May 31, 2010

School's out for summer!

Alex has 1 ½ days of school left. It is hard to believe that the little being who entered our lives almost 17 years ago will be a junior in high school. I am not sure I even thought about this time in our lives when we were adjusting to Alex and down syndrome. But I am here to tell you – it does happen and way too fast!

I do not think it is necessary to recap this year at school. I have written about what happened, what should have happened and out attempts to intervene to create a positive educational experience for Alex. I believe we have been partially successful and I give myself a “B”. However, as my daughter and I are both fairly competitive I wish I could say I got an “A”. I am hoping with the birth of our SEAC, and the administration’s knowledge I am a closet bulldog we will be able to realize that dream next school year.

One of our successes has been the weekly e-mail; an outgrowth of our team pow-wow earlier this year. This communication devise has kept me up to date on Alex’s progress, as well as her challenges.

Alex’s teacher has been providing insightful and truthful updates every Friday. This e-mail spawns replies from the school counselor and the speech therapist weekly. The Regular Ed teachers and the school principal will often pipe in if they have pertinent information. It has been a great tool.

Following are some recent excerpts:

From her teacher:

As the school year winds down, I'm pleased with how Alex has maintained her focus with her classes, and has shown independence in starting and working on her science & geography assignments. We used her "dentist response" paper to work on her language arts goals this week (she continues to need a "reread" of sentences to "hear" the corrections that are needed). In math, we used a "math playground" activity that required her to do measurements by combining "fraction" pieces. Socially, she has been interacting with peers in class more comfortably than in the past; it’s nice to see her becoming more comfortable with herself. She was very happy to have her braces taken off this week!!! Our last team meeting will be on Tuesday, May 25th/3:

From her Speech Therapist:

We are still working on our story Joey Dragon Bender. I am pleased that Alex is needing fewer cues from me to create more complex sentences and to add more details as well as use appropriate verb tenses. She has been working on receptively identifying which was correct in verb tenses in a sentence, but last week she stated the sentences correctly. We also searched for illustrations to add to our story. Hopefully this week we will finish off our story and email it home so that she can continue her story over the summer.

In response to Mr. S's statement about Alex and her braces being off, I noticed that something was different about her but couldn't put my finger on it specifically!! I did notice that she wasn't wearing her usual flannel pants, but work out pants on Friday and her hair was nicely brushed!!!! Baby steps!!! :)

I have enjoyed working with Alex and have learned as much from her as I think she has learned from me. She is a pleasure and has some really creative ideas when she gets motivated and feels comfortable sharing. I wish her the best this summer with the Track & Field team and softball!!!

From her Counselor:

This week, we played a social skills board game in group. Alex was excited to play a game and her competitive spirit definitely came out. She actually won the game too! The object of the game is to win the most chips and players get chips when they select a card and respond appropriately to the situation described on the card. There were social situations about asking for help with homework from a friend, joining a group of students decorating the gym, playing games by the rules and not cheating, etc. Alex struggled somewhat with empathizing and understanding the internal conflict felt by some of the characters in the scenarios. But the game is designed to give all players a chance to respond to each scenario, so Alex caught on as we discussed the scenarios as a group.

I am pleased with this success. It has not gotten Alex more time for services, but I believe it has made the team feel more vested in Alex’s success. The weekly communiqué has created a team atmosphere, a way for service providers to compare notes, work on strategies and document growth. They have felt accountable to Alex, me and the team.

I will not focus on the “why did this not happen already”, rather on the “this is great team work”. I am pleased and hopeful about next year.

Perhaps I should have given myself and Alex a “B+”.

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