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New IEP Hotness

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. 

And Ezra. 


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. 






Have y'all looked into the possibility that maybe he's just having a hard time concentrating because all of his physical and mental concentration is going into growing an enormously long set of LEGS, MY GOD THOSE LEGS!!?!

(Not trying to make light... but good lord, those legs. SO LOOOONG!)


Ezra is so, so much like my stepson. Right down to the Lego obsession. Sounds like you're in a great school district, that can make so much of a difference. My guy moved from Prince William County to school district in Georgia and they quickly slapped an ADHD dx on him. It's so frustrating.
Wow, way to talk about myself.
Anyway, I wish we had those therapy rooms when I was a kid!


You're an awesome mom. That is all.


You sure picked the right ES! Very helpful that it is a higher needs RECC school as well. We are just to the west of you in another HoCo ES and while they are still super with our kids OT room like that ...let alone 2!


God, they're both just so precious. Ike too, of course. Sending good thoughts for everything turning out well!


those kids are BEYOND BLESSED to have you and jason!!! y'all will figure this out just like you've done with everything else, and your kids will be all the better for it! congrats on the move and the great IEP and IT ALL!!!

Maggie are a great mom working in a system not geared to individuality (for the most part).

My granddaughter (who lives with us) is just like Ezra. She's bright as all get out but--Squirrel! And would make friends with Jack the Ripper. Anxious about the poor "babies" around the world without homes and people who do not have smoke alarms. And there's her very busy, distracting classroom--Squirrel!

I know it sounds a little new agey but I ordered some Jeddy's Blend essential oil and that, together with her Natural Vitality Natural Calm Anti-Stress drink (essentially powdered magnesium), every morning has made a world of difference in the second grade in being able to focus/concentrate and listen for longer periods.

Good luck! Maggie


You are such an amazing mom.


You're a good mama and so lucky to be in a place where you can provide so much for your dudes. (Who are GIANTS. wtf.)


Your boys remind me so much of my two (now 21 and 18). I always had the philosophy that if the school wanted to throw resources and time with trained professionals at my kids, hell yes! More help is never going to hurt, in my book. And FYI, they are in college and doing great. Sounds like a wonderful school.


Oh Amy. I read this post earlier and can't stop thinking about your Ezra. IEPs are definitely not the worst--I was reminded of that, too, at my child's open house last week. He has 6 kids in his math class with 2 teachers. I promise you the regular math class kids are not getting that kind of attention. The IEP journey with my child didn't start until he was in third grade. Two years of struggle that shouldn't have happened. He's in seventh now. Looking forward to hearing how this works out for you both. Good luck.


My daughter's Kindergarten teacher just got every single kid in the class a wiggle cushion. When I commented on them at our conference her response was basically "they're five; they need to wiggle. These things are awesome." I think she also told us about a grant or something she found to pay for them, but by then I was too busy thinking "oh, thank you. This is going to be fine." to listen.

Suzy Q

Your kids are just the best! Which you already know.

I have to tell you, I am a claims analyst and I have one that involves several kids who have IEPs, and because I have been reading your blog for so very long, I am the only person who knew what IEP stands for. That includes my boss and a couple of hotshot lawyers and other randos. So, thanks for the education!


Oof, I needed this today. After several years of obsessing over my first-born's issues, I am taking my second child to the speech pathologist tomorrow to have him evaluated. We have been aware of delays for a while now but I kept putting it off because honestly, I just don't have the energy to do this twice. But you're right. My older son is a magnificent human being, so I'll be just fine. Hey, maybe I'll even be better the second time around AHAHAHA yeah right.


Ok, I'm packing and moving us from Orlando to your school district! I'm in a full on war down here just trying to let my son (spectrum, ADHD, sensory etc.) have breaks when overwhelmed. Know of any available houses?!? ;)


This post totally spoke to the nerd in me because I am an intern school psychologist right now and everything I learn and see is super interesting to me. It sounds like you have a great team to work with!! Yay! I wish I could visit your school with a video camera and show it to everyone here! Thanks for sharing the parent's perspective of the IEP process. I secretly marvel at all the paperwork, and hate the sense of formality and detachment that can be a part of those meetings. I'm rooting for Noah and Ezra's success!!


CourtneyinFL, I'm in the same school district and it's actually common for people to move into Howard County because the special education is so good.


Yay! Thanks for the update. I'm glad that the transfer of the IEP seems relatively easy. And holy cow, those kids are growing like weeds. :)

Leigh Ann

I've always read about your IEP adventures with Noah, but now I'm really starting to relate to it. My twins - 2nd grade - started occupational therapy over the summer when we realized that they weren't exactly on par with other kids their age, mostly physically. Turns out they are about 2 years behind in their motor skills (they were preemies). The therapists also told me that one in particular is a sensory seeker, and now SO MUCH from the past 7 years makes more sense to me. I wish we had seen the cues sooner or known that they meant. So now we're testing out stress balls and other sensory tricks, and hopefully it will translate to success, because just like Ezra, she doesn't seem to pay a lick of attention in class. xoxo


Long, long legs!

Sounds like the new county is going to be great for Noah. And Ez will settle in. He just needs a girlfriend.


I just heard something pretty awesome on the Kojo Nnamde show on WAMU - they were talking about boys and girls educations in detroit and dc, and how boys and girls learn and act differently in elementary school. One of their points was that when boys are feeling frustrated - either because they're ahead of or behind their peers, that they're likely to act out, and that acting out is often interpreted as a need for special ed. They said that MOntgomery county, at least, is changing the bell schedules to allow for more recess (get some of those wiggles out) and that programs in schools like yours help kids avoid frustration, spend their energy where its appropriate, and then help them learn to focus when they need to.

Tina S

My 3 are grown now,, but my husband and I went to endless IEP's for all three of them. Our oldest, now 26 gave his teachers the most challenge, as they always put it,, almost like his teachers and counselors gathered together in secret to plan a code word to describe our son. But in the end, outside of the fact that he had a terrible vision issue, he turned out to be the most creative out of my three. Sometimes I think that the little ones who suffer the most difficulty in school, life, are the angels of the earth. You are one strong mama,, I love reading your blog, stay strong and focused, I wish I could say that it gets easier when they get older. Life does get sweeter when they start to mass produce their own =-)

Amy Renee

On one hand, I hope the hearing screening comes back ok, because, ugh, hearing aids or tubes, what a pain. On the other hand, sometimes it's nice to have an answer that can be made better with a straightforward(ish) diagnosis.

If it does turn out to be hearing related and you need aids or hardware, then you get to join in the fun of adding a 504 plan into the mix, although from what I understand they are less paperwork than an IEP, but not by much.


You got this. Either way. You got this.


Just wanted to say, I am grateful for you and your sharing. I have been reading since before Ezra was born and I'm not ashamed to say I love your little family. Hugs to you as you navigate these possibly new waters with The Mighty Zah.


My middle son had some issues with school as well. Have you ever had his vision tested to make sure he is tracking and teaming correctly? It is something that can be tested in a simple eye test. For my son, going through Visual Therapy made All The Difference! He suddenly was more confident in himself, school was less troublesome, and he was happy. It's easy enough to rule out and is better if you can catch it early. We didn't find it until 5th grade. Good luck!


Oh man, I feel you. Our youngest is still 2 and getting all kinds of free help from the state (like an OT coming to his day care once a week for an hour). He ages out in a couple weeks and I don't know what we'll do. We can only continue to get this care if he is enrolled in a public school, but pulling him out of his wonderful day care with a low ratio and loving, educated and motivated staff seems like the wrong move. We'll get some benefits through our insurance in January, but those OTs won't come to his school. Anyway, this post was a peek into our potential future. We'll see.


I'd recommend getting him evaluated for ADD. There isn't always a "hyper" aspect to it, & unfortunately it's those kids who often fall through the cracks, because they're just quietly piddling their time away. I did this for my daughter last year (because I was diagnosed with it 6 years ago, which caused a Major Shift in my attitude about it, once I saw the difference meds made for me), & 1) her teachers were SO RELIEVED that I was open to the possibility, & 2) it made a HUGE difference in her school experience, from the very first day of her taking the meds. Obviously you know your own kid better than anyone - I'm just suggesting this as an idea because it worked for us. Regardless, you've got 3 beautiful boys! I love hearing about their adventures. They are going to take the world by STORM, woman.


I am just coming to terms with Turtle Boy growing up and now you post pictures of Zah with his long legs and looking all mature? What are you trying to do to me, woman?! Next thing you know, you're going to cut Ike's hair and enroll him in college or something. I demand you begin giving them large amounts of coffee to stunt their growth.

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