Last Friday was my son’s 3 year review. It lasted three hours, which is not uncommon for a 3 year review; ours last that long even when we don’t have assessments to review. As I stated in my previous blog, my son is now in the 5th grade….yes, preparing for that wonderful time called “Middle School.” Our concerns for middle school are with his Academics, Speech/Language and Social Skills. My son’s Woodcock Johnson Achievement scores were quite surprising to us. He is now in the high average range in spelling and math calculation. However, he is still in the low average range in reading comprehension, story recall-delayed and applied problems with regards to math. He has a lot of strengths as well as many needs.
We tackled these areas by making sure that he has a goal to work on for each area of need which required us to write 9 goals. For example, we added a new goal pertaining to inferences because that is included in the 5th grade curriculum standards for the State of California. It states as the year end goal:
When given one page of fifth grade text, he will draw inferences, conclusions, or generalization about the text and support them with textual evidence with no more than one adult prompt per example with 60% accuracy in 2 of 3 trials.
Since we brought a copy of the California State Standards for 5th grade, we were able to write a very specific goal pertaining to inferences. FYI, whenever you have an IEP for your child and you will be going over the academic assessments, it’s a good idea to bring a copy of your state’s academic standards pertaining to your child’s grade to the IEP so that you can develop a goal in the areas they are struggling in. Another important goal we added pertains to Study Skills, specifically test taking strategies. His year end goal states:
When participating in a language arts assessment, he will independently use 2 test taking strategies which may include reading aloud, re-reading, highlighting, underlining, using key words and rephrasing questions with 75% accuracy in 2 of 3 opportunities.
As we all know, kids with disabilities struggle on standardized tests, so they need to learn strategies to help them become successful in the area. Another area of concern is Speech & Language, with regards to pragmatics. Pragmatics basically means conversational Speech. Along with articulation, my son has struggled in this area as well. His articulation problems are mostly gone, but his conversational speech disability still impacts him academically as well as socially. As a result, the Speech Pathologist now finds him eligible for speech under the category of Language Disorder. The State of California defines Language Disorder by the following:
1. Language Disorder (when both of the following criteria are met)
a. Using more than one assessment procedure, the student scores at 1.5 standard deviation below the mean, or below the 7th percentile, of his or her age or developmental on tests in one or more of the following areas of language development: morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics. When standard tests are considered invalid for a specific student, the expected language performance level shall be determined by alternative means as specified on the assessment plan; and
b. The student displays inappropriate or inadequate usage of expressive language as measured on a representative spontaneous language sample of minimum of fifty utterances.
My son’s IEP states “He has difficulty expressing details when describing an item. He often gives short and concise explanation without detail. He has difficulties with the social cues of language with his peers. An Assessment using the Social Language Development Test shows that his skills are far below average for his age. He has difficulty dealing with interpersonal negotiation and supporting his peers.” This statement describes him perfectly because he struggles in writing detailed paragraphs as well as socializing with his peers!! His year end pragmatic goal states:
He will express age appropriate social skills (conflict resolution and supporting peers) in structured language tasks with 80% accuracy
Now that I think about it, I think this year end goal is too optimistic. Another area of concern that goes hand in hand with Pragmatics is Social Functioning. As we all know, it’s a skill we use in everyday life. This might be the hardest disability to overcome for my son. He’s been receiving Recreation Therapy for a few years now in school, so he has been given some strategies to help him socialize. The problem is that he has a self restricting nature, so he prefers not participate in large group activities for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Also, his difficulty with pragmatics and making inferences in a social situation prevents him from initiating conversations with his peers.
The Impact of Disability states, “He has difficulty with exploring and developing interests, consistently using reciprocal interactions and self restricting nature make it difficult for him to develop and use the necessary activity and social skills required to engage in a variety of school based cooperative learning and cooperative play.” We had a long discussion about this subject with the Adaptive PE Teacher, Speech Pathologist, Resource Teacher, General Ed Teacher and the Recreational Therapist. Everyone did a great job of providing their input as to what they see him do in school! The Speech Therapist and Recreational Therapist had their own discussion about how their strategies would piggy back off each other. The Recreational Therapist is going to work with his strong visual skills to help him feel more comfortable in a social situation; it’s a Social Thinking philosophy called “People Files.” Our People Files are defined as how we relate to people based on what we know about them: from prior memories and through cues from the current situation. For example, his year end goal states:
He will use presented visual strategies to be able to initiate engagement with a peer or initiate engagement in an activity as least once per day, 4/5 days per week for 6 consecutive weeks with one adult cue or prompt.
I look back and see how far he’s come, but I know he still has a long ways to go. Will he be prepared for Middle School next year…….who knows!! We’re all doing the best we can and hope for the best. I have to remind myself to take each obstacle as it comes. You never know, he might surprise us all next year!
To read about my son's IEP from 2010 please read The Ever Changing IEP