Joey's IEP meeting is this week. The purpose of the meeting is to determine his goals for the next year, but I think it will only be the first of at least two meetings, since I had the school actually do some evals, and they aren't done yet. Can't really make goals for a child until you know where they are.
However, here is the beginning: that first attempt to hammer out what Joey needs, and where we need to focus. As such, it is time to re-assess the bigger picture: try to get a handle on who Joey is, what he needs to move forward in his own development, and how to support those needs.
When Joey was getting what he needed, he made a lot of progress both socially and academically, meeting his goals and becoming increasingly independent. That was four years ago. Trust me, I know how horrible that reads. Right now, that is not where we are. We need to meet Joey where he is right now, not where we think he ought to have been. At the same time, what happened? And what can we do to fix it so we return to meeting goals, making progress, and resuming the march to solid development and independence? How do we go back to helping Joey be happy, and gain the skills he needs to successfully manage himself and his own life as an adult?
How do we re-gauge what he can accomplish in a year? Clearly, this needs to be reconsidered. He hasn't hit his goals in four years. We need to re-consider what the bigger goals are, and how to break them down into the smaller chunks. Then we need to be meeting those chunks. We need to reconsider what made Joey so successful before, and ask why he is no longer meeting his goals. What combination of re-write and resources would make this next IEP successful?
Key to all of is this, what will those goals be? What are the larger goals? Broad goals like "being happy" and "becoming independent" are too vague to work with. What does Joey need to be successful in the school environment, and in the larger world? How can we get him access to the curriculum of the school, assessed accurately in his success in learning that curriculum, and engaging that curriculum in terms of skills and knowledge? You can't write goals until you know what skills he has, what skills he can use, and what skills he needs. You need to understand where the real gaps are. It's useless to write a goal saying a child needs to learn how to write a sentence if the real problem is that the child needs to learn how to hold a pencil, or be taught to type so they can demonstrate their writing skills. It is also pretty weird to write goals about coping with anxiety when the environment seems to increase and intensify anxiety- you need to fix that environment into a low-intensity, low-anxiety environment first, so that skills can be gained and strengthened. You don't give a beginner the task of an expert; first, your goal is to master the beginner level. You then remember they haven't mastered it yet- you expect them to master it by Christmas. Then you determine means for controlling the situation and environment to provide opportunities for learning, building, and success, before moving everything up a notch. You build up to that mastery, then work on moving to the intermediate level.
Even the makers of Angry Birds understand that.
So this is only the first meeting. We can't finish this task until we have the evaluations, and compare those evaluations to our own observations. I get tired of evaluations telling me he has trouble with math, or can't read well. Really? Allow me to disprove that one for you...