school psychologist.

While we were going through the testing, I was really OK with it. Mostly because Jacob was OK with it. And I thought perhaps we'd get some useful information or helpful insight from it, that might assist in our homeschooling efforts.

Then yesterday, the reports from the 3 folks who did the testing came in the mail, for our review in advance of our April 2 IEP meeting.

And that's when I realized that this whole thing was a colossal waste of time.

The report from the Special Education teacher stated the obvious -- that he had met or exceeded all of his Kindergarten Benchmarks, and that he has deficits in verbal comprehension and conceptual writing. (Which, by the way, completely blew my mind at the time they administered these tests -- the child hasn't even offically learned how to write, and can't even really hold a writing implement comfortably, and yet still they gave him written exams and asked him to write essays. HUH???) The report went into great detail on his specific problems with writing -- but given that he has not yet learned to write, I should hope that point was OBVIOUS? What the report didn't say was that Jacob did his darndest to do the silly writing assignments -- in fact, he completely blew my mind with what he actually was able to do out of sheer willpower and persistance. I think they oughta award the kid some sort of medal.

Her helpful IEP advice is to include pencil grips, and to work on his areas of weakness. Gee, thanks, I would have never thought of that on my own.

The report from the Speech and Language Pathologist was unbelievable. I mean that litarally, I find it hard to believe. I don't care what the testing says, Jacob is NOT at an average level for his age with regards to language usage. I've conversed with other 6 year olds, none of whom their parents claim to be child geniuses, and their use of the English language is fluid and understandable. They didn't use sentences such as "I went to go, but I had, and then done". Even I, his mother, have no idea what that means. Maybe the SLP is clairvoyant? True, he's made AMAZING progress since that particular SLP last worked with him. But average level for his age?? No. Average level for his development? (Which is around 3 years according to our RDI stages.) Yeah, I'd buy that. Her reccomendation for his IEP? Social skills group. Yipee.

Then there is the report from the School Psychologist, which is an award-winning work of fiction. I was astounded in reading through the report, not only wondering what kid she had been evaluating, but also who was impersonating me and saying such outlandish things as "Mrs Moon feels that Jacob will benefit from another year at home, after which he will be ready to return to school at the 2nd Grade level." HUH???? I thought I'd made it perfectly clear to pretty much everyone that we were going to homeschool indefinitely. I certainly never said anything about Grade 2. In fact, even if the world ended (which is what it would take for us to re-enroll him), we would insist that he start at the FIRST grade level, which is where I anticpate he'll be in another year or two.

She's new. Brand new. Jacob was her first evaluation in this school district, and perhaps, dare I say, ever. I'm guessing she's brand spankin' out of college. And obviously trying to make a good impression.

Amongst the more amazing of her proclamations, she said that she asked Jacob the question "What would you like to change about yourself?" and that he answered "My mind....the way I think." Ok, first of all, there's no way Jacob would understand that question at this point. He can't even answer a question like "Where would you like to go today?" yet -- too conceptually based, he needs more concrete definitions in his questions, like "Do you want to go to the playground or to Grandma's house?" Besides "what would you like to change about yourself?" being too open-ended for him to answer, I sincerely doubt he's considered that it's possible to change himself. Or desirable. In fact, I'm willing to bet pretty good money that he wouldn't know how to answer "What do you like about yourself?" at all. That whole "about yourself" thing is just not a concept he's got a grasp on yet. Second, "my mind"???? I truly doubt Jacob has ever even heard the word "mind" used in this context, so for him to pull that out of thin air is less likely than me winning the next powerball lottery. He certainly doesn't know that it means the way he thinks. In fact, "the way I think" is another one of those concepts that he's not got a grasp on yet.

The Map Man was a little more generous than me when reading that. He looked shocked, then said "was she feeding him answers?" Personally, I think she was just making the whole thing up.

What was obvious in her report was that she's done her homework about Autism. She neatly stated after odd test results that "although this is unusual for a child his age, it is not uncommon for children with Autism to have deficits in this area".

She did present some facts -- IQ tests (an amazing array of varieties), CARS (childhood autism rating scale), and other standard tools of the trade. His IQ scores ranged from Average (for Verbal IQ) to Superior (for Performance IQ) with overall score falling in the High Average range (no sticking her neck out there), and her results from CARS suggests mild to moderate Autism (gee, wasn't that his original diagnosis 3 years ago???) Interesting thing about CARS -- he scored in the "slightly atypical" category for all but 2 items, and both of those items were sensory related so he scored "extremely atypical" for those, dragging down his overall rating. I never did think that was a good measure of Autism (he tested as "severely autistic" the first time he took the test 3 years ago, we all laughed heartily). She did claim that he would be considered "high functioning" (she used the quotes and everything).

Of course, I didn't believe any of it. After the "What would you change about yourself question" I stopped trusting anything written in that report.

The reccommendations sections of that report is impressive. Modified inclussion classroom environment, preferential seating, private study areas, awareness of potential lighting and sound distractions, sensory diet, individualized help as needed, visual schedules, etc etc etc. It read like a textbook checklist from an article that would be entitled "How to Design a Classroom to Facilitate Inclussion of a Child on the Autism Spectrum". They were actually WONDERFUL suggestions. If we were putting Jacob back in school, I'd definitely want her in our corner. I do, however, think she's going to get laughed out of the IEP meeting by the rest of the professionals who profess that Jacob is "at age level" and ready to be thrown into the mainstream with the rest of the fish.

Should be a fun IEP meeting. Or not.


At 9:42 PM, Blogger Mom without a manual said...

Oh my! You are two steps ahead of us. I just filled out all my paperwork and they have been grilling JP for the past few weeks. We don't have our meeting for a couple of weeks so I won't know what they come up with for us.

I just totally feel like this is a complete waste of time. I hate the thought of having to jump through these hoops every 3 years. Ugh!

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Katie said...

Shelley, just curious: is this triennial evaluation mandatory? I thought if you were homeschooling, you no longer have an IEP so your child doesn't have to be tested anymore? Just wondering because we may be facing the same issues next year.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger The Glasers said...

Do you think they might be setting you up to drop Jacob from services?

I smell a RAT!

At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know we've seen each other on other lists. I usually sign in as mom2cassian or Suzi or DrMom, depending on the list.

Where did you get your list of new RDI objectives? We're just now starting up w/ a new consultant, and I want to get prepared. Thanks.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Harvest Mom said...

Katie, we had the triennial review written into Jacob's IEP for this year (when we removed him from pre-K last April). We could have declined it at the time if we wanted to, but I thought it was a good idea. I still do, I think.... ;-)

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Harvest Mom said...

Suzi, the new objectives can only be gotten (boy, that sounds grammatically BAD!!!) from RDI Certified Consultants. The objectives were released to the consultants ahead of the release of the new RDI operating system so that they could start converting their existing families over. I'm sure that starting up with a new consultant, she will be evaluating him based on the new objectives, and she'll get you going right away on them. In fact, you'll probably know more about them than I will in no time!

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

Shelley, good job. They can't fool you. You Homeschool, You know where your child is and where he is not and where he is supposed to be. I hope that you give them valuable feedback.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous kyra said...

WOWIE! i haven't gotten our written assessments yet but i'm sure we'll have some of the same, ah, fiction to report!

the most wonderful thing of all is just how fantastically well jacob is doing, has been doing, conitnues to do. i take my hat off to the whole family!


At 5:10 PM, Anonymous terrilynn said...

Kuddos to you! Love to see others hs their special needs kids. We also hs and at the IEP on Friday, I did get them to agree to keep her at home next year, which would be Kindergarden, but the next year, I get the distinct impression that if we don't enroll her, which we won't, they won't provide any of her current services. How do you get Jacob's.


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