Friday, March 16, 2007

Cautiously Optimistic

Well, we just got home from our parent-teacher conference for Buddy Boy. Although we haven't gotten any really bad feedback from his teacher this year, we were apprehensive going into this.

All in all, I have to say it went OK. My radar shields have been up this year, having been burned badly last year, I'm continually looking for hidden agendas and landmines waiting to explode. But we sat and conversed with Buddy Boy's teacher for an hour, and things went OK. Not perfect, but not bad.

We probably spent 80% of the time going over academics, 15% of the time talking about socialization, and only 5% talking about "behaviors". His teacher, Miss W., was generally upbeat, and mentioned several times how she loves Buddy Boy's love of learning. She also mentioned a fair amount of times how he loves to go on and on about any subject they talk about, telling all that he knows about the subject. I wanted to say "Duh, he's autistic. What do you expect?". But as she seems generally interested in him doing well, and generally and genuinely working towards helping him learn, I let it slide. I'll save any snide comments for his next IEP.

Miss W. spent a lot of time going over something called a Woodcock Reading Mastery Test that she had done with him. She mentioned that it usually takes her about an hour and a half to administer the test, but with Buddy Boy it took her a week and a half to get thru it, due to him repeatedly getting sidetracked.

While Buddy Boy scored high on word identification and comprehension (4th and 5th grade level), he was about at grade level (1st grade, 6 months) when it came to passage comprehension. We know he's a very good reader (though he stops and starts, and gets distracted and goes off on tangents when reading passages), but it's nice to see it confirmed that this is so. He's much better at "listing" all of the things that happened in a story, and not as good at summarizing and telling you what the story was about.

Buddy Boy's math skills are average. He's pretty much on par with what's expected from first graders. His penmanship sucks (I actually thought it looked at least as readable as most doctors' :)). The most encouraging thing is that his teacher mentioned she was going to let him use keyboarding more, as he has been practicing using a keyboard, while still having his OT work on the penmanship. I found this very encouraging, as we didn't have to suggest this.

There was some talk regarding his interupting class to keep on talking, and his being unfocused at times, but Miss W. didn't spend an inordinate amount of time talking about these things, and didn't seem to indicate that these were insurmountable problems, just things that we need to work on.

She also indicated plans for greater inclusion in regular classes this year, including computer class and music class. Also, depending on how he does in these two classes, a reading comprehension class. Miss W. also thought it would be appropriate to have an IEP meeting in May, once we see how Buddy Boy does with a bit more inclusion, to talk about plans for next year.

Miss W. mentioned that Buddy Boy actually went up to another boy in the class before recess and asked him if he wanted to play at recess. That was huge. He's never initiated something like that before, that I'm aware of. He's asked his sister to play, he's responded occasionally to other kids initiations, but I've never seen him go up to any other kids and ask them to play (maybe those social skills classes he goes to are working, who knows?).

So, all in all, it was a decent night. No hidden agendas detected. And Miss W. spent more time with us than I expected. If things keep up this way, we might even begin to trust the school district a little.

It's Spring Break next week, and I'm off work. We're taking 3 days with the kids to go visit their birthmother and their older half brother(who live about 300 miles away). Besides the birth of the two kids, we visited them one additional time about 2 years ago. Sweet Pea doesn't really remember this, so this will be a new experience for her. I'm sure the visit will be good for at least one blog entry.

Joe is 211


kristina said...

Maybe 3........ the journey, the meeting, the extra adventures....

Hope the "ok"ness of that conference lasts.

VAB said...

It's heartening to hear that things are going better. I read through your "last year" post and that sounds really, really, really hard to deal with. It will give me a bit more patience in dealing with our guy's school when I remind myself that other people have lived through worse.

I particularly loved,

"The disciplinary write ups had these check off boxes on the form for reasons they thought the behavior occurred. Almost all of the boxes had to do with the student (acting out, seeking attention, secondary gain, etc.). There maybe was one for the environment, and none at all for “provoked by idiot staff”, which was what I would have checked off."

In fact, I just sent it to my sister.

Daisy said...

Your conference sounds encouraging. I keep telling people (anyone who'll listen) that the autism spectrum is too big for any classroom teacher to really know it all. The best a parent can hope for is one with experience, a structured classroom, and an open mind. Good luck to you on the IEP!

Joeymom said...

You have a teacher that makes recommendations, instead of waiting for you to do all the work and ask for stuff you didn't know he needed? Where do we sign up?

Club 166 said...

Special education in the US, on the whole, is a broken system.

I know that there are small pockets of schools that do well, and some districts and states that are generally better than others, but it seems that whether one gets good, mediocre, or bad service is very much dependent on having good individuals in place.

The most promising thing from our meeting was that I got the impression that Buddy Boy's teacher was really interested in having him learn, and was not just giving the concept lip service. And good intentions go a long way in any situation.

I just hope I'm not proved wrong.