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Thursday, November 13, 2014

IEP

Carter's IEP was last Friday and I dread and anticipate these meetings.  I was excited to hear how he does and if he could stay at USDB.  At his last meeting they reminded me it's the goal and law to continue their education in the least restricted environment possible.  But of course, whatever is best for the child.  This meeting was much smaller as his speech and physical therapist were not present.  The director is new as well so I got to meet her.  We discussed Carter and compared him from last year with his goals.  His physical therapist usually sets a goal to improve by 5% and he did by 12%.  She left notes about how well he is doing in his walker and is using a more appropriate crawl at times.  She said if Carter receives help with getting up from his knees to standing, that he can stand for over 30 seconds at a table or surface.  It's amazing how far he has come in strength.  Then we discussed her new goals for him in the next year.  Then the speech therapist phoned in and talked with us about him and her goals for him.  Based on a questionnaire Carter would do best learning print instead of braille, so she wants to use pictures to communicate with him.  They tried a communication device that also talks but he didn't seem to like that.  She said they will start using pecs, a communication system, with up to 10 pictures so he can come up and pick what he wants from the pictures.  The idea is to work up from there to more pictures or to where he can pick it out himself without prompts.

The PECS Approach
  • In Phase one, the trainer (therapist/me) works with the learner and their caregivers to figure out what might be most motivating to that individual learner (a ball, toy, food, etc.). Cards are created that picture that motivating item, and a pair of trainers helps the learner discover that, by handing over the card, they can get the desired object.
  • In Phase two, the trainer moves farther away from the learner, so that the learner must actually come over to the trainer and hand over the card. This is a life skill lesson in seeking and obtaining another person's attention.
  • Phase three requires the learner to discriminate among multiple pictures when requesting an item. For some learners this is easy, for others it's tougher. Some learners learn best with photos, and others with graphic images that approximate the appearance of an object.
His speech therapist seemed very pleased and surprised with how social and engaging Carter has become over the last year.  He comes up to you immediately and engages with eye contact, touch and noises.  You can tell by his facial features that he is usually excited to interact.  She couldn't believe how much he has changed.  His teacher Athena is new, she's had him just since school started end of August.  Her background is in vision and she said she considers Carter's vision to be a strength now instead of a weakness, which is her goal.  She went over her goals for him which include vision/compensatory, cognitive/social and communication.  One of her goals is to get him to recognize his own name in print, which is a good thing to learn for Kindergarten.  His OT works on his fine motor and he discussed how his grip strength is better.  He is going to work with Carter on stacking objects, simple puzzles and taking things in and out.  He still needs help with that.

It was a consensus that Carter continue attending USDB, but his teacher said she thinks he'll be ready to move on fairly soon.  I don't know when that means.  She said he hates art and as soon as he sees the picture that it's time for art, he'll try to take off.  So funny!  He struggles having to sit there and attend to something when he doesn't want to.  She said he gripes less but still doesn't like it at all.  As soon as the classroom door is open he tries to take off (he does this at home) and one day she decided to let him 'escape' and followed him.  He went into the boy's bathroom and was making noises because it echoed.  Funny.  He is always going in our bathroom at home and I wondered why.  He loves his classmates especially Emma.  He gets sad when she is gone.  The teacher has noticed them actually play together, which is another one of his goals to play more with his peers now that he is interacting so much more.  He even lays by them when he's tired or not feeling well.  She has him walk distances in the walker, like to the gym or front office.  He loves when the high school students visit twice a week.  They also cook something once a week and he loves to help mix she said.  Even though most the kids can't eat, they still play with food for sensory play.

I enjoyed hearing her comments about him and how well he has improved.  I am so grateful he can attend school there with trained professionals in a smaller classroom, in a huge room where he can move around and play.  He is growing so much, although to the casual observer perhaps not so much in the sense of walking.  But he is getting there, he is building strength.  If you hold his hands he will take steps.  I'm so pleased with Carter and I love that he enjoys going to school.  Heaven knows I need the help and don't have the time to help in all the areas that he needs.  He had picture day this week so pictures will be forthcoming.