Well, despite pride being one of the seven deadly sins, I'm going to award myself an Attagirl, based on two bits of advice from past online conversations that I picked up and put into action on Joy's behalf. And I'll rationalize the shameless self-congratulation because, hey, I'm sharing the good ideas with all of you, and that has to count for something! Right?
Bit of advice #1 was something we did last year: take a photo of your child to the IEP meeting (the summit at which you put together the Individualized Education Program/Plan that shapes what school-district services your child will receive in the coming year.) Since Joy is too young to attend such meetings, and we were dealing with administrators who had never met her, I glommed onto that advice as a way to give her a physical presence at the proceedings. We were very pleased with the outcome of the meeting and how it shaped the summer and this school year so far, and that photo surely helped set that stage.
Bit of advice #2 was something that I ran across before either Rose or Joy had started with the school district. The advice was to become a "presence" at your child's school as early as possible, so that you are not a stranger to the powers-that-be when your kiddo with all her unique needs comes down the pike. Since Rose started school first, I've been able to volunteer on her behalf and also position myself as an already-valued part of the community as Joy moves toward kindergarten. This year I help kids in Rose's classroom with their reading, and volunteer in the school library as well. I also designed and maintain the PTA website, which brought me to the attention of the principal, and made me a known quantity to be able to raise concerns about last year's poor snow-removal on the city sidewalks across from the school (got it onto the PTA board agenda, people who knew people talked to people who get things done, and there's definitely been improvement!)
Now that 2008 has rolled over into 2009, it's time to think IEP again. Joy will turn 5 at the end of May, putting her at kindergarten age for next fall, but we're leaning pretty heavily toward waiting an extra year. Once she starts attending school, it becomes ridiculously difficult to arrange a full schedule for her intensive autism therapy, which cannot overlap with school hours. (Gah. Don't get me started... that'll be a rant for another post.) Since she's got an almost-summer birthday, she wouldn't be that much older than her classmates with early-fall birthdays anyway.
So, what's the process for delaying kindergarten for Joy? First, I needed to contact the administrator who presided over last April's IEP meeting -- who surely remembers us pretty clearly, in part because it's apparently so unusual to bring a framed photo to the meeting around here. The photo of Joy was a memorable one, riding on the zoo carousel and beaming ear to ear. Then that administrator sets up a meeting for us with the school principal -- you know, the guy who already knows me as a good person to work with because of the volunteering and PTA stuff...
Maybe it's premature to do the "shameless self-congratulation" dance, since the meeting hasn't even been scheduled yet! But, having put into practice those two bits of wisdom from other special-needs parents online, I'm feeling so much better about even the prospect of how this process is supposed to go.
In unrelated news, I also got some bloggy appreciation from my sister-in-law ARatM (short for Auntie Running-at-the-Mouth). I drew her name this year in the family holiday gift exchange, and my gift to her was a hand-embroidered running hat emblazoned with "RatM". Not only did she wear it for a race on New Year's Day, she changed her profile pic to show off her new gear. Check it out!