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25 October 2007 @ 12:26 am
An update on Richard, for those of you following his story.  
Richard entered public pre-school in August as a continuation of services from the Early Intervention folks... Unfortunately, due to a lot of drama and bureaucratical bullspit, he was only temporarily placed, more or less without any evaluations, given the title of "Developmentally Delayed" due to his ongoing speech delay, and that ran out in October. So they needed to act fast and do his formal evaluations to get a new IEP (Individual Educational Plan) in place for him so they could permanently place him into the school system.

He didn't cooperate so much with the initial evaluation because it was literally the 7th day of school and he was not yet acclimated to the school environment whatsoever. Not to mention he simply does not perform or interact in any way for strangers. Because of this and some of their observations, they decided they wanted to do more testing. Basically, a multitude of tests and questionnaires that were looking for autism. I requested to be at the next evaluation so that Richard was more comfortable and therefore, hopefully, the testing would be more accurate. Unfortunately, that day he was quite literally having one of the worst days of his life for some unknown reason and again was most uncooperative. We did get him to cooperate a great deal more than the first time, but still not so much overall. However, between the two evaluations and several visits from different people to observe him in the class as well as a great deal of interviews and surveys, their results were all leaning towards the autistic spectrum. Which, after some of my own research and much convincing, I finally agreed despite his resistance and poor performance on the evaluations themselves.

Our big meeting with the school, teachers, therapists, and all kinds of school system personnel was today for his final IEP discussion. This included a discussion of all of his evaluations he has received since the start of the school year.

He has finally received permanent placement with the school system, so that's good. This IEP is good for one year. The Developmentally Delayed "label" (if you will) has been dismissed and has been replaced with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which enables him to receive services for being "Language Impaired." Also because of the Autism "label," they are now able to evaluate him for the need of occupational therapy which they will do in the near future and add that to his services if necessary. Because he was simply labeled as "Developmentally Delayed" before, they were not able to evaluate him for that before now, as convenient as that would have been and as obvious as it is to myself and his teacher that he needs it.

This was the criteria for the Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Evidence of all of the following must be present:
-Uneven developmental profile as evidenced by inconsistencies in the development of language, social interaction, adaptive behavior, and/or cognitive skills; and
-Impairment in social interaction as evidenced by delay, difference, absence or abnormality in the ability to relate to people or the environment; and
-Impairment in verbal and/or nonverbal language or social communication skills; and
-Restricted repetitive, and/or stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

The only thing they didn't check off immediately was the last one, but with a minimal amount of discussion, they all agreed that it applied as well, primarily because of the echolalia in his speech as well as his restricted interests in play (i.e. primarily cars and such). Now, my understanding is that the Autism Spectrum Disorder "label" isn't the same as all out Autism in the eyes of the school district, and the spectrum "label" really is a good thing to get because it opens up all avenues of assistance (i.e. speech, occupational therapies, etc.) while at the same time allowing him access to a regular curriculum if he is able (i.e. a regular classroom environment).

So, thus came forth the question of whether or not to move Richard to an all Autistic classroom or to keep him in the class he's been in the last 2 months. It seemed everyone was also in agreement here to keep him in the class he's been in (Yay!) because "Richard needs the models/peers in the IVE setting at this time." Basically, they were worried that if they moved him to the Autistic classroom that it would be a major step back for him and that it would cause regression. We were more worried of starting all over again and changing teachers and schools and how that would be a major stress for Richard, but yeah, we can see that as well.

At this point, the IEP was laid out in front of us, all 13 pages of it... I obviously won't go into detail there, but it more or less goes into detail on how and where Richard needs the most help in each area of development. It focuses a lot on his language and social skills as well as his need for a lot of structure and specialized teaching techniques.

Richard will receive Speech therapy 3 times a week through the school, so 90 minutes a week. 2 of those times will likely be with other students in the class, but one of those times she is going to try to work more one on one with him. The therapist is in the classroom on a regular basis already and is familiar with Richard, so she already knows how he works and will be able to work with him accordingly. I'm already comfortable with her... I can tell she'll be able to help him much better than the therapist we had before when he was 2. But I'm sure a lot of that will have to do with setting as well. (Therapy office vs. a familiar classroom) But she already knows you can't force him into anything or else he immediately closes up, and that he comes to things on his own terms, and she uses that to her advantage. The lady we had when he was 2 tried to make him do everything by force because, well, he was spoiled of course, and he needed the discipline! *rolls eyes*

I should mention that the first thing we did in the meeting is go over the evaluations... I voiced my opinions that the 2 evaluations basically conflicted themselves, where the first one said he couldn't do a thing and then the second proved he could... and even the second was off a bit on what he could and couldn't do. Basically they told me not to worry about it. The evaluations were more or less for eligibility purposes. He's obviously eligible, the evaluations are just a starting point as to where to go with him now. If he proves he can do any of those things they'll just move on to the next thing, no big deal. But they also said that just because he can do things at home doesn't mean that he will do them other places... Sometimes children on the Autistic spectrum have difficulties performing tasks outside their "comfort zone" and they still need to work on things with him even though he may have them mastered in other places other than school. If I said that in a way that makes any sense...

Also, I know Richard's teacher is still trying to get another assistant in her classroom, she is working on filling out the bureaucratic paperwork involved, and that may not even get her anywhere. But it kinda made me feel better that it's really not just Richard that she needs the assistant for, there's another child in the class that is technically supposed to have a full time assistant attached to him and he doesn't at the moment... So my kid's not the only trouble maker, I guess is what I'm saying. But I do know she's overwhelmed. I so hope she gets the help she needs.

I videotaped Richard for most of the afternoon on Sunday mainly to just catch him acting the way he normally does for us... We didn't act any different than we normally act around him or try to provoke him into doing anything different than he would normally do on any given day... Basically, I was trying to get some good examples of how he was for us around the house to compare to how he is for the people at school as well as how he was for all the evaluations and such at school. Initially, I did this in hopes of showing at least a little bit of this to the people at the meeting, but I kinda realized it wouldn't be possible... I just wanted them to see Richard as we see him on a regular basis. The teacher was trying to convince me the other day that the evaluators saw him on good days and it made me realize that even she really does not get it. Even on his best day at school, he's still does not act the way he does for us. Basically his best days at school are like some of his worst days at home. I asked her if she'd like to see the video and she said sure, so I gave her a copy of it to watch. Much to my surprise, She actually did watch it (all 100 minutes of it!), and saw what I was talking about, how different he is at home vs. school. She says he smiles and laughs a lot more at home, he interacts and plays a lot more, talks a lot more and that his comprehension level seems to skyrocket at home. This is exactly what I mean though... It's just a totally different environment for him. But school is getting better for him every day, and he's having more good days than off days now, which is good.

Anyway, so that was our day today. All in all, a very good meeting. Richard gets to stay at this school and he gets all the help he needs. There will be at least one more evaluation and then one more meeting like this to determine the necessity for Occupational Therapy, but aside from that, we're pretty much all set here. *squee*!