Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back to the Books

I just got home from dropping off Will at weight-lifting and I realized I'm going to have to turn around in 15 minutes and go get him again! Sigh...

This week we had our meeting at the school with several school officials concerning Ben's entry into school. They admitted to me that this was a first for them - having a long-time homeschooled special needs student desiring re-entrance into the public school system. Suppose that says something about homeschooling? I know a whole lot of special needs homeschoolers who started out in the public schools... We brought along a friend from church, Terry, to serve as our "advocate." Up until a year and a half ago, Terry was the principal of SE Warren high school. He's spent his entire career in education, I believe. He was the first one I spoke to about putting Ben in school - last fall when he spent a Saturday helping Paul reshingle the garage roof. He's made phone calls for us and just walked us through the process. When this is all over we want to do something for special for him, because we are SO grateful!

When the principal of Pleasantville walked into the meeting, his eyes about bugged out of his head when he saw Terry at the table! They know eachother from Terry's days as principal at SEW. I don't think it occurred to Pleasantville that we would come "armed" with an advocate. And you know, it may not be strictly necessary. We never had one in the years that we dealt with the Missouri Valley school system in Western Iowa. Of course, we didn't really know what we were doing back then, either! Pleasantville seems like a really nice school and I'm doubtful that they would try to get away with anything. But then again, when it comes to money (Ben's entrance into school comes with a substantial amount of state money, not all of which has to be used for his education), it's hard to say what some people will do.

So, this first meeting was basically just a "get to know you" type of deal. They asked me to tell them Ben's history, both medical and educational, and I soon realized that they were asking me, not as Ben's mother, but as his teacher. That felt a little odd because I've always seen myself as his mother, foremost! Then, we met the lady who will be Ben's one on one aide. Anywhere Ben goes in school, she'll be there. She's about 60, shorter than Ben, and very spry and enthusiastic. I immediately liked her! She gave Paul, Ben, and me a tour of the building, at Ben's request. At the end of it, she said she needed "rollerskates" to keep up with Ben. You don't know the half of it, Lady!

While we were on this tour, something happened that really made me feel good and enforced to me that we made a good decision in going with Pville. We passed by the coach's office door which was open. Coach Koerselman called out a greeting to us, which shocked me to death. He was Will's football coach last year. I had no clue that he remembered us. The only times he would have seen us would have been at Will's game and of course, Coach would have been so busy with a thousand other things at that time. But he did! I told him that we were enrolling Ben and he said that he had heard we were doing that. He did? From where? Does everyone in the school know? Is it that newsworthy? And then he wanted to know how Will was doing. He told me that weightlifting for track was starting this week and would Will like to lift with the team? He knew Will didn't have a real interest in running track (the kid hates to run, which makes me laugh - isn't running an integral part of playing football?!) I was just so touched by this.

Now I am bringing Ben in for testing the entire month of March- 1 to 2 times weekly. This is so the AEA can get an idea of where he is academically and we can design his school program. Then, our big IEP meeting - where we actually present what we want for Ben's education, and the school counters with what they are willing to offer - is April 22.

So I took Ben in yesterday for his first "probe" (test). They told me to plan on an hour - we were there 15 minutes! But I'm not complaining! The AEA lady handed Ben a sheet of 2nd grade math problems and set the timer and told him to "go!" Ben just looked at the paper blankly. He's never in his life taken a timed test and he doesn't just do his schoolwork. Any schoolwork he has ever done has happened because I sat down and did it with him! But with a little coaxing, we got Ben to do the paper. I thought it was awfully easy work. We've been working on two and three digit multiplication and these were basic math problems. He did two of those and then the lady had Ben read a paragraph, which he was able to do. I'm curious as to how he will test, but it's not my first priority. My main goal for Ben is for him to develop some independence and learn some basic life skills - how to interact with people, how to cook, how to behave when Mom isn't there to sit on him, etc.

Gotta keep moving. I think my pizzas are burning now. I went to pick up Will and he got in the van, sweat-drenched and gasping. He said, "They made me run 2 miles and I'm not even on the track team!" Somehow, my motherly sympathy just won't kick into gear on this...

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