Experiences with Special Ed: The Good

I was in the Army when we first began to realize something was up. After taking Zeke to his pediatrictian, we were referred to a child study team in Kansas City (University of Kansas Medical School, I think). Following the study team diagnosis (I’ll discuss that more in another post), we received services from the local school district. Zeke was 3.

The staff in the district was very helpful and understanding. Zeke’s teacher was a new teacher, young and inexperienced. But what she lacked in experience she more than made up for in enthusiasm and a desired to figure out what made Zeke tick. We hated putting him on a school bus each day at such an early age, but it made a huge difference.

We also received in-home support services through the district/town. Key in this group was the speech therapist. (Karm, are you out there somewhere?) Unbelievable how good she was, and the impact she had. Not only did she help Zeke, she helped us to understand many things we hadn’t quite figured out. (Example: Zeke was hyperlexic, so he responded best to written vs. spoken language. Karm’s advice – put written labels on everything so Zeke would learn the words. BRILLIANT.)

The transition from the local district in Kansas to the new district in New Jersey was pretty smooth. Obviously, we had to figure out what services were available, what the differences in state laws were, etc. We were unfamiliar with the federal statutes, though if I remember correctly there was still a lot of growing pains in those.

The local district had a “pre-school handicapped” program that covered a fairly broad array of disabilities. The lead teacher in this classroom was very good. Like the pre-school teacher before her, she was very interested in Zeke as an individual. Zeke made good progress that year.

Following a nightmarish Kindergarten year (detailed in “The Bad” and “The Ugly” sections), Zeke began attending the School For Children at Monmouth University. We got the IEP worked out and Zeke began the first of eight wonderful years there. When reassignment time came around (I was still in the Army at this point), I resigned my commission so that Zeke could stay in the program. That should tell you how highly we thought of that program. (There is not enough room to go into all the good from those eight years here.)

After some serious research into the programs and services available for both Zeke and his NT brother Ian, this past summer we moved back to my original hometown of St. Louis. Within the St. Louis County School system is the Special School District, which includes programs very similar to the program Zeke was in at SFC.

Having learned from our last move that preparation would be important in any change of school district, we made the time to get to St. Louis last spring and meet some of the key people within SSD and at the schools we thought would be best for Zeke. When we finally moved to St. Louis and registered Zeke at the local high school, we had copies of his latest IEP, progress report, and his results from the NJ Grade Eight Proficiency Assement (GEPA) to give to the registrar. We also let her know that we were familiar with what was available in SSD and what we thought would be the best placement.

A meeting was scheduled, everyone was invited. Summer vacation was just winding down, staff was just getting back, and the school’s opening was delayed by several days due to storm damage. We weren’t able to convene the IEP team until the day after school started. (Yes, this is still part of “The Good”.) But when we met, everyone that needed to be there was there. The team members read his IEP, listened to our past experiences and future goals, talked a bit to Zeke, and (after a bit of translation from NJ to MO formatting) came up with a new IEP.

Zeke started school the very next day. He loves it so far.