Speaking of Speech

As part of the Monster’s IEP, he receives speech therapy thrice a week – two pull-outs and a push-in – at school.  This was (believe it or not) an increase from what the city schools had wanted to give us, mostly because we insisted at his initial IEP meeting that the twice-a-week sessions were not showing enough progress under his IFSP.

Another part of his IEP, as I mentioned last week, requires regular communications from his teachers so that we know what we can do to reinforce.  When we went to school last Friday to get some traction on our issues with communication thus far, we discussed that we wanted more information from the speech therapist, especially in light of a recent evaluation that indicated that there had been regression on the speech front.

So yesterday afternoon, I trekked back over to the school to meet with the Monster’s SLP.

My goal in going over to meet with the SLP was to try to hammer out how we could get more information about what the Monster’s doing in his sessions, basically so we could apply the same at home and try to have consistency that might give him a kick-start towards ‘normal’ expressive language.  We had been cautioned by the IEP Coordinator that our SLP is fairly rigid when it comes to her process, and that while she is likely one of the best ones in the city schools, that she might likely be resistant to changing her process just to suit us.  Her process, to date, has been to send home a checklist at least biweekly with scant notes about how the Monster’s progressing towards his general IEP goals in speech.

My first impressions of his SLP were that she’s detail-oriented, professional and direct.  She met me, promptly, at the school office and we went back to his classroom where his general educator was waiting for us as well, and we settled in to discuss what my ‘concerns’ are.  This was where we hit our first bump – she feels she’s being very communicative, and that she’s giving us all the information she needs give us to help reinforce what she’s doing.  After all, we have the same IEP in front of us as she does, and that should tell us what we need to know.  I brought up that neither my wife nor I are trained SLPs, and that we don’t know the activities she’s doing, the tools she’s using, et cetera… and that seemed to be irrelevant to her.

I also found out what the structure of his thrice-weekly sessions are – contrary to our understanding, all three sessions are group sessions (group being 2-3 children total).  Both my wife and I were under the impression that at least one of those three sessions was individual… and I think this is something we’re going to push for with his IEP review in a few weeks.  I do know that when he was in PIES, he thrived under the speech schedule he had there – one individual and one group session per week – and that we’re not seeing the same rapidity of development in his first four months of full public school that we did in the five months of twice-a-week half-days in the other program.

Over the course of the half-hour meeting, I think I managed to finally emphasize to her that she needs to be less terse with her notes and perhaps include some more details on what she’s doing with the Monster.  I agreed that we’re willing to reach out by email when we have specific questions – I’m thinking these are going to largely be asking for elaborations on her checklists, because clearly, she’s not understanding what I want – and agreed that we would discuss what we could do differently at home to try to make it more like the classroom.  It would seem they’re using PECS in the classroom, which we’d moved away from at home.  It’s not too much for us to go back to picture schedules, though, and the SLP is willing to print us pictures for things we don’t have.

Another point that I found interesting that she emphasized is that the Monster is one of 41 students she handles.  Yes, I realize teachers are overburdened and overworked.  (His general-education teacher has 12 in her class, with 2 paraprofessionals and 2 1-on-1 aides, though 6 of the kids in the classroom are not IEP students.)  I still don’t think, however, that I’m asking all that much in asking her to take three extra minutes to give us more details, even when I conceded that I’m willing to stick to her communication schedule of at-least-biweekly.

All in all, I think the proof is going to be in the pudding, as they say – if things don’t improve, and rapidly, with the communication, I’ll be paying another visit to the IEP coordinator.

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