We won the school lottery

We got the kindergarten placement letter over the weekend and we got our number one choice.  I’m so relieved.

Now it is time to get back to preparing for the transition IEP meeting. I think it will be next month. I’m going to try to meet with the new teacher before this meeting.  That way I can get many of my questions answered, and she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining how things work in her class during the actual meeting.

There also seems to be a precedence for the current teacher to communicate with the new teacher. Being over eager, I gave each of them the other’s contact info.

Hope everyone got what they wanted!

The application is in

We turned in the application for kindergarten.  After months of obsessing, we decided to take a gamble and only put two schools on the list.

These two schools are really the only places where we saw classes that we thought would be a good fit for R.

I tried hard to be objective.   I understand that there is no such thing as a perfect classroom.  I don’t want to be like one of those people on that show House Hunters refusing to buy a house because of brass fixtures.

I knew that considering R. is in the middle of the spectrum and we chose a SI (Severely Impacted) delivery model that our choices would be limited.   The reason we chose SI is because the MM (Mild Moderate) classes seemed too advanced, and we wanted a class that would give her more support.

These two classes have:

  • Teachers with a background in ABA, who use ABA style teaching in the classroom
  • TEACCH stations
  • I got a real sense that the work given to the students was individualized.
  • Mainstreaming and pull-outs were part of the daily schedule, and both teachers clearly knew how to implement this.
  • Teacher and staff dealt with problem behaviors (meltdowns, escaping) in a respectful and calm way.  Both classrooms were set up so that a child who needed extra space could have it without being removed from the classroom, and so that their behavior had less impact on the other students

When we first started touring classes, I thought that we would choose at least three, and possibly five schools.   But now that I have seen what the choices are, I just don’t want to put down a school that doesn’t have a class with the qualities that I want.

It is a gamble, and I’m not sure what the odds are.  I think we have a good chance, because both schools are near our home and one of the schools is where she is going to now.  That is not supposed to matter, but I suspect it is humans not computers doing the special ed placement assignments, so maybe it will.

The placement letters are mailed in the middle of March.   Of course I can’t wait to get the letter and know what the next steps are going to be.  But it is also kind of nice to have a few weeks of limbo.   There’s nothing I can do about kindergarten at this point.

The Enrollment Fair

Now that the IEP is completed I have to get serious about touring more schools.

Here in San Francisco the IEP team only determines the service model – what type of class that you can list on the enrollment application.  The actual school placement decision is done via a lottery.

The content coordinator suggested that we list as many schools as possible.  I thought that seven was the limit, but this year there are spaces for ten schools, and an extra form to use to list more than that.  There aren’t that many schools that are going to be appropriate.  I’m going to have to look at schools that are further away than I was hoping for, but still within the city.

I went to the annual enrollment fair.   It was held in the concourse building where they hold trade shows.  All the schools in the city had tables.  Each school had the principal and parent volunteers there.

It was incredibly crowded.  Like shoulder to shoulder, only the pushy ones get through kind of jam packed.  The consensus among the other Special Ed Moms I know is that the whole event was drink inducing.

I kind of forget that all parents have some stress about kindergarten.  And because our city’s process seems to be designed to be chaotic, I think parents here (and likely in other cities with lottery systems) have a level of additional stress.

I attended a workshop for enrolling in special ed and it was some what informative.  The district as a whole is trying to move from a programs model to a service delivery model.  (Way to be late to the IDEA party!).  Which is good, but it is clear that they don’t know exactly what to do.

They included the special ed enrollment information in the general enrollment guidebook.  Previously it has been a separate document.  It does send a better message to have all the information together.  But the information that is there is still lacking.

I asked how the lottery actually worked for SDC (Special Day Class) students.  All other students have the same lottery process, with a few tie-breakers to give some students preferential enrollment.   They said that the process and tie-breakers are now the same for SDC students.  That doesn’t really help us, we don’t qualify for any of them.

I also asked where we can get actual enrollment data, like is available for the general ed students.  They said that we could go to the educational placement center.  I’ll be going there soon.

I visited a few school’s tables.   Only one school had anything about special ed prominently displayed.  It was a poster with pictures of students from their SDC class with their new ipads!

I was directed to speak with the principal about SDC classes at every table.  Once I told them my interests, a few just kind of said Yes, we have an SDC class.   It was like pulling teeth to get any specifics.   Two principals in particular did seem well informed and had a lot to say, one even had the school’s speech therapist on hand.   I could just tell the difference between principals who considered the SDC classes part of their community from their attitudes.

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,

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.