Last Thursday, Chris and I attended Colin's IEP and planning meeting for his transition to Kindergarten. We knew going in that we were going to discuss some of Colin's progress so far this year and then talk about the process that lies ahead in terms of educational and psychological testing, touring possible locations for him to attend, and then making the final decision.
Despite the fact I feel like we have a pretty great relationship with our team (and that we knew what to expect), I was still extremely nervous going in. However, as soon as we started talking, a lot of those nerves immediately dissipated. Colin's teacher discussed his progress he has made since our last meeting but also highlighted some of the areas where he still struggles. While no "official" recommendation has been made, the discussion of a self-contained special education classroom came up with the idea that he would best be suited to also participate for part of the day in a mainstream classroom.
|So proud of himself after setting the table|
What that leaves us with is then two basic options: a full day in a self-contained classroom OR a full day in a mainstream classroom with an in class support teacher for parts of the day (specified time for literacy and math). I'll be 100% honest; I do not feel that a full day in a self-contained classroom is the most suitable choice for Colin (nor will that be the option we select). However, I am also not sure that a full day in a mainstream general education classroom is the most suitable option either (but I also think it can be done with the right "plan").
|Came out in Daddy's clothes; he loves his Daddy SO MUCH|
I cannot guarantee that Chris and I will ultimately make the best decision for Colin even though we will try our best to look at all of the options to make our choice. In order to make the best possible decision, we have been doing the research in talking to classroom teachers who have had special education students in their classroom (particularly those with Down Syndrome), talking to parents who have mainstreamed their children with DS for most of their education, and reading special education law.
|Breakfast with Santa (who also just happens to be a Special Olympics volunteer!)|
According to the law, special education students should be placed in the least restrictive environment and provided with services such as support staff that will modify the curriculum to fit his needs. Chris and I strongly feel that the most inclusive environment is the best option for Colin, but we are also realistic enough to realize that some of his academic challenges may need support at a slower pace.
To find the best option for Colin, we feel it is necessary to start out in sending a letter to the district to let them know (the higher ups), that they are placing limitations on our child before he even has an opportunity to attend Kindergarten simply by segregating the special education students. It is horrible to suggest that in the year 2013, the place they have found to fit these additional classes are in a separate location than their typical peers. While I know I am probably preaching to the choir, the benefits for all students to work together in the same community REGARDLESS of academic achievement due to a disability far exceeds what they will learn IN the classroom in terms of academic content. While we have a challenging road ahead I think we have the foundation to make a decision which we will weigh in with the other "picture" that we get about Colin; progress in the classroom, testing (which falls to the bottom of the pile if you ask me), and where we feel Colin will be successful. Stay tuned...my letter is written and after some edits, will be sent to the director of special services and the superintendent of schools.