I've waited a few days until I have actually drafted this post to give myself a chance for my emotions to die down. I wanted to write this as informatively as possibly without dragging the FULL load of how I was feeling after my day on Thursday was spent in Colin's IEP meeting, informally discussing placement, and then touring placement options.
The IEP meeting itself went really well as we discussed Colin's progress over the course of the last year and also discussed test results. As it has been since the day we first began the road of testing and placement years ago with Early Intervention, I have always hated hearing the results of Colin's tests but I am also in a place now where I sort of half listen to the numbers. Colin's PT brought up a good point as it's all about what he can do functionally and not what a test tells us. This is especially true when he wasn't always the most cooperative after having to do it over the course of several days. We signed off on keeping the current IEP in place for the remainder of the school year and then a new one will be drafted in May for his placement into Kindergarten.
After the meeting was over, I was shown the self contained LLD (learning language delayed class) that is in the building that Colin is currently in now. This is the same special education class I have mentioned in earlier posts that is segregated from the rest of the Kindergarten population by being housed in a different building than any typical Kindergartener. I am currently working on this as I have written a letter, spoken up at a parent's forum and the next step is a Board of Education meeting. During this tour, an informal discussion came up with the interim case manager and our new case manager (it was her 2nd day on the job in this building) about what my expectations were for next year and I said that it was inclusion. The new case manager had a point to say about every single one of my (research backed) comments about inclusion (which got my back up because she doesn't even know me or my child yet). Unfortunately, I am a really emotional person so despite my best efforts to remain strong (and continue to stand my ground), a few tears leaked out (I hate when weakness shows through that way!).
Later in the day, I had an opportunity to look at the general education in class support Kindergarten class. In this classroom option, a special education teacher comes in two times a day during literacy and math and there can be up to 8 students with an IEP with a total of about 22 students in the class. While the higher class number can be a bit intimidating, I STILL think Colin can be successful with the right support. I know our team has Colin's best interest at heart and I do value and respect their educational opinion. However, I have felt very strongly about the benefits of inclusion since I first began my research and my gut tells me that it is the right thing for Colin. I have listened to all of the points that have been made about why Colin should be in a self contained special education class and while I agree that there are challenges that could make this a good placement for him, I also believe that we will never know what he is capable of until we push him to try. Like any child, starting Kindergarten may be overwhelming and frustrating but that is why we would put a plan in place (an individualized plan) to support him to allow him to succeed. I feel like the worst thing that will happen is that we may need to back off a little bit a little bit down the road if that's the case but here's the thing; all Chris and I ever expect of Colin is to the best that HE can do. This might not necessarily be what society thinks is the norm but this is what COLIN is capable of doing.
This decision is not one that we are taking lightly, nor is it an easy one. I challenge myself every day but I still come back to the same answer every time and that is the one that I feel is the best option for Colin. This will be continued as the biggest part of the IEP journey is still ahead...