Well, we met with a Pre-K teacher and our intervention case worker on Friday about Jackson's the future of special services for Jackson's communication delay. In case you don't know the history you can go here, here, here, here, and here to get caught up.
What we've seen improve the most from speech therapy is Jackson's auditory comprehension. Even our speech therapist has been amazed by what he understands in the past few weeks. She even broke out the picture cards and he pointed out things that we didn't even know he understood. It made us all realize that knows and comprehends just about everything we say and everything he sees, he's just not good at expressing that he knows and understands it.
All of Jackson's initial goals have been met and they've been updated twice since he started intervention and that has been really uplifting. He may still be behind but at least we are seeing consistent progress! At this point we're thinking he's probably at around a 6 month delay in speech, which is much better than he was before.
Unfortunately, intervention services through the state stop at the age of three and then the local school system picks up via a preschool program. That is why we had to meet with the preschool teacher and our caseworker on Friday -- to discuss what may happen once Jackson turns three.
The meeting was really informative and I had a lot of questions going in. My main concern was the range of delay that the other children in the class will have. What I don't want is for Jackson to be in a class where he is the most developed kid in there. When I asked the teacher about it she was very clear to say, "Well, this is a special ed program..."
When she said that, I suddenly felt like I was drowning again. First, it confirmed my fears that there would be some children in the class with SEVERE delays of all sorts - from motor skills to cognition to communication. Second, that my child...MY CHILD...would be in "special ed." That is a hard pill to swallow and makes me emotional just thinking about it. No...not my kid...not my Jackson. No way....he can't be "special ed," can he? I mean "special ed" comes with a ton of terrible stereotypes -- "retarded", "riding the short bus", "stupid", etc. And while I know those things aren't true, I know that if Jackson ends up in special ed he will have to face people saying those things to him. And no one wants that for their child! I know that I can't protect him from everything, and he will most likely face some type of bullying at some point in his adolescence, but to start out school at such a disadvantage would probably ensure that he'd face those things much earlier than expected.
As the meeting went on I did start to feel better about the program though. The goal is to have the majority of children who enter the program, test out of it by the time they start Kindergarten. And since Jackson has a late birthday, he would have at least 2 full years in the program, which greatly increases his chances of doing so. The teacher also encouraged us to come observe so we could see first hand the range of students in the class and how they run things and attend to the needs of each child on a day to day basis.
About half way through the meeting, a big question arose. Will Jackson even qualify for the program at all? See, in oder to test into the program, he has to have a 25% delay in two areas or a 40% delay in one. And right now, according to an informal evaluation, he only has a 17% delay in two areas and a 24% delay in another. And the 24% delay is only because he's not potty trained (which I think it's ridiculous that they even have that as a goal so early). They will do a formal evaluation sometime in August or September, but with the strides he's been making due to Speech Therapy we're unsure he'll qualify.
So, I'm left feeling torn...
Do I want him to test into the program, which is FREE I might add, and have him be one of the top performing students in the class? I know from my teaching experience that sometimes the top kids end up getting ignored and thus unchallenged because they don't need as much attention from the teacher. But, if Jackson does test into the program, and we decide to have him attend - he will also continue to receive FREE speech therapy twice a week through it.
Or do we pay for a regular preschool program? Not only will that be tough on our finances, but I also fear that his communication delay might be viewed as a behavior problem and not handled correctly. I don't want Jackson to be viewed as disobedient or defiant simply because he doesn't understand, or can't communicate his understanding of instructions and other things. Also, if he doesn't attend the special ed preschool program - TEIS will no longer cover his speech therapy. Which means if we choose to continue it, we will have to pay for it. And right now, insurance won't cover it at all so that would be a battle we'd have to fight with them and ultimately another hefty expense.
There is just so much to think about and so much to pray about in the coming months. My prayer is that God would make it clear to us and that what is best for Jackson is what would happen. If he doesn't need the program or it would serve to his detriment rather than benefit -- I pray he won't test into it. But if he needs it and it would prepare him for school better than regular pre-k -- I pray he would test in.
I wish we could've gotten definite answers as to what the future holds regarding special services for Jackson, but is seems as if God has decided our patience and our faith in Him for just a little longer. I don't know exactly what He has planned or the purpose of it yet, but I will continue to trust in Him during this time. Your prayers are welcomed and appreciated as well!