Thinking Ahead

Charlie is three. He’s had six wonderful months in Early Intervention preschool. He has blossomed: He greets me enthusiastically when I pick him up from school, he smiles in affirmation when you ask him questions, his curiosity is growing, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he understands you when you speak.

boy chasing vacuum cleaner

School has been a really good thing for us.

But it’s come to my attention that our neighborhood school doesn’t offer a special education after preschool.

It’s an interesting issue.

I know, legally, that they cannot deny Charlie services at his assigned school. There are a myriad of options to get him services at his current school. The thing is, we would be breaking new ground. Whatever we would decide, it would be something that had never been done before. I mean, as far as I can tell, they have no special ed services beyond preschool–no resource, but no inclusion, or indirect either. It would be a steep learning curve.

So as I look forward, I wonder if we want to be the guinea pigs? Do I want to fight for something unknown and untested? Or do I want to go with a system that is already in place?

I’m torn. Our neighborhood school is fantastic–people are sneaking their kids in there left and right. It’s considered one of the best in the district. Also, this is our community–we live here, shop here, and our other children will be in school here.

So, it’s something to stew over. Our experience so far has been wonderful–I don’t want to think about the moment will that will have to change. Maybe I’ll stick my fingers in my ears and hum for a while.

boy and his dad playing

**I’d like to make it clear that I am not complaining about the school or the district. It is common practice to centralize certain services. You can, within the law, request your child receive services at their home school, but most do not. **

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  1. How can they not have *anything* in place? I know a school might not offer everything & might instead opt to bus a student elsewhere, but legally, how can they not even have a plan in place for a program? Has this really not come up already? Do all the other families of kids who need services happily take their children elsewhere? I’m genuinely confused.

    Where I live, all the elementary schools apparently rotate which school serves kids with special needs. So, one year school A has them, the next year school B has them, then school C, then back to A. I’m not sure I like that system, so we might move to another district before our son transitions at age 3.

    • I’m really not sure. I’m hearing this from another mom who is getting ready to move her son for first grade. As far as your situation goes, my understanding is that they force you to take your child to a school that’s different from their “home” school just to receive special education services. So you and I are basically in the same boat–either go with the flow or risk using our kids as guinea pigs.

  2. If you are the guinea pig you can be breaking ground for other parents! I say go for it! The people in the community know you, know Charlie and are more than willing to work with all of you I venture to bet! Be a trailblazer! Leave a path for others to follow! You know that is who Charlie is, the boy who stomps his mark on others hearts and others will love him as much and want the same best for him as you do!

    • Well, Becca, that’s an appealing idea, but I would hate to sacrifice the quality of Charlie’s education because I want to blaze a trail.

      • I am not saying sacrifice, I am saying make your efforts focused on making Charlies education the best that it can be! Give feedback, know what he needs, what he thrives on, make them show you an IEP that will work for him. Make them meet his needs. It is their job. Not just to do, but to exceed. They would expect no less for their own children.

  3. Katy, I think you will find that because each kid is so different, even going to a school that has “been there, done that” is breaking new ground. Honestly, at Moo’s school, you would have thought that they had never seen a child in a wheelchair before (which i know they have because I see them in the playground). Go to the local school. Those local connections are really important. And you are equipped better than most to be the ground breaker.

    • I could not agree more with Jacqui. I feel exactly the same way about Fletcher. We have to move in the next handful of years because our home is not the least bit accessible, so for awhile I was stressing on the best of the three local school districts for Fletcher. Came to realized regardless of the selection I will have to break new ground, so now I am looking at all (including non-Fletcher (gasp)) factors to determine the best place for us.

      That said, I am also considering moving 1500 miles away so Fletcher can get the best education from a place that specializes in kids similar to him… so I guess that is the flip side of the coin.

      • Well, I’m not moving–I need all the helping hands that I have around here! You are, of course, correct in many ways and I’ve even discussed this on my blog–in some ways, we already are trailblazers. In many places, we’ll be the first parents to send our motor-impaired children to typical schools. There will be some bumps along the way to be sure.

  4. We were guinea pigs (pioneers? trailblazers? Neil Armstrongs?) in our elementary and middle schools and it was a FABULOUS experience! It beats trying to get an established “program” to bend to meet your child’s needs met, hands down. We’ve had it both ways (moved to a different county) and it was actually much better for our daughter when she was fully included in the regular classroom (admittedly with a Resource Room teacher on staff, though not providing any/much direct service). And no, she doesn’t walk, talk, hold a pencil…but she can learn, and together we figured out how to help her show that.

    The most critical aspect is the school’s attitude…with a willingness to try. I’m not saying it won’t be scary to start out–for everyone!–but the payoff can be HUGE. If there is no option but to individualize around Charlie’s needs and if the school’s attitude is that they are going to do the very best they can, then the possibilities are amazing. So long as the staff is teachable, they CAN teach Charlie.

    Now, being a special ed teacher myself, I played a major role in brainstorming and adapting materials. That helped the school relax. But you know, a mom who knows her child could certainly do the same, and do it as well. I’m confident you would be great–just look at what you know about Charlie’s learning strengths from your thematic units! The thing that might make this tough for you is being busy with twin babies…hmmm…because it does take some time. I wasn’t dealing with twins.

    You still have some time to think it over. It’s good to start weighing your options now. Good luck…feel free to pick my brain.

    • Rose-Marie, I love to hear this. LOVE it! I would love for Charlie to be in a regular classroom–even if he’s not able to do the physical work–because I believe that he listening and observing and learning even when he can’t express it. To be in the presence of that regular education is something that I want more than a lot of other things.

  5. Katy, especially with your bundles on the way, would it be possible to have Charlie stay another year in the early intervention preschool? I know that’s b-3 specifically, but if there isn’t anything else in place, maybe lobbying for placement for another year will give you some time (and rest?) to work something out locally for next year. ?

    • Amy, I’m going to answer your question from the Missouri POV – the answer is no, the state will not provide funding for an elementary age child in ECSE.

    • Amy, this is a far-off in the future kind of thought. Charlie still has plenty of time to stay in Early Intervention Preschool. I’m thinking about it because I mom I know just found out and her son is half-way through Kindergarten. Now she’s scrambling to find the best place for her son.

  6. We are in a large, St. Louis suburban district. In elementary school they do have certain schools to deal with certain issues. These would be things like hearing impared (such that extra services are needed), self contained for emotional/behaviorial. All of the kids with CP (like Charlie) go to their home school. The services they require are not extra ordinary. I believe our district would like to centralize the kids with autism (those who need more services). When Luke was ready for kindergarten there wasn’t a good program in place, so he is at his home school. This year his special ed teacher is an autism specialist – and she is WODERFUL.

    I know parents who have gone the route of getting a program in place. It is hard work. One big key is to start early. Start now figuring out what will be needed — services (speech, ot, pt, …) What training might be needed for a classroom teacher (inclusion, aug com device), special bussing, a para-educator.

    From what you share about Charlie, he is a typical kid with some mobility issues and a different way to communicate. Those things can be done in a typical school/classroom.

    • I so LOVE that you just described Charlie as a typical kid. To me, he is very much like other children, but it can be hard to see that through all the other things that are going on.

  7. In our school district there would be certain schools more prepared to take Charlie and strongly suggested that you bus your child to those given schools with the heavy suggestion being “your neighborhood school doesn’t have the staff or facilities to best educate your child” We have definitely had parents move their children to a neighboring town to keep their children all in the same building.
    So another thought for you.. where do you want the new babies to go? I think Amy makes a valid point in that staying in your current situation if possible might not be a bad idea. If he is starting to get the concepts of letters and numbers but may need more review it could be a good thing. I can promise you that with new twins there will be many a day that you are just happy to have some professionals who know him and that you can trust. (which is sounds like you have now) The public schools will keep him extra years anyhow so maybe staying in the preschool setting one more year would be appropriate.
    We also took a very serious look at accessibility in the school and on the playground. We ended up with a playground that has an adapted swing, a teeter totter that she can use and the best part is a play surface that is thick mat that she can drive her wheelchair on or walk in her walker with. Hope this is somewhat helpful. Just remember that I don’t “know” your son so if I wrote anything offensive I didn’t mean it that way.
    :) Just in case those twin pregnancy hormones are on the verge today. :)

    • No hormones going crazy over here! You are right about the playground–there is one school that’s got an accessible one. But with Charlie’s tendency to over-heat, I’m not sure he’d get to be on the playground very much anyway. It is something to think about, though.

  8. I like that you said, “our other children will be there”. That just made me smile….I like thinking about you with more children!

  9. I have to quote my mother on this one (don’t tell her). “Someone has to be first.”
    I personally think Charlie would make a great first. We can start a club.

  10. My other children won’t go to the same school as Cici. But, I’m kind of ok with it. Even in a big district the school that has the facilities for her is very close to our house, and she will be bussed there. Lucky us! In my view, we have made what we think are the best decision for each of the kids individually. What might be best for Cici is not for the others, and vice versa. Heck, even what’s best for my boy isn’t necessarily the best for my girl, but they’re close enough, at least. I did have to get over the “one dropoff” scenario (because now I have THREE dropoffs), and come to terms with not having all my kids in one school TOGETHER. And as time has gone on, it’s worked out. It will for you too, whatever you decide.

    • I have always held this philosophy–especially before we had children. I also LOVE that we live in a lovely district with a very active PTA and great teachers. I’m not sure what would be available to us at other schools.

  11. Love that pic of Charlie and his Dad! I have had this same debate about the preschool that Emily is in now. I sort of feel like we are blazing a trail right now, so I will not even think about what comes later. I think my head might explode. Reading all the comments has given me a lot of food for thought on the subject. With your wisdom and level-headed thinking, I have no doubt you will come up with a plan that works for Charlie and the twins too!

  12. Is is possible for you to go in and have a chat with the principal at the neighborhood school now? Kind of get an idea of what they can do to integrate Charlie into their school community, what kids of support they are willing and able to provide for the teachers working with him and services at school? I am big on inclusion in a regular school setting and reglular classroom for so many reasons, but I also understand for the need for it to be done properly to be able to meet the needs of the child. I taught at one school that did not have the right support for a student in my class so her family decided to enroll her elsewhere, and she thrived in this new setting. I think it’s great to think about it now, especially before you have another couple kiddos to focus on. I’m already trying to figure out where Sebastian will go and he has one year more of nursery school. I’m also trying to find out how things work here in Canada too. Good luck. I think it is possible to be the new person and still have the right experience, you just have to work a lot harder. I’ve been a part of a start up special needs program and yes, it improved over time, but it was strong at the start because the people involved in making it happen were dedicated and invested in it.

    • I’m sure I could chat with her. I think I’ll wait til a little further into the year and see what his current teacher thinks about things. So many thoughts swimming in this head of mine.

  13. Oh boy. I don’t know what I’d do.

    And to be honest?

    I’m a little distracted by your husband’s bicep in that picture.