As I've blogged about before, Nathan is moving into a new educational program for children with disabilities. The Committee on Preschool Education (CPSE) will now determine Nathan's services and supports. Let me tell you a little bit about the "committee" and the decisions made at these annual CPSE meetings.
The CPSE team is made up of lots of people, including the Chair of the Committee, the parents, special education teacher, ed psych evaluator, Parent Member, your therapists, and your service coordinator can be there if you'd like (if your child is like Nathan and enrolled in Early Intervention). There are four different types of meetings, but I'm going to focus on the initial meeting where eligibility is determined. Before I get into the specifics, I have to admit that I've taken a bunch of seminars on the CPSE/CSE process and need to thank the Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center and the Parent Network of the Capital Region for their invaluable resources. I'd recommend you sign up for emails and upcoming events. Knowledge truly is power.
The first step in the process is the Introductions ~ who's sitting at the table. Often times a parent may know a few people, but not all. It's important to know who is privy to your confidential information and their role in the meeting. Secondly, the child's present levels of performance are discussed ~ i.e. Nathan's strengths, needs, functioning levels, and any parental concerns.
The next step is eligibility. Part 200 of the New York State Education regs, prescribe 13 classifications that a child must fall within to qualify for services. They include: Autism, a Learning Disability, Hearing Impairment, Deafness, Multiple Disabilities, Deaf-Blindness, Visual Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Emotional Disturbance, and Speech or Language Impairment. Each is defined in the regulations. I suggest you take a look if you're interested (look in section 200.1 (zz)). Nathan is automatically eligible and falls under the category of Intellectual Disability.
Once a child is deemed eligible, an Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed. An IEP includes annual goals for the child, that are specific and measurable. There's a new IEP process for 2012, so everyone is trying to get used to it. Decisions on the appropriate services, supports, and placement is based off of these goals. A key element is that these services MUST be provided in the least restrictive environment.
Prior to our meeting, I spoke to each of Nathan's therapists and other providers about best practices and Nathan's needs. Going into our intial meeting, I knew that Nathan's services were to automatically decrease. What I mean is, Nathan now receives therapy sessions that last anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes. Some provide 30, but most provide 50 minutes or more. When Nathan transitions into CPSE all of his sessions will be 30 minutes, which equates to an automatic decrease. I knew the level of services I was looking for and whether or not those services would be provided in a group setting or individually, and if in a group, with only two other kids. Specifics are important in an IEP (it's basically the rule book). I had also pre-determined that Nathan would transition into a formal integrated program at the end of August rather than keep his current therapists and attend the same preschool. I'll explain how we came to this decision in another post.
Our first meeting went rather well! Although, Nathan doesn't officially transition for another six months, we have a preliminary IEP in place and our school district authorized all of the services and supports our family was looking for! By law, we have to go back to the table in a few months to finalize the plan for the 2012 school year, but I don't anticipate much changing.
During my seminars, I learned a lot more about the role of the Parent Member on the CPSE and CSE committees. A Parent Member is required by law, and serves with both committees, unless the family signs a waiver requesting the person not be present. A Parent Member is literally just that ~ a parent who is also a member. This person brings another perspective to the team tasked with making these decisions ~ we've been there! We're not advocates for these families, but help them understand the process and ask appropriate questions during the meeting when they sense trouble or frustration on behalf of the families.
It's very difficult for school districts to find trained Parent Members, who are willing to volunteer at the school district during the day. Knowing the value of personal relationships, I stepped-up and am now certified by the State as a Parent Member and approved by our school board to participate in meetings.
I was scheduled for a full day of meetings last Monday, and then Nathan got the stomach bug, so I was unable to attend. I'm now scheduled for other upcoming meetings and am looking forward to not only helping families in my community, but also Nathan.