This week we had our big meeting with the public school system about Cha-cha. With over 20 pages of documentation of testing and findings, hubby and I, along with Cha-cha's Early Intervention SLP and my aunt (who took notes so we didn't have to), entered the school not knowing what their recommendations would be. I had fears of having to hire advocates and lawyers - visions of myself stopping the meeting until I could have a lawyer present...I had been plagued for weeks with nightmares of advocating for my child for the services that we believe that he needs.
The morning before went well - I dropped of Bee-bee and hubby dropped off Cha-cha and we headed together to the elementary school where we met up with my aunt and the SLP. I walked up to the secretary's desk and told her why we were here and she looked beyond me and asked, "Are the parents of the child here?" I was a little taken aback and said that I was indeed Cha-cha's mother and it was her turn to be taken aback - she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, you just look so professional looking." I smiled and told her that I was here to discuss my son's future and I would hope that I would be professional about the whole thing and she commented that not every parent has that same thought. How sad.
In the room, we met up with all of the people who have tested Cha-cha in the past month. There were at least 10 of us around the table talking about him for 90 minutes. The evaluators went around and discussed their testing and findings, the EI SLP gave her concerns and we were able to give ours. Afterwards, Cha-cha was diagnosed with having a Communication Disability because of Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and he definitely qualifies for services. I was getting antsy thinking about what I was going to fight for, when the Team Chair started spewing out all of the services I could have imagined for Cha-cha. Integrated Language based preschool, speech sessions 2x30 a week with a third in class session, OT consult, PT 2x15, Motor playroom class...and the summer program. I was amazed. I started to cry. My biggest fears of special education were relieved. Granted, you don't want to hear about your child's weaknesses, but to hear about all the help they are going to give him - it was overwhelming. Many times I have been the teacher at the IEP meeting, this was my first as a parent.
We now have some big decisions to make. According to the public school - he can start on February 27th - his 3rd birthday. Hubby and I had a lot of discussions with each other and people who are in the teaching profession, not in the teaching profession, and our family and friends - and we believe that it will be best to start him on his birthday. The biggest issue is what is he going to do for 4 half days and one full day while hubby and I are working? I have calls out to different daycares to see what will be the best fit for him. Sadly, he can not attend his current daycare since it's not in our city's limits and the bus (yes, I'm going to have to put my son on a yellow school bus at age 3) can not take him outside of the district. This will mean that he will have to leave the daycare he has been at since he was 6 months old. This is the hardest part out of all of this. I serve on the board of directors and the teachers have bent over backwards to help Cha-cha be who he is today - I'm just so heartbroken about leaving them, but I know he needs these services. I know he needs to move on so he can make more gains.
We're hopeful that this will all help him, and that he will continue to make progress and friends. I'm still in a little shock that we didn't have to fight for what we know he needs. It seems that all I hear are stories of people who hire lawyers and advocates and have to reconvene 5 times before the IEP is signed.
I'm so glad we went the route we did - getting a big eval at a big hospital, pushing the public schools to do every evaluation possible to get the big picture, increasing services to 6-7 hours a week with Early Intervention - all of those were huge factors in getting Cha-cha the services he needs to be successful. I'm so grateful to the people who have given us feedback and encouragement. :)
Meanwhile - Christmas is coming and the kids are so excited - Cha-cha saw the big man in the red suit and wasn't afraid - especially after he gave him some toy tractors. ;) He loves opening the doors on his chocolate countdown calendar. Bee-bee celebrated turning six on Friday with her usual diva-like attitude. Hubby and I have looked at each other at least 7 times this week and have laughed and smiled over the silly things the two of them get into. :) There has been a lot more laughter this month and that always makes us grateful. :)