Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finley's First PPT (IEP)

Today I made a trip in the middle of my day to Finley's future elementary school (where Arlington is now) to attend her first PPT/IEP meeting.  For those of you who don't know what this is - PPT stands for Planning and Placement Team.  We use that term here in CT instead of IEP (individualized Education Plan) meeting, but it is just the name of the meeting.  The IEP is still what the paperwork is.  Aren't you happy that I clarified that for you?  Or made you more confused?

You're welcome.
Anyway - Finley will have one in place because braille instruction and all of her modifications due to her vision are part of special education.  We have had about 20 meetings at the school with the principal (who I love) and various other specialist.  Plus Finley is still going to the Kindergarten with her BESB teacher two times a month to learn the layout of the classroom, and get used to the routines.  So the school has been very proactive in getting Finley above and beyond what she needs, and is willing to help however possible.

So today - 10 people and myself sat in a room to talk about how Finley is doing now, and any concerns we had.  The staff that attended the meeting (from counselors to the nurse to OT to Special ed) all had great questions and took wonderful notes about our girl.  I felt like with (most of) the people that were there - they truly understood our concerns and wants for Finley next year.
I say most.

But more on that later.  First, I want to tell you what some of the things we are looking for next year.  We want braille instruction, of course.  This is a given.  A TVI (teacher of the vision impaired) two to three times a week.  She will need orientation and movement a few times a month.  Her books need to be enlarged to a 36 point, or a CCTV can be used.  Counseling about what is happening to her.  And of course, promoting independence as much as possible.

This seems like it will be possible.  The school also wants her to have an OT evaluation, and they want to do some basic Kindergarten screenings on her to rule out other needs. (which we know she doesn't have).  Her BESB teacher will be there with her during the test, so she can determine if the tests are big enough for Finley to see, or if they need to be enlarged.
What would I do without BESB?  I.love.them.

Before the meeting started today, the Special Education director and myself sat and waited for the others.  She asked about Finley.  Then from there - things went a little crazy.  She said "I understand Finley has vision".  I nodded.  She then said "well then I guess Braille won't be necessary".  I explained to her that Finley's condition is degenerative and that - unless a cure happens - she will be completely blind, so BESB wants her to learn Braille right from the beginning.  But the special education director still felt that there is so much "on tape" and "digital" books these days, that Braille probably isn't going to be used much more.

Okay - I did my BEST to not make funny faces at her.  But it was hard.  She apparently wasn't thinking this all the way through.  So - I brought up the state mandated testing for third graders or older.  She said "oh, we have readers for that now - she won't need a brailled test".  Huh?  So - instead of getting her a test she can READ herself, you would rather have someone READ her the test?  What does that teach her?  I gently reminded her that there is no reader for the math (my school would be proud of me that I pay attention in meetings), and she said "that doesn't mean there won't be".

OKay - so let me get this straight.  Instead of Finley learning to READ, she should listen to all books digitally.  Uh huh.  Where did you GET this degree of yours?
I am being harsh.  I just think that people need to be educated on the importance of braille.  In a digital age, it is easy to see that this might be your first thought when it comes to learning.  But not for a person who can't see.  When Finley rides an elevator, or goes to the bathroom in a public place - how does this person think she is going to know where she needs to go?  Will there be a digital "book" outside the bathroom to say "this is the girl's bathroom"?  No.  That would be silly.  Just as silly as thinking that kids who are blind/vision impaired don't need to be able to learn to read the "old fashion" way as much as the rest of us.

Sigh.  It was just frustrating.  Once the meeting started, things got better.  The two people from BESB that were there squashed her whole "doesn't need to learn braille" ideas, and said that was part of their cirriculum for vision impaired students no matter what.  So she relented.  Sort of.  We will see what happens when we come to the table in a few months.

We also discussed Finley not coming out of the 1/2 day Kindergarten class for OT services or Braille instruction.  At a lot of other schools that BESB services, the children learn braille before or after school so that it doesn't interfere with their day.  And then there is a room set up at the school for all the equipment the kids might need during the day.
(do you like Finley's bow?  Etsy)

Again - Special Ed piped up that they do not have an extended day program so that Finley couldn't stay after school to learn braille or before school.  The only time she could come was DURING the day - before afternoon Kindergarten.  So, I kindly asked if the school was willing to transport her because she will be at a local daycare for the morning because I work.

No answer.  Yeah...that's what I thought.

Eye roll with this one.  I am sure it will work out, but again - she just assumed that Finley would be getting this extra instruction OUTSIDE of school or during school hours.  Braille instruction lasts for 1 hour.  1 hour out of a 3 hour Kindergarten day isn't going to happen.  She would miss to much, and I will just not allow it.

But BESB was great - they will come up with a solution, even if it means that she does it at the local daycare.  And that is fine as long as the daycare can find a quiet environment for her to practice.

So, this special ed. teacher and I may have a problem.  I am just not sure yet.  I just think she THINKS she knows what Finley needs, when she has no idea.  The school hasn't ever had a vision impaired student, and even if they did, every child with vision issues is different and needs different things.  The Spec. ed. teacher brought up how in the past she worked with the kid that needed a CCTV, and that is all he ever needed and they were able to handle that.  But that kid was never going to lose his vision.  He will always be a sighted person.  So he and Finley are NOT the same.
I have faith in BESB.  I have faith in the Kindergarten teacher and the principal.  I know that Finley's needs will get met and the Special education director is just going to have to deal with it.  Otherwise, she will have to meet the OTHER Jennifer.  And no one wants that.

Disclaimer:  One of my best friends is a special education teacher.  I think that Special education teachers are amazing and insightful.  One person, and her slanted views, does not make ALL in a profession the same.

See you tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Okay, as teachers we are ALSO learning - constantly. You get a child with special needs that you have never dealt with before. Fine. YOU LEARN. You don't assume you know things. I've learned so much since being in a classroom. Every child has their own needs. You ADAPT. You research, you try, you fail and try again. But you are never a know it all. What does this accomplish?? I hope this director gets her act together and quits being such a know it all. I bet once she realizes who she is dealing with, she will back off.


Jen said...

This to me has been the most frustrating of all. I'm so glad we fought for 8 months to get him OT services at BCLC (Blind Children's Learning Center). None of the general services being provided for Gavin to me were up to par. Each IFSP we have had has at least 12 people, and too many cooks in the kitchen talking nonsense if you ask me. (sorry I'm being harsh - we haven't had great experiences).

Hang in there ;) I dread kindergarten coming up soon - I'm sure I will be coming to you for questions.

Maine_teacher said...

I just randomly stumbled across your blog after reading about the 'Bones' episode that I missed!

I teach Gifted & Talented, which is the other end of special education, really. I am part of IEP and planning meetings for my kids with dual exceptionalities. We have had several sight-impaired or blind students in our tiny school, and I know that our staff received extra training that they simply didn't have before. Maybe requesting or finding training for the special educator would be helpful. It's hard to toe the line between advocating your child and feeling like you're being 'one of those parents' but it's SO important! I am appalled to see some staff at schools I've been in who assume they can figure things out for kids with special needs, when really some simple training would get them so much further and help them better understand the child. I recall staff from our school going to training through the Perkins Institute - mobility, sensory, etc that was so helpful to them! Best of luck, sounds like you are off to a great start already!

PletcherFamily said...

Thank you to everyone who responded! (here and in email). To Maine Teacher - thank you so much for your response! And welcome to the blog - I hope you come back! I think your suggestions and great and have already contacted BESB to talk it over with them - we are very close to Perkins.

Penny said...

I am only half way done with this and i had to comment about the teacher who didin't feel braille was needs. Some people are simply not educated but it makes me so upset. Braille is not some antiqued system. Its something beautiful. I am so thankful that Abby's TVI recommend Braille from the very beginning. Abby doesn't even have a cctv yet (maybe when she is older) because all her materials are modified with braille added, she has an aide who can modify items on the fly with ether braille, reading to her, enlargement or just outlines of puff paint.

Has she had a functional visual assessment yet? I would be perfectly happy to forward you Abby's if you ever want to see it. Or even her current IEP (its always changing)

Oh the comment on the audio books steamed me. I am so grateful for all the free services for audio books but they are tool they don't replace reading. I really need to put my computer away.