Julianna’s New Schoolyear

I owe you an update. You might remember that when we first had Julianna’s kindergarten IEP meeting, back in January, the representative from her elementary school, who knew very little about her, recommended that she be in a self-contained classroom for 65% of the day. I was very upset about this on a number of levels–the most basic being: if the assumption is that kids with disabilities are going to be walled off, and they have to fight their way into the general population by proving they don’t really have a disability, then society is setting them up for remaining behind that wall their whole lives.

Christian and I set up an appointment with the school last spring. He took a day off so we wouldn’t be rushed, and we spent over an hour meeting with people at the school expressing our concerns. Julianna’s peers need to be around her at least as much as she needs to be around them, we stressed. And after all, we’re realistic about her academic future. There are a limited number of skills she needs to learn in order to function in the world: reading, writing, some basic math. And she has thirteen years to learn those skills. What she really needs is to learn how to interact with typically-developing peers–because those are the people she’s going to have to interact with as an adult. We want her schooling to prepare her to live in the community, not behind a wall.

The team was cautious in their response to us–cautious, though supportive in theory. I spent most of the summer thinking I was going to spend this school year skirting the fine line between advocate and pain in the school’s @$$. But about three weeks ago, the head of special ed at the school emailed us and said, “Hey, let’s do this IEP meeting now instead of in September.”



So the day before school started, we had an IEP meeting in Julianna’s classroom at her new school, a meeting that included the principal and a representative from the district (I’m not sure if that second one is standard, but I’m pretty sure the principal’s presence is not). It was a good thing on many levels. Our ideas for goals have solidified in the past few months, for one, and this allowed us to formalize those goals. It also served to introduce us to the team, and best of all, the school was on board with a much greater level of inclusion. They reversed the proportions. Now, Julianna is spending the day in her regular classroom, and being pulled out for PT, OT, and speech therapy, plus adaptive PE and a little bit of extra instructional time. It boils down to this: Julianna’s in a regular ed classroom around 70% of the time.

I’m very pleased with the school so far. There are the quirks I don’t care for–like the chocolate Teddy grahams at breakfast that first day, and the fact that the bus didn’t even show up yesterday morning (but that’s a problem with the bus company, not the school)–but the feel of the school, and the vibes from the staff, have been 100% positive. Very supportive, very sweet, very professional and empathetic–in a nutshell, everything you could ask for in the people who are going to be working with your child. And I put this out in the e-universe as a word of hope to those who are viewing the transitions with trepidation.