Several weeks ago, Chris and I attended an IEP meeting for Colin that was considered his annual review despite the legal process we are currently in with the district. It was far different than the majority of the meetings we have attended when placement is going to be discussed. There were many team members there in addition to some extra attendees that played different roles in the meeting. We walked away that day with smiles that stretched from ear to ear.
In the time between when Colin was born and when he was a month old, Chris and I spent a lot of time visiting different doctors and have evaluations done for various therapies and other services. While I can't remember a time when we were told Colin wouldn't do something, we heard a lot of "it will be very difficult...it will take a long time....he might not be able to...not like other kids..." and it was very overwhelming for us. However, we were determined to do what we needed to do for Colin and so we took every recommendation to heart as something we should do as often as possible (sometimes to a fault). In the mix of our post-meeting feelings, this video popped up as a Facebook "memory" and it reminded me again of our (and Colin's) determination.
I will never forget that moment; Colin was just about a month old and hated tummy time. We were told it would take him a long time to be able to do something as simple as roll over and it was suggested we should put him on his tummy as often as possible (which he hated). And as a 4 week old "weak" little baby, he angrily pushed himself over onto his back and showed Chris and I what he could do.
Colin's entrance into this world scared us more than anything because all we could thing about was how we would "do" this. But thank God for Colin because he showed us the way and so we believed he could...roll over, crawl, walk, talk, run, read, play soccer, be in a regular academic class, have friends, be a typical little boy, etc. We have been as determined as he was that day he ended up on his back just so he didn't have to be on his tummy one minute longer. We have known that Colin is capable because we all work really hard to give him the tools to be successful.
We are so grateful for teachers and therapists that have worked very hard this year so that Colin could make the kind of progress they spoke about at our meeting. We were so proud of Colin as we listened to each essential team member talk about how far he has come this year. He is an active member of his 1st grade class and in many areas he has made such great improvement. One of my favorite things they spoke about was his improvement at "circle time" on the carpet. At the beginning of the year he was an observer in that he listened and paid attention but rarely participated without a lot of help. However, his general education teacher talked about how involved he is now in the discussions that take place during this time. He contributes. His DRA reading level is testing mid-1st grade level and he could have actually tested at the next level had his reading comprehension not held him back. They have been using a new program for math and literacy that we all agree has helped and so it will continue next year.
Another favorite discussion we had was over his independence which they try to give him as much as possible. He's ridden the regular school bus with his sister (although they don't sit together) all year and so he boards the bus, gets off the bus, and goes into the school/his classroom all by himself. His therapy room and classroom are at opposite ends of a long hallway and so they have it all worked out now so that he can walk himself from one room to the other. When he gets to the room he is headed he will turn and either give his teacher/paraprofessional or the therapist he has left two thumbs up. The best part is that they discussed how many kids will walk along the hallway touching different things, dawdling, etc. but he is a man on a mission and gets himself from one place to another without distraction.
Despite how elated and proud we have been with Colin and what this year has brought with it, I have still found that at one of the most positive meetings we have had to date, I have had a writer's block on getting this post written. His progress has been evident when you look at the big picture of academics and being a member of a general education first grade class, but also, in the little things we see along the way that most might miss. The above picture was at Kailey's Kindergarten show and they allowed the 1st graders to also come and watch since it took place during the school day. Colin walked in with a big smile for me, sat in his spot, waved a few times, and then when it was time to go back to his classroom, turned and gave me two thumbs up and left the room. Although it wouldn't have been appropriate at that time, I was actually kind of disappointed he didn't run over to give me a hug but also so proud!
Colin is growing up in front of our eyes and we are so proud of this little boy he is becoming. We truly believe it's because we haven't given up on our life goals we have for Colin which include being educated in a general education classroom. We believe he is being shaped by this inclusive education; by the teachers/therapists and fellow classmates he spends his days learning from. We are so proud to say that he will be a student in a general education 2nd grade classroom with additional supports that will continue to help him be successful. It has been a long journey to get to this meeting we just had but each step of the way is worth the outcomes we are seeing. We are determined to do what is necessary to give Colin exactly what he needs to continue to grow and mature into this independent little boy. So after this one, we could exhale a bit knowing that we have all made progress and will continue to push just as hard knowing we are doing the very best we can for Colin.