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SLP Mommy of Apraxia: They want to put her in a special classroom....what does that mean?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

They want to put her in a special classroom....what does that mean?

I have a client who is usually brought in by her dad who drops her off and then waits in the truck.  Last night; however, he followed us back to the therapy room and asked to talk with me.
This normally reserved, stoic man had fear and sadness in his eyes.  He told me had just seen his wife briefly and she was crying.  She had a meeting with the school and they told her their daughter is eligible for a special classroom.  I knew what this meant.  I knew she had been being re-evaluated in anticipation of her 6th birthday.  At that time, the district has to figure out a "label" for why she is having learning difficulties.  Aside from her global apraxia, I could only assume they found an intellectual disability as well.

I was looking into his eyes.  This family trusts me.  They know I have Ashlynn, they know the struggles I have had and I know he thinks I understand.  Truth is, I'm just as terrified as him in that moment.  I was with him as a parent, not as the SLP I usually am.  I've been at IEP meetings where we recommend the "special classoom."  We always try to be positive and explain to the parents that the smaller setting will allow them to work at their pace.  This is all true.  In fact, I am the SLP for two "special classrooms" during the day.  The kids are learning, they are happy, and we are all here to see them succeed.

As a parent though, standing there with him, looking at his fear, sadness, trust, and just a glimmer of hope, my heart was breaking. I rambled and explained the process and the testing, and how a school usually gets to that decision.  A psychologist would have looked at her general cognitive abilities.  A score would be calculated and compared to national norms.  Scores below could indicate a cognitive disability; however, the social worker would be administering an adaptive/functioning assessment.  The parent and teacher would be interviewed and asked questions based on various adaptive skills she can do at home and at school.  If these came back below age expectations, a cognitive disability may be suspected.  However, in her case, the global apraxia would negatively affect the scores because a lot of the questions include daily living skills.  Finally, educational testing will look at her academic performance and compare it to her cognitive and adaptive scores.  If all the tests were low across the board, she most likely will be identified with a cognitive disability and be eligible for the special classroom.  If her cognitive and/or adaptive was high, but her educational scores are still low, she most likely will be labeled with a specific learning disability in the areas in which she struggles, and she may or may not be eligible for the special classroom.

His eyes glazed over.  I stopped talking.  I told him that it doesn't mean a thing.  It doesn't mean a damn thing.  I'm not giving up on her, and neither are they, and neither is the school, and just because she needs it now doesn't mean she'll need it forever; and I really, truly, meant that.  She might have to work harder, but work she will, and work WE will.  I told him that Ashlynn started in a special classroom, but now she is in mainstream with a lot of support. 

I thought of the Katy Perry song "Eye of the tiger."  All of us parents have to have the eye of the tiger.  It's hard, it's tough, we will cry, but we will also smile.  There will be challenges, but there will be triumphs.
"I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, and I am a champion, and you're gonna here me roar!"

I love this definition of determination.  "The ability to see past challenges, rather than stare at them."  I encourage you all to do the same!


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