Frumpfighter

Special education evaluations tough, but needed

Posted on: May 14, 2009

It wasn’t too long after my son, Sage, was born in 2002 that his day care providers alerted my husband and me about delays in our son’s development.

He didn’t respond to sights and sounds like a typical 4-month-old. So we had his hearing (which was fine when tested right after birth) and sight checked, including a MRI to check for any abnormalities in his brain. The hearing and MRI results came back fine but it was discovered he had a small, gray optic nerve. He was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia which can range from mild to debilitating.

Soon after, we were referred to an early intervention program through Kansas Infant-Toddler Services. Thus began my dread of evaluations. In my mind, my baby was just a little behind in some areas and everyone was blowing things out of proportion. In one of his evaluations at day care, a teacher’s assistant said he didn’t smile at people or show affection. Are you kidding me? He always smiled at me and was a cute, cuddly baby.

As the evaluations continued, so did my annoyance. At 13 months, his displayed skills of a 6-month-old. At 18 months, he was more like a 10-month-old. I felt once he finally learned how to walk, things would be fine. It just took him a little longer to learn things.

When we moved to Iowa in 2004 when Sage was 18 months old (and still not walking), we were referred to Grant Wood Area Education Agency for early childhood services. Within a couple months he started walking and I didn’t think Grant Wood’s services were longer needed. But they were. Sage still had delays in his speech as well as gross and fine motor skills. The fine folks at Grant Wood worked with him and made sure we knew about other available services.

A year later when Sage was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified on the autism spectrum, we weren’t all that surprised. Jolted, yes, but not surprised. The evaluations kept coming and kept breaking my heart. Now he wasn’t just months behind in certain areas, but years.

A year ago while preparing for Sage to enter kindergarten, my husband and I went through our first official IEP meeting.  Mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, the Individualized Education Program is designed to fit the needs of each student in special education. There were five or six people at the table discussing my baby. All of these professionals are good, caring people but in that setting it seemed like I was sitting in front of a firing squad listening to everything that was needed for my son’s special needs.

Last week we met with almost the same group of people to discuss Sage’s progress in kindergarten and prepare his IEP for next year. I no longer felt like I was in front of a firing squad. I don’t know if that was because I knew everybody in the room or by now, I am getting used to these evaluations. I was pleased with his progress. He is at grade level academically but still behind socially and behaviorally. Since I am quite aware of the second part of that statement, I’ll focus on the first part. Grade level.

Trust me; I know these evaluations are tough. Nobody wants to hear their 5-year-old has the skill level of a 2-year-old in some areas. But if somebody is trying to tell you something about your child, listen. And then let them help you and your child. Because being at grade level by the time they are in first grade is a lot better than ignoring the problem or waiting too long.

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4 Responses to "Special education evaluations tough, but needed"

Yes, meetings like evaluations are tough, but as you say they are an opportunity to discuss how your child is getting on and to get further help. They’re just something parents need to go through. It’s a bit like one of those job interviews when you walk in the room and there’s a whole panel there and you just feel like walking back out again!

Chun: It’s one of those things that is tough on the parent, but shouldn’t get in the way of what’s best for the child. Thanks for commenting!

Yet again, a wonderful article. Thanks for being so honest and open about what the ups and downs of motherhood!

Thanks, Mariah. As you know, the ups outweigh the downs, but everything has to be dealt with for the best of the child.

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