Today was T's ACR (Annual Case Review) at his elementary school, where his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is updated for the next year. Law requires that it be updated at a minimum of once every 365 days. These Case Conferences can be harrowing experiences - for all involved. Parents & school districts can get into some very heated debates about what a "Free and Appropriate Education" looks like. Believe me, I hear about it at work every day.
Rob & I have always gone out of our way to collaborate with the schools. I suppose this is helped along by 1) my need to please others and be liked, 2) my diplomacy, and 3) both Rob's & my mother having taught in the public schools. We've grown up hearing the school's point of view, and I even did a short stint myself in the public schools, having student taught during my senior year in college. So we've approached school professionals as such: professionals, not adversaries. In our early days, when our Case Conferences actually happened in our kitchen, I baked cookies or banana bread, had coffee ready, and we all mapped out an IEP for T together. While I haven't provided a baked good in a while, we still take this approach: respect, collaborate, listen. I don't know if we've been lucky, but with only one glaring exception, we have always had an excellent working relationship with the schools, and have managed to get what we want for our boy.
(The glaring exception being the nightmare speech therapy situation in Small College Town where T didn't get speech therapy for 4 months solid - LONG story there. Another post, another day.)
I don't expect the schools to provide the Cadillac education for him. That is up to Rob & me to assemble for him, and the schools are part of the package.
Long story short: we continue to have an ABA therapist from his therapy clinic with T during one of the 1/2 days he attends. Public schools in general have a very strong bias against ABA, and most of the time it is best NOT to even mention ABA during a Case Conference (even though the movement of using Positive Behavior Supports basically is ABA - but we won't mention that). I was prepared to have to go to bat to keep this in place for him, but not a word was mentioned, nothing challenged - just keeping the same services he has this year, only adding some more directed social interaction opportunities with typical peers during recess and lunch.
I thanked all the staff for working so nicely with us, ironing out this unique situation we've put together for T. We were thanked for being so good to work with.
It feels really good. It really doesn't have to be a big battle. Perhaps the fact that T doesn't have majorly disruptive behavior problems helps - I'm sure it does - plus he's so darn cute and smiley that everyone that works with him adores him...that has to help as well!
After all the drama at his former ABA clinic last summer & fall, and all the ugly behavior and manipulation & secrecy, this was a most welcome meeting. Look out 3rd grade, here we come.