It’s always a little nerve-wracking to think of Tad’s IEP (which stands for individual education plan) at this time every year. This year, though, it’s more anxiety-inducing than ever, because we are planning a major change for Tad.
The long and the short of it is that Tad is outgrowing the CLC program, where he has been the last two years. He has now had a formal diagnosis for just six weeks short of two years, and has been in ABA and extra speech therapy for almost 21 months. If you had told me what kind of progress he would have made in those 21 months, I’m not sure I would have believed you. And yet, here we are, with a six year old who has changed so much that he needs a more advanced academic program at school.
Yesterday, I had a meeting with Tad’s teacher, his school speech therapist, the school principal, and the district’s special ed coordinator to plan out Tad’s IEP for the next school year, and to talk about where he would be. The meeting went on for an hour and a half, and by the end of it, two big things were decided on:
1) Tad will be changing programs (and therefore, schools) and will move to what is called the “mid-level CLC” – a larger class of first through third graders, with one teacher and one paraeducator in the class. The mid-level has higher-functioning kids (not all of them autistic), a class size between 12 to 15 kids, with opportunities for Tad to also mainstream for different subjects in general education classes. This will allow him to be more academically challenged, as well as be with peers with even better social skills.
2) Tad will be repeating first grade. He will spend three years in the mid-level class, from first to third grade.
I have been pushing for Tad to repeat a grade since last year’s IEP meeting, and I knew that one of the only ways it would be allowed was if he changed programs. I laid out all my arguments again – his August birthday, his social delays, his academic delays – and I finally got the principal (who had no idea that retaining Tad in the first grade had even been discussed previously) to agree to sign off on it. Tad’s teacher and the special ed coordinator both agreed that now was the time to hold him back, and my argument was given a final push by the general ed kindergarten teacher whose class Tad has been attending for reading. When the principal asked if she could see Tad mainstreaming next year in a general ed second grade class for reading, her eyes got really wide. Then she shook her head.
Holding him back is a big step, and not one that I am taking lightly. But I have to think of his emotional and social development as well as his academic achievements. And I have come to the conclusion that I would rather have him start junior high as a newly-turned 13 year old, not a newly-turned 12 year old, in a new school where he will have to do even more mainstreaming.
The other important element that was also decided on was that IF everything falls apart for Tad in the new program – he can’t adapt, he begins to regress, anything that inhibits his ability to continue learning to the point where his teacher and I both agree that it’s not working – he will be welcomed back into the CLC and his current school. Even with as nervous as I am about this major transition for him, I want him to stick it out through the first trimester of school – which will end around Thanksgiving. If we get to the parent-teacher conferences in November and we all agree that this was a mistake, we can fix it. I was assured that there is nothing that we can do that cannot be undone.
Overall, I left the meeting pretty pleased. I am going to miss his current school, and the environment there. It’s hard to take him out of a place where I know he is loved and safe – and that he also loves – and put him in a new program, where he will have to adjust, adapt, and start all over again with a new teacher, new friends, and a new school. It’s hard to balance my desire to keep him safe and comfortable and not disrupt his world with my desire to see him advance academically and mature emotionally among older and more high-functioning kids.
I believe he can do it. I believe WE can do it. I will be fervently praying so, all summer long.