I should write about today's IEP meeting while it's fresh in my mind, as it was an important meeting, one that will affect the course of Janey's life and ours for years to come.
There really weren't any big surprises at the meeting. First we heard from everyone who works with Janey about how she is doing---the regular ed. teacher in her room, the special ed. teacher also in her room, the speech, OT, PT and music therapists, and the ABA instructor and her supervisor. It's always amazing to me to see what a big and caring and wonderful team Janey has---all thoughtfully relating Janey's progress and non-progress. Basically, she is making progress, and doing things that she couldn't do in the past---matching objects, sorting objects, taking turns at times, using PECS communication more and more and writing her name with ease (which she will never do at home!) However, everyone agreed that her moods and her difficult behaviors very much impede her progress. She often will do something one day, but then refuse to do it again. On bad days, when she is biting herself and lashing out at others and screaming, it's very hard for her to learn at all.
So, at about the middle of the meeting, there was a big pause, as everyone in the room I think knew what was then going to be said---that Janey needs a new type of classroom. She needs to be in what is called a substantially separate classroom, and because her current school is an inclusion school, she needs to move. She will move to a school with a large autism program, a program that has existed for a long time---at least 18 years that I know of, which is an eternity in the world of autism. It's the school I visited, and I was determined at that time not to want Janey to be in. I've come around since then, and I do feel it's the right decision to move Janey. We owe it to her to give her a shot at learning more, and being in an environment made for children with autism. I was impressed with the ratio of children to adults there, with the kindness and patience of the teachers and therapists and aides, with the progress the kids appeared to be making. I am hopeful Janey will do well at the school, and once the IEP is signed, we will start transitioning her there.
All that being said, there was a lot of crying at the meeting---not just mine. The principal sat in on part of the meeting, and tears were in her eyes a lot of the time, as well as in almost everyone else's. As the principal said, the Henderson School is Janey's home. It has been for years and years. She first set foot there when she was 2 weeks old (or earlier, if you count my pregnancy). I have had a child there for 14 years now. I love the school. I truly, truly love it. But what I love, and what I am comfortable with, is not what is most important. Janey's needs are.
We will stay in touch with the Henderson. Janey may still go to after-school there. We will take her to the spring dance. We will visit. And some day, we will bring her back. The Henderson now is going to be a K-12 school, and at some point, when Janey is ready, it will be her school again. That is my hope, anyway, and the hope of the staff there.
So, for now, I am going to just try to enjoy these next weeks. I'm trying hard to stay positive, because I know there is a lot to be positive about. It's a positive thing to have a whole room full of people working to help Janey, to have a school full of people that love her, and a new school to go to that I do hope will love her too. We are all hopeful that Janey will be able to progress well at her new school. But, I do admit, the tears keep sneaking out here and there. I guess any big change feels scary, and one involving a child like Janey, doubly so. But we are not going through this alone---we are very lucky to have many others helping us, and I thank all of them for their past, current and future love of my precious girl.