Last fall (2013) I took Caleb through all the steps to look for early intervention help. Starting at age 3 this help is through the local school district. Caleb was accessed and evaluated, and the resulting conclusions were that he (didn't qualify for any services at this time), I translated that based on the exact test results to mean, because he is a bright child and knows more than he should for a 3 year old, we don't see that his quirks/disabilities are impeding him educationally. "Educationally necessary" being the basis for services starting at age 3. We look this paperwork and moved on, knowing that it didn't describe our child. He wasn't being tested in a way that showed his weaknesses.
As we began to sort out his education options for Pre-Kindergarden we began to hit a brick wall. He wasn't potty training, and we had paperwork that said he wasn't in need of special services. Although the diagnosis that make our boy special would explain the lack of traditional potty training. So we started to fight again.
We could not find an special preK program that would accept him because we didn't have the paperwork in fact the paperwork we did have said the opposite of what we needed. And every program we inquired with, required fully potty training. The staff were not authorize to assist the student in the event of an accident. We were stuck.
With a helpful visit from grandma for moral support we "boot camp" potty trained so he could attend one of the public school programs, and began looking for more solutions. At this point we have 3 medical diagnosis including the Autism Spectrum, he is receiving 4 hours of week of therapies. But according to one piece of paper he doesn't need special help to succeed in the classroom.
We started the process for the second time to be evaluated by the school system. This time we had 2 people observe him in his classroom as well as a clinical observation. The reports continued to not show the full picture of what we know to be our Caleb. It did give us some markers to indeed confirm he is gifted and some of his scores were the highest the evaluator had seen. One new area of data was collected this time and it ended up being key, Pragmatics.
As I received the reports from the evaluators, I began to worry if he would be recognized for what he needed. We had 2 experts helping us through the process and interpret the results. They weren't offering anything encouraging either based on the reports. We continued to pray and share where we were.
Due to circumstances I had to attend the final meeting by myself. We had originally planned for Bob and a friend/expert to attend with me assist in the process. I was nervous about the weight the meeting held but I had that strange Godly peace. I reviewed my notes and concerns before the meeting ready to stand up for my son and what we felt his needs were.
Soon after the meeting started I snuck a glance at the staffing specialist's notes and saw the favorable mark that said "he qualifies for services" at this point I relaxed and held my breath for what that meant and what services they were going to find he needed.
The way we saw it he had 3 choices for services.
1. No services like he has been found in the past. This was not preferable and this time we were prepared but not excited about fighting if this was the result.
2. "A 504 plan" this recognizes he needs assistance and adaptations are made within a traditional classroom. He can walk around extra, extra time for tests, social seating, etc. We had begun to put a few things in place since the first week of school with mixed results, some of his triggers could not be altered.
3. An "IEP" Individual Education Plan. This would require him to be moved to a classroom with accommodations to meet his needs. The staff would be trained to specifically help him. He would have therapy and assistance available to him all the time to complete his tasks. This paperwork is the standard we were missing to qualify for any specialized education opportunities.
Our first choice was #3 where he could receive the greatest amount of intervention and assistance so he will continue to thrive and as he gets older hopefully need less or no services. Early Intervention is key. Th feedback we got was that this was a dream and he wasn't really needing this much help at this time. We were even told "he may qualify for a 504 in a couple of years," meaning that he wouldn't test special for a few years. He needed to fail more first before they would help him.
We settled on an open mind and hoping for at least #2 with #1 not being an option as we saw how it hurt his options moving forwards. Ultimately we had no idea how it was going to work out and what the recommendations would be. We also knew our rights as parents of a child with disabilities, we could refuse to accept their suggestions and take it further.
When all was said an done. They did find Caleb qualifying for services, and his goals and objectives were exactly what us as his parents felt he needed. TO sum it up one of our expert helpers summed it up this way, "WOW! I have to say I am shocked and happy!! That is really great." When an expert in special needs who has helped many families through this process is shocked, you know you did something right!
All we can say is Praise God and its answered prayers for our extra special, out of box boy. To be recognized by the school district that he will not fit into the mold they have given him. Disability may be an umbrella term that he falls under but his wired differently not less by any means.