Melanie and I had a great meeting with Whitney's teachers, physical therapist, interpretor, IEP administrator and teacher's assistant this past week. It was time to set goals for the next year at school. As we looked back we're pleased with all the great help Whit is getting at school. She's made great progress with paying attention in class and participating in the activities. She still needs reminder prompts to take part in what's going on around her. But she's getting better all the time. We set some new goals for this next year, but the most important item of the meeting was some discussion about where Whitney should go for kindergarten next year.
Whit has three choices for school next year. On one extreme she can be "mainstreamed" into a kindergarten class full of typical kids at the same school all the neighborhood kids attend. Whit would still recieve all the speech, physical and occupational services she gets now, but she'd be in a class with 30 or more of her peers. Other parents feel strongly that even though their children have special needs, they should be in a class with their typical peers. Melanie and I just don't feel that way. In fact I think Whitney would shut down with the commotion of 30 or more other kindergarteners in the same class.
On the other extreme is a brand new school for disabled children being built in our school district. It will be finished just in time for school to start next fall. At this school Whitney would be placed in a class with other children with disabilities. Many of the children with the greatest needs are sent here and they have a good experience. However, if we go this route, Whitney wouldn't have any contact with a typical classroom setting or any of her peers without special needs.
Then in the middle is an option Melanie and I are considering most seriously. Many elementary schools in the district have clusters of special needs children that attend smaller special classes, but also have contact with the other students in the school. They have lunch together and go to the same programs and assemblies. And Whit will have access to all the services she needs, but she'll get a bit more of the flavor of "normal school." I really like the thought of this, because it closely resembles the special needs preschool where she's thrived for the past couple of years.
The great thing is that the school administrators will allow us to change our minds if the situation we choose isn't working out. So we'll talk more before we make the final decision, but it's comforting to know the school district has so many great programs for special children like my little daughter.