Unless you are totally new to this blog, you have been familiar with our journey in Colin's education over the past year and a half. Chris and I have always felt that an inclusive education would be best for Colin, and were even more confident in that after spending years doing research on including students with Down Syndrome.
Colin started Kindergarten last year in a general education class and we found the entire year to be challenging and filled with anxiety. Half way through the year at an IEP meeting in which we had hired an advocate for, we were presented with an IEP that would place Colin in a self contained setting for the majority of the day (instead of supporting him in the setting he was already in). Because we didn't agree, we filed for mediation and eventually due process when we couldn't come to an agreement with the district on where Colin should be placed.
Our hearing (trial) was set to start the last week of August but after arriving, the judge initiated the beginning of a settlement which we ultimately agreed to. While I can't really speak on all terms of the settlement, the biggest issue was having Colin retained in Kindergarten with new teachers. In addition, there will be some evaluations done that could ultimately result in more supports if needed.
Four weeks into the school year as a Kindergartener (again), we are finding that Colin is having the year we had hoped for last year. The dynamic between the main three people working with him seems to be very cohesive and collaborative on finding ways to allow him to be successful. In addition, he is happy to go and be at school and enjoys to tell us about his day. We had an informal meeting today just to discuss his progress and I was moved to tears a few times listening to them talk about all of the creative ways they have attempted to make things work for him. It is evident that they are embracing this opportunity to help Colin succeed in a way we always knew he could.
Colin has made such progress in just 4 weeks of time, all of which was presented to us in a very positive and upbeat manner. I found myself breathing out a little bit each minute that ticked by in the meeting listening to his teachers share stories about Colin being a "character", being more productive than not, how smart he is, and even better, how there have been instances of him being rewarded for being the "best listener". He's been talking a bit at home about a girl that he has become friends with but it was interesting listening to the teachers share stories about how she can actually be distracting to him at times (like on the carpet) because she wants to be close to him and talk to him. His paraprofessional went out and bought a few things to create a "reward box" that she uses as a motivator to get him to finish tasks and they have various charts and cards to help him with transitions. They were telling us about ideas they had to help with the glasses wearing. What I heard in that meeting was that we had a group of people that were trying really hard with Colin.
Colin is a Kindergartener now and we are so happy with how this year is going. We are so proud of him and of all the progress he has made. And most especially, we are thankful to a group of people who are accepting Colin for who he is, for knowing that he is capable, and for being patient with him.