Thursday, March 9, 2017

And Now for Something More Positive

Remember that post from last week, the one about a note home from school? Yeah.

Yesterday was our annual IEP meeting to discuss Olivia’s progress and what accommodations she’ll need/receive next year.

First, let me state how grateful I am to her teachers, therapists and most importantly, the principal of her school. These people make me feel good about sending my child to them every single day.

Sure, I have moments of doubt like the one a couple of weeks ago when notes come home but we discussed that note in our meeting and her principal said that she actually likes that Olivia gets stubborn with them sometimes. She WANTS Olivia to find her voice, to start being a little bratty even because it means she’s coming out of her shell, she’s getting comfortable with everyone working with her and her place at the school.

At one point in our discussion about Olivia’s limitations and frustrations with her lack of attention, Mrs. M, the principal stopped us all. She had something important to tell us, she said.

“Let me start out by saying that I love Olivia. I started working here when Olivia was in KinderKids and at that point, none of us knew what Olivia could do because she was, and still is, such a mystery. She wasn’t talking to anyone here at school and we were beginning to think she would need to be placed in the special education class full time because we just didn’t know what she knew.

“Now, though, four years later, she’s proving she can do the work. She’s talking to every single adult that comes in contact with her. She talks to one peer at a time as long as no one else is focused on her.
“And most importantly, when she was in KinderKids it never occurred to any of us that she would take the standardized state testing. We planned to exempt her from the start. Then, when we decided last year to let her take the tests, we exempted her from having to pass those tests in order to move on to fourth grade. But guess what? She passed! She passed when other kids, typical kids, did not. She can do this work. We just have to break a few bad habits that have formed over the years for her and for us. She likes to be babied. She’ll let anyone, peers, teachers, therapists, parents, siblings, you name it, if they’ll baby her, Olivia will let them.”

At this point, she paused to let us all take it in.

Finally, she continued, “Olivia has proven she can do the academic work of her typical peers. Sure, we make some accommodations but in the end, she’s proven herself and we just have to continue to let her do that and expect it of her.”

It was all very reminiscent of the day we got Liv’s diagnosis. Her doctor told us to take her home, to love her, and to expect from her what we expect from her sister.

The meeting continued. Liv will continue to receive weekly speech therapy with a peer because she will already talk to the therapist but doesn’t seem to want to converse with peers, so we’ll work on that.

She’ll get more time, fewer options in multiple choice tests, the occasional pull-out for tests or extra help and she’ll stay in the mainstream classroom as much as possible because that’s where she’s getting the most out of school. Being with her typical peers is very important. She’s a mimicker. She’ll do pretty much whatever those around her are doing, even if quietly off on her own.

Which is why we don’t want her placed in a special education class with other special needs kids. She needs to be around typical peers to learn what typical behavior is expected of her.

I feel so much better today than I did last week when I wrote about that note.

I have so much hope for Olivia, so much faith in the team working with her and so much pride in how far my girl has come. She’s a warrior. She works so hard and yes, she can challenge the most patient person in the world but she’s a fighter and the fact that she challenges us just means she’s got a mind of her own and she’s figuring out how to express what is going on in that amazing mind of hers.

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