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ARD, IEP and other Alien Words

A mother dives into the world of special education

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The captain - haircutOur 5-year-old (The Captain) has been in a Pre-K program through the school district these past two years.  It’s called PEAR, Pre-School Expessive and Receptive Language program.  In short, they teach the kids how to talk.   At that time, he spoke so little that the nature of his deficit was not obvious.  Now, most of the experts in his world think it is a speech delay and that is likely the result of the trauma caused by living most of his early life in foster care.

It’s a wonderful program taught by a special ed teacher with a speech pathologist.  When I look at their plans for the week, it looks like any pre-school program: stories, playtime, painting, cooking, sensory elements and so on.  Yet somehow this magic turns into improved speech.

In the summer before acceptance into the program, I attend my first ARD meeting to agree upon goals for our son.  (ARD means Annual Renewal Admission/Dismissal).  At this meeting, his appropriateness for the program is discussed and goals are set for the following school year.  After the first meeting, I burst into tears the minute I got in my car.  It was so much to process!  The teachers and specialist leading the meeting were sweet as could be; I was just upset that he needed these services.

The result of the ARD meeting was the IEP, Individual Education Plan.  The IEP follows your child into any school he or she attends and ensures that any disabilities or special needs are noted and schools are required to provide services and accommodations based on this plan.  I will be attending this year’s ARD next week, and I must admit, I don’t know where the meeting will go this time.

At 5, he’s technically old enough for kindergarten, but there are issues.  It’s as if, frankly, the almost 2-1/2 years he spent in foster care were lost to him.  His therapist places his emotional maturity at about early-three-year-old age.  Based on his actual three year old brother, I’d say that’s about right.  His academic skills lag a bit behind his emotional maturity.  He is making progress, to be sure, and that is very encouraging.

Next week, we will decide his next steps.  We may decide to send him to Kindergarten with the full understanding that he may not be ready to move on to 1st grade at the end of the year.  I don’t know what the other options we have.  I am grateful for the school district and the services they provide to our traumatized son; while we can’t erase those “lost years,” we are slowly regaining them.  I am optimistic.

Photo credit:  Dreena T