Author Archives: mamafog

The Placement IEP meeting

We had our annual IEP yesterday.   We got the biggest compliment from the teacher and content coordinator – they said we were so calm during the meeting.

Of course I was nervous about the whole thing, but I will admit that by the time the meeting rolled around I was feeling at peace because I felt that I knew what to ask for.  I think that is the hardest thing about planning R.’s education, I have no experience or even a point of reference.

But over the last couple of months I realized that I do know R. better than anyone and my instincts are usually correct.  I’ve certainly always known and tried to act as though I was in charge.  But I think with this whole kindergarten process I had to remind myself.

A few days prior to the meeting I emailed the teacher a list of our concerns, the goals we wanted to add or change and our thoughts about kindergarten transition and placement.

I know that some parents warn against doing this, because it can give the school department time to prepare their arguments.  But in our case I think it only helped.  The teacher shared the email with the rest of the team as I hoped she would.  We were able to get the the process of the meeting faster because everyone knew what we wanted to talk about.

I also gave the teacher permission to prepare a draft IEP based on the email.   This also helped the meeting move smoothly.  She actually gave me all the goals we wanted, and in some cases used my exact wording.

This was the most positive meeting yet.

They said she can sit at a TEACCH station and do work for 15 minutes!   This is the child who could barely sit down when she started preschool.

The ST finally acknowledged that she is using 1-2 words consistently to communicate and increased her goal to 3 word utterances.

They also said she is playing appropriately with many toys and does pretend play on her own.   They added the goals I wanted about engaging with peers on the playground.

She can trace her name and letters and numbers, she is writing some letters on her own and can copy when the teacher writes on the board.

She is not putting her fingers in her ears as often.  I made them all acknowledge that they are aware that if she has her fingers in her ears it does not mean lack of attention.

R. is participating more in circle time.  Every day they sing “We all go traveling by.”  The teacher has vehicle cut outs that she uses for choices.  She asks R. do you want the yellow bus or red car?   R. said pink bike!  (which is one of the other choices)

They all said she is being mischievous.  If they open the toy closet she will run over, knock some over and laugh.   She will pick up the toys or whatever when they tell her to.   I’m happy that they see this as a good sign developmentally and not a hassle.

They wrote this:
R. is intelligent and curious.  She likes to seek out new way things work, and watches intently when you show her how something works.

Originally they did not plan to have a general ed teacher at our IEP meeting.   The CA law says that a general ed teacher has to be at an IEP meeting if any aspect of being included in the general ed class is to be discussed.  I wrote them, mentioning what I wanted to discuss, how a general ed teacher has been at all of her annual IEPs so far, and mentioning the law.    I offered to change the date of the meeting, and offered my consent for the general ed teacher to only attend part of the meeting as long as the topic she needed to discuss was addressed.

So we had a general ed teacher at the meeting.  Her time was limited so we discussed things out of order.    I asked for R. to be included for a short time in the general ed preschool (at her school location).

I also planned to ask for mainstreaming in kindergarten, but they put off all discussion of services relating to kindergarten until the transition IEP in April.  I suspected they might do this, but it was worth asking.

They were supportive of having R. go into the general ed preschool, and we had a good discussion about what would work best with scheduling and R. herself.   They suggested during free time, so R. could go and be confident doing puzzles or playing with toys.  She will have an aide with her.  It seems like they are encouraging the aides to be as hands off as possible, if she is working on her own the aide will go help other students.  I like that they are doing it this way, because R. could be interested in only interacting with the aide, and she can be prompt dependent.

I had to give permission for her to miss some of recess.  She has a long recess and we are going to start with just ten minutes, so I think that will be fine.

We all agreed that the SI (Severely Impacted) classes were the best fit because of small class size, structure and ABA style teaching.

They said that we can change the class type at any IEP meeting.   Even if we have a placement, we could change our minds in April.   I’m sure it is more difficult than they make it out to be, but it is good to know that they don’t consider anything permanent.

App review: Bob Books #1 Reading Magic

R. has been really into this Bob Books #1 Reading Magic app.  The app includes 32 words in twelve scenes.

So it starts like this, with a black and white picture and gray words. If you don’t do anything it makes a little sound and the images move to get your attention.

Touching Sam brings you to this page, where you can match letters to spell the word.  I have it set for Level 1 and to say the letters phonetically.  Each time a letter or the box where the letter goes is touched the app speaks the letter.

After the word is spelled, the item changes to color.

You are taken back to the first page with the phrase on it, and the drawing of Sam is colored in, and the word Sam is black.  The cat drawing is black and white, and the word cat is gray.  The cat will make a little sound and move if you do not select it right away.

Then you can spell cat, just like the previous word.

The cat turns to color after the word is spelled.

When the entire phrase has been spelled, the picture changes to color, the entire phrase turns black and the figures move a little.

There are 4 levels of play.  We are using Level 1-Drag and drop letters to match.  Level 2 is learn left to right order.  Level 3 is spell without visual hints.  Level 4 is Pick letters to spell words.

There is the option to turn on and off the background music and sound effects.  You can turn on and off the options for the objects to wiggle to give hints.  You can also choose to have the app speak the letter names or phonic sounds.

I was surprised at how much R. likes this app.  I thought the pictures might be too simple, but she plays it all the time on her own.  I don’t understand using names like Dot or Mat in phrases.  But I do know these Bob Books predate the ipad.

She has plans for me

The more R. communicates, the bossier she gets.

Lately it is more than just having her demands met, she has ideas about what I should be doing and even wearing.  It started with her pulling my sleeves down any time I push them up.  If I put on a short sleeve shirt she will go to my closet and pull out a jacket and insist I wear it.

Now she wants me to get in my pajamas when she gets in hers.  She knows where I keep them and she is even helping me get dressed.   The cutest part is how happy she is after she “dresses me.”

Over the weekend she asked me to turn on the television.  Then she grabbed the book I was reading the day before, led me to the couch, had me sit down and handed me the book.  She tapped on the book and said read book, waiting for me to open it up.  Then she cuddled next to me to watch her movie.

R is also really interested in what I am doing lately.   All the same things I’ve been doing all along -housework, even combing my hair are suddenly incredibly fascinating to her.

My hair has been particularly frizzy the past two days because of the rain and I haven’t bothered to use any hair product.  R. keeps patting my hair down using both her hands and giving me a funny look.


Two tours down

So far we have visited two classrooms.  AutismMommyTherapist was right, I’m starting to get a better idea about what I’m looking for and also what it is I am seeing.

It is like there is one voice in my head telling me that I need to keep things as similar as possible to what she is doing now and there is this other voice telling me that this is kindergarten and it should be different.

In the chapter What Can We Expect?  From the book The Child with Special Needs by Dr. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, they write:

The best indicator of your child’s potential is the shape of his learning curve once he is in an optimal therapy program.  …. as long as that learning curve is going up your child will continue to grow…

If you think of your child’s learning as the building of a skyscraper, you can picture the emotional milestones as the building’s foundation.  They must support 80 stories – 80 years of living in the world.  They must be very strong, for if those basic skills are shaky, the entire building will be at risk.  It is far better to have a solid foundation developed late, than a shaky foundation built on schedule.

Quality of learning should never be sacrificed to the desire to move ahead.  If building a solid foundation and strengthening the milestones means temporarily taking more time, we encourage that, because without that foundation your child will never be able competently to move on to more complex areas.

Both of the voices in my head have a point.  We do need to find a class that will provide a similar environment to what she is used to, but at the same time offering new opportunities for learning and experiences.

By the end of the month we will have visited 3 SI (Severely Impaired) and 3 MM (Mild Moderate) special day classrooms.  Between the two categories there are more than twenty schools in the city.  There just is not enough time before our placement IEP to see all of them.  I think that we will have enough information to make a decision on service type.

In speaking to the teachers it seems that each one has an idea of what type of student belongs in their class.  It would be nice if they printed a directory of that information, but technically I believe that is against the law.  Special education is a service, not a place.

The teacher of the MM class we saw told us that she felt a couple of her students were misplaced in her classroom.  I feel badly for those children and their parents.

I’m not going to be able to change that before R. gets to kindergarten so I will try to use it to my advantage.  The teachers seem willing to speak to R.’s teacher and one offered to have R. come and sit in on a class.  I don’t know how that would work out considering it is a different school, but it is something to think about.

Reference: The Child with Special Needs by Stanley Greenspan, MD and Serena Wieder, Phd (Perseus Publishing, 1998)  Pgs. 433, 436,

Visiting at recess

We visited R. at school during recess.  She was sitting with some other students and an aide playing with a dollhouse when we arrived.

She was very happy to see us and made sure we remained close by the entire time.   She sat on a tricycle and moved around with her feet.   E. tried to get her to pedal but she wasn’t interested.

The teacher set up an activity with shaving creme and paint brushes, she played at that for a short time with some other kids from the general ed preschool class.

Then the teacher set up a water table.   I actually got R. to wear the smock with no effort at all on my part.  I just told her she had to wear it to play with the water and pulled it over her head.

It was a very hot day and the teacher handed out spray bottles of water and asked the kids to spray her.   R. had a good time spraying herself, and it was fun to watch her giggle about it.

After a little more tricycle riding and a couple of trips down the slide she went back to the dollhouse and played with a couple of dolls and some furniture.   Girls from the general ed preschool joined her and the teacher tried to engage them, but everyone was too into their own thing.   R. stayed and played next to them for a few minutes and then moved to the other side of the dollhouse.  It looked like she was kind of watching the other girls through the windows while she played on her own.  I never saw a doll house on a playground before, but it sure seems like a good idea.

When it was time to line up to go in for lunch R. grabbed my hand and wanted me to go with her.   She frowned, but did not cry when we left.  We waited until they were walking back inside rather than walking away from her while she was still on the playground.

We got to meet the new students and they all seem so young.  It feels like so long ago that R. was that little, but really it wasn’t.

Revisiting the ipad behavior plan

My behavior plan for the ipad has been working.

Issue 1: She wants all ipad all the time

The ipad is still a favorite activity.  She doesn’t have much free time with school and therapy during the week so it hasn’t been much of a problem then.   When a vacation or a few days off start she can get obsessed with it.  But she will actually get tired of it, she reaches her own saturation point and walks away to do something else.

I think that having certain times of the day that she has access to it helps.   I’ve learned to be flexible and it seems to help her be flexible about it.  I did not want her to use the ipad when she gets home from school because she has her ABA session starting within the hour.   She really wanted to use it so I tried.  She does not complain when it is time to put it away, so it works out fine.

It seems like she’s more accepting of other times when I want to put it away.   But it still helps to have something else to do planned, even just a transition to listening to music.  I plug the ipad into speakers which are high on a shelf she can not reach.

I’m also looking at some of the “ipad time” as time we are doing something together.  She will sit on my lap or with me at the table and do puzzles or whatever.

Issue 2:  She wants to pick her own apps and they are usually a video or something stimmy

I’ve been trying to be more hands off and let her do what she wants.  I posted about her interesting video choices recently.

On the weekends or days off if she is spending a lot of time on the ipad I’ll get involved and choose some more educational apps that aren’t her first choice.

Teaching her to say all done when she does not want to do something on the ipad has worked really well.  If I run an app she doesn’t want to do, she’ll yell all done, and she is generalizing that phrase to other situations.   I’ll insist that she do my chosen app for a short period of time and I’ll define it- 3 more times or whatever.  Then I let her do what she wants.

She also has a tendency to find any adult app on the ipad.  No not those.  But she was quite obsessed with E’s Contract Killer game and a few others.  The only answer is to delete them.  She seems to want to play with guns and watch cartoons fight, she thinks it is hilarious.  If anyone knows any more child appropriate games sort of like that please let me know.

Issue 3: She wants to use my finger instead of her own to operate the ipad. She has a short attention span at times.

This issue is resolved with familiar apps and features of the ipad.  She can open apps, folders with apps, change screens, she knows how to wake it up when it goes to sleep.

I think the key is self confidence.  She needs to feel that she can do whatever is expected of her, once she can do it she will spend quite a while at it.

This bring me to a new issue.

Issue 4.  She doesn’t like to try new apps.

I basically resolve this with trial and error.   I’m being more selective about what apps I show her, rather than offering her every free app I find.   I kind of know what she tends to like.

I’ll open up the new app when I hand her the ipad and try to get her to see what it does for a couple of seconds.   I try not to do this too often.  It seems like if she finds the app herself she gets more interested in it.  Especially if I don’t have to show her how to use it.

When she walks away from the ipad I will play with one of her less chosen apps.  Sometimes this gets her interested enough to want to learn how.

She is actually starting to get manipulative about it.  She mostly asks me to help her learn new apps when I am trying to cook dinner.   So dinner has been getting later this week.

Other issues

R. moves around all the app icons.  She files them into folders of her choosing.   Every time I get the apps all organized she comes along and puts them how she wants them.  I can’t make sense of her order, but I’m learning to live with it.    Reducing the number of total apps helps.

She also turns the volume up to the max.   She doesn’t even put her fingers in her ears.  I wonder if she is giving herself some kind of noise therapy.

I do put a stop to it, and turn down the volume.   She is starting to turn it down herself,  sometimes on request.   I wish that there was some way to limit the max volume.

Kindergarten Obsession – Questions for school tours

I’ve been compiling questions, and I have way too many.  This list does not even include things like details about the teacher and classroom, the parking situation and probably a dozen other things.  But it is a start.

  1. What are the procedures for drop off and pick up?
  2. What time does yard supervision begin? End?
  3. What is the school’s philosophy and practice regarding discipline?
  4. How many recesses do kindergarteners get, and how for how long?
  5. Are SDC students included for recess?
  6. If so, how are integrated play opportunities facilitated on the playground?
  7. How long is lunch? Is there also snack time?
  8. Are SDC students included for lunch in the cafeteria?
  9. How does the school handle supervision during lunch and recess?
  10. Does the school have assemblies? How often?
  11. What kind of school-wide activities are there?  (including music, PE, etc)
  12. What are the before- and after-school childcare options?
  13. Do SDC students have the opportunity to participate in the above?
  14. Where do pull-outs for speech therapy and OT take place in the school?  Do they have an office or dedicated area for working with students?
  15. How often do fire drills and earthquake drills take place?  How are SDC students prepared?
  16. How does this school/class encourage and monitor students’ progress toward meeting grade-level standards?  How does this apply to SDC students?
  17. What standard testing is done?
  18. Is there regular reverse mainstreaming scheduled in the classroom?
  19. Do they do disability awareness lessons for students without disabilities?

Thanks to all my awesome mentors from Support for Families and this great article with questions from Bonnie Sayers.

Getting ready for the first tour

We have our first tour this week of a K-2 SDC (special day class)

The process of touring is kind of slow going.  We have to take a general tour and an additional tour of the K-2 SDC for almost every school.   The general tours are scheduled in advance, but for the SDC tours I have to get the teachers to call me back.    Many of the schools won’t schedule anything until October.

I realize that October is just a few days away.  But it just feels like the window is closing in so quickly.

Even with the appointment we have this week, they are only giving us half an hour to observe the class.  I get that they can’t let us hang around all day (though I would like to ). But it sure doesn’t seem like much time.

The teacher also told me that if I had any questions I should call him after class.  So in other words, sit down and shut up for our 30 minutes.  I do understand that the teacher can’t give us a lot of attention during class.  Maybe if the tour was longer it could spill over into some of the free time and then he could answer a question or two.

Part of me wishes that I could take R. to see the classrooms and schools.  Of course that would be difficult on so many levels.  And it seems that even the general ed students are not welcome at the tours, so there is no precedence for it.

September Meeting

We had our monthly ABA meeting at the school with the teacher this month.   We set the date for the IEP meeting that will determine the type of kindergarten placement for the beginning of November.   That seems so close.

I was hoping to have an IEP meeting this month to update some goals.  But since we have so many meetings and IEPs, the teacher and I agreed that I would email her the goals we discussed and she would update it.

Most of the goals I want updated are simple enough.  R. has mastered recognition of the alphabet, numbers 1-10 and the prewriting goals.   She is actually writing some letters in class.   I asked for more writing goals – tracing more complicated shapes, copying shapes and writing the alphabet and her name.

I also asked to increase the numbers to 20.  I know she knows them, I wonder if I should have gone up to 30.

R. is talking more in class, asking for things and labeling all sorts of items.  We discussed that she does not always make sure she has someone’s attention before asking for something and then gets frustrated.  The teacher had been working on getting her to tap her on the shoulder and say her name before requesting.

She has a goal about responding to someone else by making eye contact and orienting her body towards the speaker.  So I suggested that we make an actual goal that she would get someone’s attention before requesting something.

R. has also been refusing to wear a smock for water play and painting.  She used to wear one, but for some reason will not do so.  I asked for a goal for wearing a smock during these activities and then to put it on herself.  It seems like a weird goal, but I think that it will help her in a few ways if she would agree to wear it.

More fun with the light table