Rather regularly, parents have been writing about the struggles they undergo in attempting to obtain appropriate educational services for their children. We write about the fights, the attempt to give us less and “save money” by the schools and the deception they engage in to get us to take it. We write about getting additional minutes of this or that or extra services. I don’t find that we always clearly share what our children are receiving as a result of the IEP.
This really hit me when Lizbeth at Four Sea Stars posted a photo of her son in class which shows a number of his accommodations. This was an eye-opening post for me and I urge you to check it out here. When I saw all the things her son has to help him out, I felt lame. Because my son does not have a single one of these. And hopefully, Lizbeth will comment here and let us know how effective those things have been in helping him get through his school day.
Most of the blogs I follow regularly have written a piece (or 10) on IEPs. I think it would be helpful to all of the autism community (and hey- me), as well as to newly diagnosed families just finding us, to learn what “tools” and services have been provided as accommodations to those of us who have battle scars. We may learn things from each other that we just didn’t even realize were helpful (or not).
So, that being said, I’m sharing today, what Tootles receives as a result of his currently out of date IEP. I’m considering this post a “meme”. Don’t worry, you don’t have to thank me… But by tagging people – I’m trying to get all of us comparative help in preparation for our future IEPs.
Each of us has loads to offer on the battlefield but what tools and services are we really all fighting for? Do we know what is available? By the way, who is paying for those special things?
So, simply put, as I tag you, and hoping that you are willing to share, there are only three things I’m looking for answers to in this meme:
- A list of tools (special chairs, iPad, visual schedules, gums, chewlery, squishees, headphones, whatever devices help focus and sensory issues);
- Services (Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA, TEACCH, Special Ed teaching rooms, aides during class, tutors, etc. ) and how many hours per week of each your child receives;
- Your opinions of the effectiveness of (1) and (2) above.
I know. I know. Every child with a special need is different and requires different accommodations. Beyond that, I think we will find common ground. We may find that despite the emphasis on the differences, the school districts may be offering the same stuff to everyone. Who knows until we share?
The goal is that the next time any of us is faced with an upcoming IEP we can peruse our friends’ lists and see what may be useful to our own child.
With that said, I’ll first share my answers with you:
A. Tools/Assistive Devices.
Nada in terms of what the school district provides to my son. They have given us nothing. Zilch. They’ve offered nothing. I’ve asked for nothing. I have Tootles take his iPad to kindergarten with him every day. It is used as a positive reinforcement for listening in class. He is allowed to take about 1 minute outside class to have the reinforcement after getting through “centers” where he must do an activity that requires following instruction in a group setting by the teachers to the class as a whole rather than individual instruction. It is used alternatively as reinforcement with his Nintendo DS – also provided from home.
Occupational Therapy: The school provides one 45 minute session of Occupational Therapy, individually to Tootles, one time per week with their OT. The sessions usually consist of joint compression brushing, riding on a tire swing, crawling through a tunnel carrying puzzle pieces he puts inside the puzzle on the other side and either hopping on a trampoline or playing some type of catch ball for about 5 minutes. While Tootles enjoys this time and loves his OT, I have seen no improvement in his focus or abilities as a result of this intervention.
We privately pay for a separate 50 minute session of OT at a private facility. At this facility, I have seen him grow. I’ve seen his oral sensitivity decrease. I’ve seen his focus increase at times – but inconsistently. I’ve seen his core strength grow with the rigorous exercise the OT there puts him through (he does about 30 sit ups in a row during his sessions there). She too, does joint compression and brushing but it is just more skilled in execution. He does a zipline combined with falling into a bean bag where he is squished. He walks an obstacle course, swings in a dark swing on occasion, does sit ups and works on either a writing activity for his fine motor skills or works on his oral sensitivities chewing and swallowing. This is worth the expenditure.
Speech Therapy: The school again, provides one 45 minute session of Speech Therapy per week. Quite frankly, I feel this Speech Therapist’s personality is not conducive to good progress with my son. She is very kind but she treats my son – how do I say this? Like he’s much further behind in his skills than he is. For his part, my son manipulates her and I don’t think he takes her seriously at all. He intermittently listens to her and spends the rest of the time doing the bare minimum. She is nice. I’ve tried to get her to listen to the recommendations of our ABA provider and she has tried to implement these but she just does not have the personality to carry it off successfully with my kid.
Again, we privately pay for a separate 50 minutes of Speech Therapy at the same private facility my son attends for OT. The Speech Therapists there have varied but the one who he has now has been with him for the better part of a year. He is an exceptional teacher. On one occasion, I had our ABA Case Manager attend a speech therapy session with this teacher (early on) and Tootles. She made suggestions that he took to heart. He is stern and strong with Tootles but also a lot of fun. He makes my son work, takes copious notes and gives me detailed reports after each therapy session showing me progress, and areas to work on in our home. Again, night and day contrast with the school district personnel.
ABA - The school district currently funds three hours per day, five days a week of Tootles, EIBT program. This is Early Intensive Behavioral Therapy. This means that the school is funding a full-time one-on-one ABA/EIBT trained professional tutor who attends school with my son every day. [They don’t want to do that anymore and this is the source of our current fight.]
Tootles is in kindergarten five days a week for 3.25 hours per day. After school, when he is not in speech or OT, he has about another 10.5 hours per week of ABA run programs where he works one-on-one with an ABA trained therapist on different skills including desensitization to dropping things in the car or changes in routine, eating skills, school transition skills, play skills, reading comprehension skills, behavioral skills (loud versus quiet voices) etc. The remainder of this weekly EIBT time is funded by a California state program for special needs children.
So, there you have it. Our world of services (no accommodative devices).
I want to say I tag all of you because I really want to know what each of you gets and what you think of it. And if you do want to do it, consider yourself tagged. In particular though, I think tagging four (4) people is fair and I’m very curious about what you are doing and how good it is. Since Lizbeth was my inspiration, you can blame her and she escapes (I leave it to you to tag her). Here are my chosen victims:
Grace at That’s Right I Said It Dot Mom because you foolishly commented on the Lizbeth post I referenced above, and I want to know more about Ryan’s dislike for the disco seat and the gum;
Rhonda at Going Insane, Wanna Come (I have no idea what you think of the meme because I don’t remember seeing you do one but I am too curious not to tag you because Tommy is older and you are an expert at IEPs);
Kelly at Unplanned Trip to Holland (because even though the boys may not be in a public school right now, I know you are brilliant and got an advocate and kicked some butt at the last IEP); and
Flannery at Living on the Spectrum: The Connor Chronicles because I know that she too has IEPs and accommodations and is tough and smart (and I’ve been thinking of Flat Flannery and how much I miss her – why did she go away?)…
Hope this becomes a resource we can click on and turn to for support! Happy Monday!