Wednesday, November 17, 2010

least restrictive environment

In special ed everything we do is dictated by federal law IDEA-II. Part of this law says that children must be educated in the least restrictive environment that will meet their needs. For every IEP we write for students we sit go over what the least restrictive environment is, every factor we must legally consider about placing a child in the least restrictive environment, and then we assign the child to certain service categories that will meet that child's needs best. At my school we typically assign children to access special education services in the general education environment, which means, in layman's terms, that I, or other special ed teachers, go into gen ed classrooms to meet the children's needs right there. None of kids actually know I'm the "special teacher". They think I'm just another teacher and I work with all kids, but I do give extra support to certain children.  (I love having the highest reading group in the class though just to confuse any child who may start to think, "Hey, Mrs. Lipstick only works with the kids who don't know their letters". )  

This year I have two children who are moving on to a more appropriate environment under IDEA. What we provide for them in the general education setting is actually considered restrictive to meet their needs- we're not able to provide what they need, which in terms limits their academic success. So they are moving on to other schools. This on paper always makes sense, and it even logically makes sense. I wouldn't have it another way. We are actually limiting a child's success when another placement could help them grow faster. These two children need these interventions.

It doesn't make it easier to say goodbye, or to look at a kindergarten student and try to explain why they are moving on to another school.  PJ is one these students.  Yesterday PJ, my awesome assistant principal, PJs mother and I all drove over to PJ's new school to check it out (he'll officially start there Monday).  It will be great for him- he'll be working full time with teachers who are trained to work with students just like PJ. When we first pulled up to the building PJ announced, "That's not my school."
"What do you think is inside it?" we asked, totally ignoring his out-right un-acceptance.
"Mrs. Partner-in-Crime" he said loudly. We inwardly groaned.  This didn't bode well.
But once inside PJ hit it off with the teachers over there.  They allowed him to explore the school, showed him what to expect, let him ask questions, and introduced him to teachers so he'd know faces on his first day. By the time we left I think we all felt it was going to be a great place for PJ. 
Then, right as we were getting out of the car PJ looked over at me. "Mrs. Lipstick," he asked, "Can I have a hug?"

I know PJ will do wonderful things at his new school. I know that early-intervention with children like PJ is the best chance at giving him a wonderful, successful life. It's still hard to see him go. Part of me feels like we failed, even though I know we did everything we could and more. 

The other child leaving us has a significant hearing loss.  Again, she is going to a place where every teacher who works with her is trained and has experience working with children just like her. She'll learn cued speech which will open the door of language to her world.  And yet, every time she gives me a hug or giggles with me in the classroom my heart breaks. It is going to be hard to see her go too.

Both little ones start their new school Monday, which means their last day at the think-tank is Friday- when I'll be away at the Learning & Brain conference in Boston.  It's hard to think I wont be there to say goodbye when the class sends them off. I want that one last hug and I want to be a part of making their last day special.

It's hard loving these kids- wanting what's best for them and at the same time selfishly wanting to keep them to myself. They'll both do great things in their new schools and hopefully I'll stay in touch with their parents and I can hear about all the amazing progress they've made. In the meantime I may pout for a few days about losing some of my friends. 


Gertie said...

I am currently student teaching, and am enjoying reading your blog. I can understand from reading your blogs about PJ why it's so hard for you to let go. You have really formed a connection to him, as he has with you. It's wonderful that you and the school were able to recognize that while you were helping him, he needed to move on in order to grow and develop futher. I'm sure the new school will be grateful to hear your insights into how to best communicate with him, especially when he is upset. As a student teacher we have been told that most days you'll wonder why you are doing this job and maybe even want to pull out your hair. But then you fall in love with the wonderful children even if they do know how to push your buttons, and you'll keep coming back for more. Thanks for reminding me that it's all about the kids!

magpie said...

How do you write this stuff?
It's amazing how the think tank chugs along and places children gently into new spots along the way.
The children mightn't know what you do but I bet they know who the academic under and over achievers are in the class.
Hoo Roo ☺☺☺

Doing Differentiated Math said...

Your post brought up all my mixed feelings about children that I've known over the years who's needs were more than I could handle in a regular ed. classroom. So hard to let go! I'm so glad that you were able to visit the new schools with these families and help make a good transition.