This morning was Noah's first IEP meeting at the new school, with the new team. It was, as always, thrilling and full of drama and I lost my cool and flipped the conference room table over at least twice.
Wait, no. Opposite of that. It was actually pretty boring, since it was mostly about moving everything from our old county's IEP form to our new country's IEP form, which we received a couple weeks ago covered in Post-It notes explaining evvvvvvvvery single checkbox and code and category because everything from the old IEP transfers, but it's all just called something slightly different.
If I came away with any great insight on moving a special needs child from one Maryland district to another that I can pass along to you, I guess I'd say that Montgomery County IEP forms allow a little more flexibility on a kid's pull-out hours and certain accommodations can be marked as "ONLY IF NEEDED." Howard County IEP forms are like, NO WAY, YOU GONNA DOCUMENT THAT SHIT DOWN TO THE MINUTE.
(Also, you have to give them explicit permission to use wearable sensory tools like weighted vests, blankets, etc. on your child because they have technically been classified by the county as "restraints." [Some of the vests for younger children have buckles/zippers.] So there's basically a line in the IEP now that states I am "agreeable" to the use of "appropriate restraints." Best not act up, Noah.)
(Noah uses a small weighted shoulder blanket that does not fasten. OR AT LEAST THAT'S WHAT THEY TELL YOU.)
But really, everything is staying more or less the same. Same disability code and service hours. He spends the vast majority of his time in the general education classroom, and any pull-outs to a small group are basically up to him, as are many of his other accommodations. His homeroom is an immersion classroom, co-taught full-time by both his gen-ed teacher AND his spec-ed case manager, plus a paraeducator and an occupational therapist.
I am particularly impressed with the school's OT resources, as they have TWO fully decked out sensory/motor OT rooms for different age ranges, and the therapists' offices are likewise equipped with swings and such for kids who might prefer one-on-one breaks. AND they have just about every sensory/input gadget out there that Noah can use in right in the classroom -- noise-canceling earmuffs, wiggle/wobbly seating things, hand fidgets, etc. -- which keep him from getting overwhelmed and cut back on his need for breaks in the first place.
Our last school shared a psychologist part time with several other elementary schools in our cluster. This was not super ideal because I felt like every year at IEP time, I was dealing with a stranger who really didn't know my kid, but who was just required to show up and run some assessments on him. The new school has a dedicated full-time psychologist, who has already read Noah's entire case file and spent a good amount of time observing him.
At the end of the meeting, she began asking me a few gentle yet pointed questions about how I thought Ezra was handling the transition, and to be honest, it's not super great.
I mean, he's HAPPY. SO SUPER HAPPY. Happy to go to school! Happy to come home from school! I get nothing but positive reports from him! Everything is hugs! and awesome!
But then it's homework time and it's obvious the kid didn't pay an ounce of attention to anything all day.
His teacher and I have already been in touch about her concerns -- he doesn't finish his work, he's always distracted, he doesn't pause to read or listen to instructions, his excitement sometimes seems to hit a nervous/anxious level -- and today it was obvious she'd also talked to the school psych about him.
He's been given a bouncy cushion and fidget bands for his chair. He's got his own special behavior token system for staying focused on his work and finishing independently. He's certainly not hyperactive or struggling with any obvious sensory issues, he's social as hell and right on grade level academically, but clearly falling behind as the weeks go by. (Particularly in math.) He developed a little tension-release tic with his hands back in preschool that he does whenever he's SUPER EXCITED, and instead of outgrowing it, it's gotten more and more frequent.
Honestly, we had similar problems last year at the beginning of kindergarten. His teacher was concerned about his attention span and the odd little ways he dealt with excitement or stress (the hand tic, compulsively tearing off crayon labels, etc.). She gave him a special wobble stool and some hand fidgets, positive reinforcementized the hell out of him, and after a month or two, he seemed to settle down on his own.
I relayed this to the psych this morning, along with my hope that he just needed some more time to get used to ALL THE NEW THINGS that we've thrown at him over the past month. He misses his old friends more than I think he's letting on (he mailed a letter to the little girl next door last week; we haven't heard back), and I know he's deeply, almost painfully sensitive (he overheard me talking about the Syrian refugee crisis and now has a collection of toys he wants to send to the children). I'm taking him to an audiologist to rule out hearing problems instead of just listening problems, and trying to remind myself that most signs point to a wiggly, typical, excitable little boy who is being asked to sit in a chair all day and listen to things he finds boring (MATH) while surrounded by things he's fascinated by (GIRLS).
But then I look over Noah's IEP, with all the sensory breaks and extra time and attention he gets and I think...yeah, definitely not the worst thing in the world, if it comes to that for Ezra, too.