Ryan’s I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan) meeting was yesterday. We sat at a long rectangular table in the conference room of the school with the school psychologist, the speech teacher, the occupational therapist, the general education teacher and the special education teacher. I always feel a little intimidated at these meetings. But usually I’m glad if the meeting goes quickly, if I’m feeling impressed with how Ryan is meeting his goals, or if we’re all in agreement about the coming year.
But this year is different. Trying to navigate through all the options and what’s best for Ryan is hard. We want him to spend more time in the general education classroom. But is Ryan ready?Especially troubling is the number of prompts Ryan needs to complete his work and follow the teachers directions. He understands everything he’s supposed to do, but won’t do it without extra prompting.
Ryan is lost when presented with whole group instruction. Somehow, in his mind, the whole group doesn’t include him. When the teacher says “Class, turn to page 20,” it doesn’t register to Ryan that he is also a part of the class and needs to follow the directions.
And he hates anything that requires a lot of writing. Ryan’s writing is large and sometimes hard to read. Math isn’t Ryan’s favorite subject since it’s abstract. But he’d do better if the new common core math didn’t require him to write out all the numbers in expanded form, draw hundreds, tens and ones blocks, and make grids and columns.
Ryan often lacks motivation to complete work or tests if it’s not interesting to him, which is common among children with autism. Wanting to do well on a test to please others is a highly social concept. Ryan doesn’t care what others think. So it’s hard to assess what he knows. Until the day he blows everyone out of the water with a connection he made to a story he read two weeks ago, or he actually felt like taking a test that day and got a good grade.
Ryan has some strong academic skills. He reads on the fifth grade level and remembers every fact that he hears. You can’t remember the name of a store or the title of a book? He’ll tell you. He learns quickly when he’s interested and is paying attention.
So where do we go from here? Do we hope maturity will eventually set in and he’ll suddenly understand what he needs to do to succeed in a general education classroom. Does he need more one on one or less one on one? Has he become dependent on extra help or is it something he needs?
The next step is for Ryan to do a five week trial with a math class and a reading group in the general education classroom. In the mean time, the school psychologist will be giving Ryan the VB-MAPP test (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program) for children with autism. The five components of the test should be able to show us where he stands with his language and verbal skills, if he has acquired the skills necessary to learn in a less restrictive environment, and what goals need to be placed on his I.E.P. so he can be ready for inclusion.
I’m hoping when all the assessing is done, the school and I will be in agreement about what is the next step for Ryan. But what if we disagree? Who will win in the end? If this post sounds confusing, it’s because the whole I.E.P. process is. It’s a stressful and difficult time for parents who want what’s best for their child. If only we had a crystal ball and could look into the future and see what is the best path to take. The worst feeling is regret over not going in a certain direction. So we just keep moving on, gathering more information, waiting and watching, and hoping that it all becomes clear in the end.