I'm swimming in alphabet soup.
Today I met with the CPSE* for Ryan's IEP** review. The CPSE chair had been on maternity leave, and absolutely nothing happened in her absence (someone was assigned to cover her duties, but SHE was out for a month on disability, and nobody covered her), so this was a meeting to address issues that had come up at the end of the summer. Ryan's speech therapist wanted to be able to provide him with an additional weekly session, and I wanted the school district to pay for SEIT*** services again (SEIT coverage had been cut off when Ryan moved from half-day to full-day school).
These meetings are always attended by what I imagine is the full Committee, but I don't understand why all these people need to be there. At this meeting were the Chair, the school district psychologist, a general education teacher (not a teacher who has ever met my son), the social worker from Ryan's new school, and the Additional Parent Member. This last one has baffled me from the beginning - he never speaks, I know nothing about him or his child, but I think he's supposed to be there to stand up for me. The only people who speak are the Chair, the social worker, and me - the other three just sit and stare at me and sign the paperwork.
The meeting was fine, we got everything I wanted. Then the Chair gave me something to worry about: kindergarten.
"I just want you to know that the cut-off is December 31st." Ryan's birthday is at the end of September, so this means the school district will consider him eligible for kindergarten this coming school year, when he's still 4. I've been working under the assumption that (if we're still living here then) I would hold him back and not send him to kindergarten until he's 5-going-on-6. The problem with that, the Chair told me, is that once the school district considers a child kindergarten-eligible, he can no longer get services through the CPSE; responsibility moves to the CSE****, which would not provide services in a preschool context, and would only be responsible for in-district services. In other words, if I hold him back for another year before starting kindergarten, I will have to pay out-of-pocket for preschool, speech, and OT*****, and if we choose a school that is not within our city's limits, things will get very complicated, and the CSE will not be responsible for anything.
The Chair recommends planning on sending Ryan to kindergarten when he's still only 4. I find this idea frightening: in an era when parents of NT****** kids are delaying when their children start kindergarten so they'll have an academic advantage, and when children are expected to know how to read in kindergarten, Ryan will be at an even more severe social disadvantage than he would be if he were the same age as the other kids. He speaks maybe at the level of a 2-year-old, and his social skills aren't much beyond that, either. How can I plan on throwing him into a room with typically-developing kids who are as much as two years older than him? Kids that age are cruel under the best of circumstances - but God help a kid with an ASD*******.
When I was in elementary school I was one of the quiet kids, but I remember what the more outspoken kids would say to the special ed kids: Stupid. Retard. And the stigma usually stuck through high school graduation, even if the kid had long since mainstreamed. The one exception I can think of was a kid who could not speak. On the first day of sixth grade, our homeroom teacher sent him out of the room to take something to the office, and she gave the rest of us a lecture about what was wrong with him and how we were going to treat him with respect and kindness. That boy wound up being reasonably popular. The rest of the special needs kids, not so much.
I need to read up on the VESID******** laws - hopefully the NYSED********* website will be more helpful than it appears at first glance.
* Committee on Preschool Special Education
** Individualized Educational Program, mandated by the IDEA ********** to provide FAPE***********
*** Special Education Itinerant Teacher (aka Chrissy)
**** Committee on Special Education
***** Occupational Therapy
******* Autism spectrum disorder
******** Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
********* New York State Education
********** Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
*********** Free Appropriate Public Education